How I learned what Scrum, Agile, and Sprint Really Means -

How I learned what Scrum, Agile, and Sprint Really Means

By Nick Sherrell, MBA, CSM, PMP

If you’ve been in the project management world within the past ten years or so, you’ve probably heard some buzz words floating around like scrum, agile, or sprint. You might have even worked within a team that used these words commonly to explain how they get work done. As a project manager who has worked within many teams in the healthcare industry, I’ve heard these terms used on many different teams—and unfortunately I’ve heard them used to explain vastly different things.

One team I was on used the term “scrum” to name their daily and weekly status report meetings, while another team used this word to describe a last-minute all hands on deck meeting to put out fires started by an executive.

Feeling confused, I turned to Google hoping to find clarity in what these terms truly meant and how they worked together. Ten websites later (and three YouTube videos of funny animals…darn you click bait!), I was even more confused than I was before I started my search!

I decided my next search was going to be for a training course led by someone who truly knows what these words mean and how they work. I found the KAIP Academy website that showed an offering for a two day in-person course led by Bernie Maloney, a Certified Scrum Trainer with over 20 years leading agile for very successful companies like HP and TiVo. I signed up immediately and breathed a sigh of relief knowing that I was going to get to the bottom of this!

If you’re interested in attending one of KAIP Academy’s upcoming training courses, you can find more information or register here.

I pulled up to The WorkShop – Sacramento (a new collaborative workspace located in East Sacramento’s Cannery Business Park) and was immediately met by…Koi fish! The entryway had a large waterfall and Koi pond with a walking bridge to get to the training area. I knew this wasn’t going to be the boring trainings I’ve been to before!

The training room had 22 other students with a lot of the same questions and experiences I had, but from many different industries. Some were developers from private software development companies looking for a smoother way of working, others were managers and directors over state agencies responsible for finding more efficient ways of leading teams, others were creatives looking for a more structured way to get to new ideas, and some very honest people were looking for a nice certification they could add to their resume and grow their career.

I found a comfortable chair at a friendly table and got all of my stuff set up for a full day of lectures…Five minutes later I was in a self-organized group and performing my first sprint! I quickly learned that this wasn’t a class to sit quietly and learn the theory of agile and scrum—this was a class where you roll up your sleeves and learn first-hand the framework and benefits of working agile.

Bernie led us through many different exercises defining the terms, roles, deliverables, and activities of performing scrum according to the official Scrum Guide (written by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber). We played a ball game using these concepts and saw just how scrum unlocks innovation by fostering creativity, knowledge sharing, stakeholder feedback, and time management to increase our output 3-5 times over the course of three iterations!

We had many other breakout sessions during the course where we learned facilitation techniques, product vision, user story creation, and most importantly communication within and between teams. Bernie expanded each aspect of the scrum framework from product backlog to sprint retrospective and had a tailored exercise for each that not only defined the terms but allowed for teams to feel their effectiveness and potential challenges.

Many students had experiences with scrum and agile that they were able to share with the class. Some were stories of how scrum did great things to improve their teams, others were stories of how scrum got derailed due to certain forces getting out of whack and terms turning into twisted versions of their intent.

“Scrum is lightweight, easy to learn, hard to master.”

This was the mantra repeated by Bernie throughout the course. From my experience of seeing these terms used on multiple teams to explain vastly different things, I can now see how they derailed from true scrum framework. Armed with the knowledge of how true scrum works (and its power) I can now go back to my team and set us back on a path toward fostered innovation and adding value to the customer.

About the Author: Nick Sherrell is a Project Manager with over 10 years of healthcare experience ranging from Quality, Performance Improvement, Technology Implementation, Data Analysis, and Consulting. Nick has worked with organizations ranging from the Sacramento Native American Health Center, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Blue Shield of California, and The Advisory Board Company. He received his MBA from UC Davis in 2015 with an emphasis in Organizational Behavior and Innovation. He lives in Sacramento with his wife and two children and still dreams of being a professional baseball player one day! Find Nick on LinkedIn here.

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