Agile: 3 Years Later

I’m on the plane coming back from Agile Coach Camp in Montreal and realized it’ll be 3 years this week that I’ve been involved in the agile community.  Feels like it’s been a lifetime.

In the last 3 years I have learned more than I have in my entire 15 year career in IT and software. I cannot count the number of people who have helped me along the way and I won’t try naming them all lest I leave someone out.  Suffice it to say that I have had the pleasure of working with, and learning from, the best talent on the planet from programmer to testers to coaches and everyone in between.  Thanks to all of you.

My journey with Agile started when I was working in a company using Scrum.  I remember being excited that an opportunity at this company was going to allow me to use Scrum for a 1-2 month project from beginning to end.  A customer had wanted some new features done, I gathered up some high level requirements that I felt was good enough to get a rough estimate from and asked our resident scrum guy what to do next.  The client wanted some budget range to get approval for the project so I asked how we did that with scrum.  His reply was confusing:

agile doesn’t work that way.  You need to make some stories, we’ll point them and start building.  We’ll show them the work, get feedback and keep going until they’re happy.

Sounded reasonable but I was curious about how to figure out how much it would roughly cost.  The client needed some idea to get approval and I’m sure we wouldn’t just keep collecting money from them. The reply to that was somewhat chastising in it’s tone:

you just don’t get agile.”

So I did the next best thing.  I went to the resident development expert and asked him how long he thought it would take.  He said about 30 – 40 days or so.

If you need to know how this ended, hang on a bit.

I googled “scrum training” and the first result was “Certified Scrum Master training” by a local consulting firm.   I remember reading the description and I contacted the firm with some nervous questions that I wasn’t sure I was qualified to take the course.  He assured me I was and off I went to a tune of about $2100…of my own money.  But I’m not bitter about that.

I was proud to receive this certification.  Yeah, you heard that right.  In the midst of all the Certification bashers, I was proud of my designation because I worked my ass off in that class, asked questions and sucked up as much knowledge as I could.  Others in the class were less interested and it seemed they were sent their by their company and could really care less.

My very first blog was June 18, 2008 where I posted my assumptions and what I thought I knew before the class.  I followed up with a series after each day as well. (day 1, day 2, day 3)

I remember after I took the class I went back to work and explained why we weren’t getting the results we wanted.  We weren’t “doing Scrum” right.  Today I realize it’s more complicated than that, but reflecting back, when the only skill you have is using a hammer, make sure your’re at least using it right.

So for the next year and bit I knew it all.  I was an ‘expert’ in Scrum and therefore and Agile expert.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

AYE 2009 helped me realize just how much I didn’t know and opened a whole new world of learning about systems, human dynamics and much more.  If I could sum up everything I’ve learned over the last 3 years, I’d say it’s based on something Benjamin Mitchell said at LSSC11:

“I have learned to think in my own context”

Thanks to all the wonderful people I’ve met and worked with, I have developed a broader and deeper understanding of myself and have expanded my thinking substantially.

So how about that project I was talking about?  Well, it failed miserably, the client was pissed and I learned a valuable lesson. That lesson was:  Try shit out and learn from your experience, whether it be a success or failure.  If you can figure out how to do that, you’ll figure out how to think in your own context.