Scrum, I wish

My company sent me to HCM to attend a Scrum master class. Since the class had the the price of more than $650, I enjoyed the service of learning in a 5 star luxury hotel, have 5 star breakfast buffet, and lunch buffet. In additional, I was invited to an Scrum breakfast in a pub at the top of a 5 star hotel with pizzas, KFCs and drinks served at night in the second day of the class. And a Grill dinner in the third day of the class. However this is not a delightful story about what I passed those days, this is a sad story.

I realized that, what I did learn about, cannot be used, in my company, any more.

My Scrum class took place in 3 days. My teachers are two Swiss. The male named Sebi and the female named Suzi. My learning was about Scrum master, but in this story, I’d like to tell you about what I exchanged with other classmates, my teachers, about how they “Scrummed”, how to be a good Scrum master (those knowledges were not in my Scrum book or I had to ensure the knowledge I had)… and what I realized about my company’s Scrum.

Since the first day was new, I forgot what I did….

At the second day of the Scrum class. I was told to change to other team with at least 3 new members. I changed my seat position, next to an man whom I thought to be a Japanese at the first sign. He was actually a Korean. He was a CEO of a consultant company at Korea and his company wanted new solution for their clients with Scrum. I asked him why he had to move from far Korea to Vietnam to have a Scrum class. He said, in Korea, there is no Scrum class yet. Or at least, there was no Scrum class hosted by Scrum Alliance.

In this day, I learned that, in order not to make the bug come back, the team had to use Test Automation.

At the Scrum break fast night, I met an Indian Scrum master, he used to be a PO, and a SM for many years in a software company in Australia. He said that in Australia, Scrum was very hot. I told him, our company has one team with 11 people. He was surprised, since the maximum member was always 9. He asked if we had testers in our team or not. I answered no, the developers had to test themselves. He was surprised again. He said we will never ensure product quality. I asked him if a company applied Scrum strictly, would it succeed. He said yes.

In the same night, at Scrum break fast, I meet an embedded system engineers in Ho Chi Minh. He said that his company applied Scrum strictly and everyone cooperated very well.

At the end of the Scrum breakfast, I met Zuzi. I asked her if there are one person work in 2 teams (member of 2 teams, not a Scrum master or PO) at the same time, is that acceptable. She said no, it must not be.

On the third day of the class, I changed to another team and met a Swiss man, whom at later, I knew that was a gay (my teammate told me). His company actually worked in the traditional way, and wanted to change, using an agile framework. He came to Viet Nam for the business of the company, but after the work, he stayed for a little longer time. He said he applied the Scrum class by himself, the company did not support him. He was already a PO, but having one Scrum master certificate would be good too. He said that, his company, in the past, did not react fast enough to new things. They missed a chance on the raise of blockchain. And he said, it would be good for his company to apply Scrum. However, his boss said the company was too big, and was not ready for it. I said he was likely the first penguin. He smiled.

In the class, there were totally 25 learners. However up to 9 people from Axon Active: 3 from Da Nang branch, 3 from Can Tho branch and 3 from main branch Ho Chi Minh. Most of them were Scrum master already. I talked to at least 8 of them. They shared with me some hardest things in Scrum from their experience. One man in the Da Nang branch told me that, he found out that the most difficult part is not the progress (he meant Scrum) but the people. Some of his teammates did not want to adapt, and made the sprint failed. Many did private things in their work time, which meant they didn’t focus. The Scrum masters at Axon Active also shared with me that how they team worked in Scrum. If some one done one task, but it is still in working time, he had to pick any task to do, they had not to waste time. A sprint task must be always small enough to be done under 8 hours. If a task was 6 hours long, then half of it would be writing test. They also used a tool named Jira for managing Scrum.

At night we have Grill dinner together, since I sat in front of Sebi. I had a chance to put some questions for him.

I asked him, if a new member join the team, should the Scrum master have to meet him privately, and introduce about Scrum for him. He said no, he asked me what the team would think if I talked privately to him. I said that they may think I treat him specially than the others. He said: “Yes! Let the team train him, because at least, the team are the people he will work with.”

I asked him: “How do I know if me, a Scrum master is doing wrong?” He just said: “Taking feedback from my team members to improve yourself, at the end you will find a way.”

I asked Sebi about if you are a Scrum master was hired by a company, and the team of the company was not cross function, what should he do. Sebi said he saw many backend change to front end, tester become developer… But, it will take time!

Well in those days in Ho Chi Minh, I had prepared a plan, in my mind, to make my Scrum worked in my company again. I thought i would hold the meetings, where I can told people how wrong way we did, how can we applied Scrum in a right way, again. But …

I might be too optimistic!?

My boss wanted to used Scrum, but he said it’s a scam. He wanted people specialize their job which means there would never be a crossed functional team.

My team has no Scrum mindset at all, they just implement Scrum technically, which is from what I learned, called “Dark Scrum”. People changed or removed parts of the Scrum to fit for themselves, not changed themselves to fit for the Scrum. Our team number is big (11 in present) and there are no plan to split into 2 teams yet. There are many people work on 2 products, which is not acceptable in Scrum, we must have to hire more people for the second team before starting the second product. There are not only cross functionality but also no transparent. The team is not self-organized, it’s just partly self-organized in small group of people who work in one feature, and the information is just updated between these them. The people in charge of features always wait for order only from the boss for crucial things, they are not confident to make decision by themselves (I mean he, the ones who are not confident, needs to discuss with all the other members of the team, not the boss, and the team have to feel that they are improving together, not the boss and the doers). The release periods are sometimes too short. We not applied enough automation tests on frontend and mobile. The experiences of each team members are unbalance. People will never dare to change position from backend to frontend or mobile and vice versa even if my boss tell them to do so (maybe)….

At the end, I found many obstacles.

Although in the class, I was taught that, there is no overnight success, Scrum is a long journey and it needs the patient, I still lost my belief.

Agile is meant to scale up from small to complexity with assurance that people always keep motivated and well-organized, but not in my company. I think we still have been wasting our time, with our “Dark Scrum”. The only way I think that will help for our company to scale up, is to lean heavily on technical documents, not on people. Until someday, things are too big to control, maybe we have to think serious about how to make our team (maybe up to 40 people that time) slowly move forwards, and regret the old days we lost the chance to apply Scrum the right way at the beginning.

For now, I still believe in Scrum, but in somewhere else…