Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Systematic Amateurism

Occasionally somebody from outside of my project stumbles upon notes I have written from a retrospective or other meeting. They generally hone in on comments like, "Dave needs more tattoos." or "We liked the Mexican music theme in the last meeting." While seemingly unprofessional, these comments signify a happy and productive team. They are meant to be somewhat hokey and playful. As a project manager I can use them as a gauge to know how gelled the team is and where to focus my attention during the next iteration. Another advantage of them is that they pull people out of the "worker bee" mind and into a more useful and productive state of mind. If there are none of these types of comments for a few iterations, the team is either struggling or taking themselves too seriously. Either situation requires some attention. I always had a hard time articulating this concept until I was reading the January 2009, "The Year in Science" edition of DISCOVER magazine, I came across this quote by Robert Proctor:

Something is lost when people specialize. I like to see things like an amateur. The word amateur is literally "lover," it's from amore. Professionalism is often the death of intellectual inquiry. So I think there's a kind of virtue in systematic amateurism that really needs to be rekindled. If you don't love and hate and play and joke with your objects of study, then you're really not treating them properly. I tell my students if you're not angry and excited and enthralled by your topic, you should choose a different one.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The State of Scrum

I found this interesting article in the Agile Journal about Scrum. A few quotes stood out to me:
  • "When you consider that Scrum challenges teams to always be growing and improving, it makes sense that it has emerged as the most popular agile management method."
  • "Because the Scrum framework is so lightweight, it requires that none of its constituent parts be thrown out or ignored."
  • "Today, Scrum stands as the most popular agile management method. Its emphasis on communication and collaboration improves teams' performances and yields products that customers really want. Through the support of the Scrum Alliance, the integrity of Scrum's principles and processes is protected from the diluting forces of organizations that would prefer a pick-and-mix solution. With its balance of supportive structure and flexible freedom, Scrum appeals to managers and developers alike. After all, good work is a result that no one can argue with."
This article had a lot in it I thought was worth passing one. On one hand it describes Scrum in a concise way. It gives one explanation to the question, "Why do some Scrum teams fail to become high performance teams?" The answers is that you must follow all of the practices rather than picking and choosing. Finally, it acknowledges that Scrum is "Scrum is hard and disruptive." True, but it is still well worth the the effort once one sees the results.