Would you like to improve the world a little? Well, maybe not the whole world, but at least the immediate environment in which you live. Every change begins with the first step, and we take this first step when we are aware that something has to happen. This is followed by intrinsic motivation, that is, a genuine and urgent desire. In order to change, we need to acquire knowledge of how things could be done differently. We need to practice and increasingly achieve skills that are necessary for change. In order for change to occur, we must examine and adapt our actions. As far as the theory goes. Later on, I will hear Certified-Scrum Coach and wibas CEO, Malte Foegen, say: “This is not theory, but practice lived in a different place!”
You want to know what Scrum actually means? Literally translated: Scrum. And that’s supposed to help? The term comes from rugby, but for me, I think of Amercian football and I bring this image to mind. And I think of the NFL, if the score is tied, they play in a 10-minute overtime period using the principle of sudden death. At this point, I don’t think the offense is debating for long. Somebody has to take the ball and run. I can understand that. The rest about Scrum you can find out via the common search engines. The search engines deliver adequate course offers right away. My point in this post is to create an understanding of change and provide a downward and upward view. I give an answer why, in my experience, the Scrum method can bring a decisive advantage on the path of change for a company in some projects, no matter what size and regardless of the business model, and why the training to become a Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) pays off. Interested? Then read on.
Many days before signing up for CSPO training.
In 2011, Forrester Research found that three-quarters of projects fail. Deliberately, I’m quoting a study that evaluated the numbers well before the pandemic. Everyone appeared to be in their corporate offices and home office was only known to the sales force on Friday afternoons. The rate of successful projects did not improve. Even more recent evaluations confirm that many team projects do not reach the project goal. The reasons may vary, and even for those that aren’t considered failures, from an outside perspective, you would have to say that the goal was adjusted so that you could just say, “It worked out.” Few project managers can point to a real change or even a better world after the project is completed.
Projects are often differentiated according to different project types. Routine project, innovation project, acceptance project or change project. Personally, I prefer to differentiate based on the task. Is the task complex or complicated? Thorsten Wolf describes this very well in his blog entry. Mechanical watches are complicated, to me in any case, but to the watchmaker with his knowledge they are not. So, complexity can be removed by knowledge and practice. Complexity is a game with many unknown influences. I think you will agree that a partnership of two people (the smallest group imaginable) can be full of surprises, that is, complex.
The so-called waterfall model is suitable for complicated projects. A linear approach organized in successive project phases. Like a waterfall with several cascades, the results of one stage “fall” down into the next and there are binding specifications.
Companies currently have to adapt and evolve faster than ever before. In my opinion, Scrum offers very good support for this. The model has been known since around 1995. Originally intended for software development, Scrum is now used in many areas. It is an implementation of Lean Development for project management. I was first exposed to Scrum in 2013 and at that time held the role of a product owner. Even though we didn’t follow the Scrum guide one hundred percent, we took advantage of the key benefits. Scrum as a project management method has evolved and is now at a very good level. Many agile projects follow the concept or have elements of it in use.
The awareness that something should happen is usually present in the companies. Whether the desire for real change is present in all those involved is something that has to be found out. Is the intrinsic motivation really there? Yes, no, maybe? It can quickly be determined when it comes to distributing the first tasks. In any case, I always get the commitment “We want to still be successful as a company in ten years” from everyone. If someone in the company says no at this point, then you have a different problem.
Day 30 before registration for the CSPO training.
It is quite an art to bring about change while in full operation. It was Johann Gottfried von Herder who knew that “art comes from skill”. The cultural philosopher is credited with the aphorism. In a widespread ironic extension, it reads, “Art comes from skill; if it came from will, it would be called a bulge.” In turn, the thickening that results from the solidification of liquid substances is called a bulge. Overstrain occurs when knowledge and skill are lacking. This leads to solidification, to the standstill of projects or even entire companies.
Digitalization is currently bringing one of the biggest changes to be expected in companies. From the web store directly to the digital printing press, past all individuals to the shipping department. Parallel operation with “classic” production of print products on offset presses. This is the situation we are currently encountering in the printing industry worldwide. On one side start-up, on the other side administration. It is important to avoid the “clash of culture“. Certainly, exciting and one hundred percent complex, I’m sure you’ll agree.
So I remember back, to my experience with Scrum. What went well? What went badly? Why did it go badly? I quickly came up with the answers. But am I really, right? I do what I always do when I question myself: I research and buy a book. My choice falls on the book “The Professional Product Owner” published by Vahlen in 2021. “This book presents a method for communicating our desires (the PO’s) in a compelling, coherent way with minimal effort,” praises none other than Ken Schwaber, Chairman & Founder of Scrum.org. I work my way through moderately illustrated black and white pages, up to page 264. Final heading, “Measuring Success.” “Ultimately, the success of the Product Owner, and therefore the product, is based on the three “Vs”. Vision, Value and Validation, it says in a circle. Yes, the people I have in mind know my vision and knowledge of the “product” they are to “make”. Yes, the ROI is measurable and can still be maximized. The value is right. No, the quality of the “product” is not yet good enough to “deliver”. I think I understand, and yet once again I feel like you can read 20 books about tennis, but you still can’t play it. I want more now. Self-study is not enough for me. I have a little bit of a feeling like with a slowly beginning toothache. So off to the doctor, pardon, Scrum trainer.
Day 15 before signing up for CSPO training.
My goodness, the web is full of offerings from self-proclaimed Scrum evangelists. All certified. I act like a shopper when an offer generally meets the requirements. I look for two more providers with roughly the same capabilities and then I simply pick up the phone and call.
With the first vendor, I hear a tape announcing that I would like to send an email and they would get back to me. Hmm. Second try: super friendly voice, listens to me and gives me some valuable advice without pushing me. I give the nice lady my contact details and promise to reply to an email I was told would be sent as soon as I get it in my email box. Much better, I think. Third option: Also very competent and friendly. But the offer is not forthcoming. Like now, as a caller with interest, I’m already close to “D” in the AIDA funnel. Why is there no concrete indication of a booking? Something’s wrong, I think, when I’m jolted out of my thoughts by an incoming e-mail and receive concrete material from provider number 2 with a proposed date for an online course. My customer journey is over, and I have decided on wibas from Darmstadt.
Day 5 before the CSPO training
I was once asked by an entrepreneur what the first thing I would ban in a company if I could. Since this isn’t the first time, I’ve been asked this, I always respond with “to approach things unprepared”. It irritates me when people laugh at this point, but they often do. But why should something that students are taught from their first rehearsals not apply later? Whoever derives the logical consequences for mastering the complex from valid systems science can only come to this conclusion: good preparation is everything, on all sides.
I expect a training provider to send me an email in advance with the links to the applications. This is the case with Welo and Miro. It is really professional if the provider then also offers a choice of one or two dates to get to know the tools. In addition, depending on the training or type of meeting, you can expect to receive an agenda and, if necessary, a handout (analog or digital) in good time. A little surprise was also put in my “school bag” by wibas, which I found very likeable and significantly increased my anticipation for three full days of online meetings.
Personally, I expect myself and all training participants to be well prepared. So the basics are clear and appropriate to the content and goal. Training is not a one-way street and face-to-face teaching is even more difficult to endure online than in person. My recommendation for action is, since the question comes up anyway, make it clear what your expectations are for training. Only then can the instructor help you reach your goal. And finally: It is a question of fairness to make yourself as free as possible from distractions. Whether online or in person, if you have to make a phone call, get out!
Day 1 of the training
I feel well prepared. The technology is in place, I have canceled other appointments and set my cell phone to do not disturb. I have looked at the current Scrum Guide again and am on time in the virtual training room. After a few technical (Germany your bandwidth) problems we start. With two lecturers.
It is a coincidence, but an absolute stroke of luck for every training, if the performance level of the participants is approximately on the same level. Most of them have already worked in a Scrum project. Of course, there are outliers up and down. To make sure no one gets bored, we set the “ELMO” rule for ourselves. Enough, let’s move on!
Instructors first get the facts straight. This is how you can tell if the training is good. How is the trainer supposed to know what the participants can do? Lifehack from me: If a lecturer only wants to know your name and your company, then that is the right time to ask what level he is starting from and whether everyone possesses that.
Malte clarifies at the beginning “Scrum as it is written in the book”. There are great techniques, but they have nothing to do with the method itself. So “great technique, however it does not belong to Scrum”. There are also things that are in the Scrum Guide, but not exactly as the participants know it from their projects. And finally there are the “stupid” techniques. Mostly originated from individual adaptations in the companies. The next few days we would hear more and more often: “You can do everything, but then it is not Scrum”. If I remember my experiences with Scrum like this, I should have called for reflection on the agile manifesto more often.
“Scrum trainings thrive – in the spirit of the agile manifesto – on the co-creative collaboration of participants and trainers. In this way, each training is always unique.” – Malte Foegen
Day 2 of the training
Everyone is now sorted out, participants and instructors alike. In the retrospective after the first day, we highlight the aha experiences of the first day. In sum, we can say that the participants are plus minus on the same wavelength. It becomes clear that, after all, most of them deviate from the “true” teaching in their companies.
The desire for practical implementation of Scrum is completely fulfilled by the two lecturers on the second day of the training. We get to know better the tasks of a product owner in different practical works by means of different tools. We also take a closer look at the other roles in the Scrum team, because this is the only way to make a distinction at all. We learn what is true and what is a myth. The day is over quickly, but my head is buzzing a bit. Lifehack two: At the end of a full day of online training, don’t make any plans for the evening other than a little exercise in the fresh air.
Day 3 of the training
The retrospective of the second day is already a bit more in the Scrum theme. In my opinion, the participants gave the most weight to the topics “Definition of Done” and “Product Backlog“. This is good, because in the end the training leads to a recognized certificate of the Scrum Alliance.
Deepening the Product Owner role is the central topic of the third day. Some of the most exciting questions for me are: “How does agile work succeed in classic organizational forms?”, “How do we recognize a bad implementation of new working models?” and “When does Scrum probably not work in the organization?”.
We gained insights and found answers by looking at the roles in Scrum. Product Owner, Developer and Scrum Master – all three roles meet the stakeholders in Scrum. We collected formal and informal stakeholders from the perspective of responsibilities. Personally, I got a lot out of creating a collection of what it takes for a good collaboration between the Scrum team and the environment and what is a hindrance.
Day 2 after the training
Scrum has evolved as an iterative process in itself as a method and is great for complex projects. However, that doesn’t mean Scrum will move a project forward if you don’t know what to expect. Management is absolutely important. You can dispense with various roles, but in my experience, responsibilities exercised in personal union do not make a project better. The separation of powers has proven its worth. Give me one good reason why it should be different in projects.
Even if you do not decide completely on Scrum for your own project management, then I recommend at the very least, if you introduce a new software, such as an ERP system or similarly complex with a high proportion of customization and the software supplier is trying the Scrum method for its development, to take the course to the CSPO. Mutual understanding is simply better when you speak the same language.
While I am reflecting on the training and realizing that the three days were definitely worth it, I receive the photo log from wibas. That’s how it should be at the end of three exciting days.