April 10th, 2012
By Angela Slezak
Ken Schwaber is back in Columbus on May 24th as a featured speaker at The Path to Agility conference, presented by the Central Ohio Agile Association (COHAA). As a signatory of the Agile Manifesto and co-developer of the Scrum framework, it may be surprising that his perspective on software delivery rarely veers from the basics of cost, risk, and timely delivery.
Schwaber said he'll use his feature to discuss management managing Scrum projects.
"It's difficult to manage projects that are one, very long and two, not necessarily clear as to what's deliverable. [How to] deliver measurable pieces of business functionality at least every 30 days. After 30 days, managers can ask 'How much value did I get compared to how much value I think I wanted to get?? If I expect to get 100 units in ten months and I have five in the first month, this may be an indication that there is a need to change the date or have an increase in productivity," Schwaber said. "Scrum provides early risk management and cost tolerability. Scrum provides numbers for management to control projects."
Scrum in Practice
When asked what can be done to turn 'emotional' corporations into rational entities Schwaber said that Scrum should be used to make a company better.
"Scrum is like a shovel," Schwaber said."You can use it to dig a hole or use it to beat the ground. If there is no difficult problem to be solved, Scrum is not really a good thing to do. Scrum is looking to solve problems, not become the next new process."
Schwaber described an instance when a client asked him about when Scrum fails and when it succeeds.
"The client had been using Scrum for three months with a release due in June," he started. "I asked the CEO if she expected the release in June. She answered yes so I asked to see the graphs. She said they didn't have the graphs, but still believed the release would be in June. They weren't providing those reports from Scrum."
"Scrum hasn't failed," Schwaber told his client, "You've failed Scrum."
Writing Software in 30 Days
Schwaber and co-author Jeff Sutherland have just published a new book Software in 30 Days. The book was developed as a result of a common request Schwaber received from developers who said they needed help selling Scrum.
"Developers," Schwaber said, "can put this book business management's desk and say, "We're sure you're having issues with IT. Do you know that at least every 30 days you should have an update? There's no reason to put up with how software has been developed in the past."
Instead of using Agile practices to write a book about Agile software development, Schwaber and Sutherland experienced what every writer experiences:
"We panicked and wrote, panicked and wrote," Schwaber said.
No Agile practice to develop a book on Agility?
"It's such an effort to get a book out," he said. "It's not as easy to precisely state what each chapter will be. It's constantly revising and you?ve promised your editor a certain date. You write then feedback comes in that blows the schedule. It's not easy to precisely state monthly what was delivered. Sometimes you re-write an entire chapter. The feedback loop is unpredictable."
Mathematics of Building Trust
In the first interview with Schwaber last year, IT Martini asked if Schwaber was trying to change corporate structure through Agile. This time the answer was more definitive:
"If you want agility, corporate structure doesn't work," he stately clearly. "If I demand this be done by this date, it's not flexible."
Schwaber explained that Scrum emphasizes "helping them [employees] do the best they can, not telling them how to do their work. These people are as smart as you are."
It's a simple mathematical formula for Schwaber.
"If you tell people what to do, you constrain them to your intelligence," he said. "If you have 100 people, you can open the intelligence of 100 people. Scrum is the art of the possible."
It appears leadership maybe the hidden premise in much of Scrum's framework. Schwaber said the top three qualities of a leader are vision, stubborness (because of many failures) and excellent facilitation skills (rather than force).
In his blog, the word "leadership" doesn't appear much, but he described it as critical.
He explained, "I take it for granted that leadership is needed. In any change if someone is not leading it, it flounders."
The Soft Side of Scrum
When Schwaber is not evangelizing for Agility, he's reading about physics the chaos theory and how those ideas are turning to religion. He is especially interested in the work of Stuart Kauffman. And because he recently purchased a Volvo, he has also been reading about Software Product Line Management.
"The Volvo has 100 million lines of code," he said. "You can get a device that is the equivalent of an app that can detect rain on the car and automatically roll up the windows [among other things]."
Schwaber's January 2, 2012 blog entry states that his New Year's Resolution is to be more "friendly, warm, compassionate, conciliatory, moderate and compromising" (for one day).
And how was that day and did he learn anything from it?
"It was great," Schwaber answered. "Friends flooded from everywhere. I learned that some enemies weren't enemies. If you don't talk to people for long enough, you don't remember why you had conflict."
Editor's Note: Registration is now open for The Path to Agility Conference, on May 23rd-24th, 2012 at the Arena Grand Theater in downtown Columbus. This week (4/10-4/13), Ken Schwaber will be at IT Martini on LinkedIn discussing Agility, his new book and more. Join in the conversation.