The jetlag after travelling home from Phoenix is finally wearing off, and all the impressions and insights have begun to settle. What better time for a retrospective?
First of all. A great big thank you to Scrum Alliance for hosting such a great event! And thanks to all who attended, interacted or presented for contributing to the spreading of knowledge and sharing of ideas.
My absolute favorite session was Stories of Scrum at Hope High School, where principal Krissyn Sumare, teacher Chris Buehnerkemper and CEO of Blueprint Education Mark French told the story of how Scrum can empower students. Hope High School is situated in Phoenix and 86 percent of the students are below the poverty line, many of them with challenging backgrounds. Traditional learning methods hadn't worked too well with these students, and having tried many other different alternative methods the school finally turned to agile last year and recieved help from John Miller of Agile Classrooms to implement Scrum.
After seven months of Scrum at Hope High School the students are more confident about what they are learning and the trend is positive when it comes to grades improving. One of the first changes was making student grades and achievements visible in the classrooms, not popular with the students at first, but over time it has made a huge impact on ownership. The teachers were new to Scrum as well, and for many of them it was a challenge to let go and trust the process. When students and teachers became peers in adopting new methods for learning, the students could step up and take ownership of their own learning and help make the changes possible.
Implementing Scrum has made it possible to bring the power back to the students, much in the same way that Scrum has brought power back to developers. The teacher will take the role of Product Owner telling the students what they need to learn, and the students are free to choose how to learn based on their own interests and abilities. The belief system of Hope High School reads ”All kids are capable of success – NO EXCEPTIONS!”, and it's truly inspiring to learn that Scrum has helped some of these kids to their success. If you want to know more about Scrum at Hope High School. Check out the SolutionsIQ interview on Youtube.
People over process
A new concept at this gathering were the pecha kucha, and Michael Sahota held a stellar presentation on People Over Process. Michael advocates that we should stop doing different types of Agile initiatives where we focus mainly on the processes and less on the actual people. The process-oriented approach tends to lead to weaponization, either in the shape of a whip: ”You're not agile, you're doing it wrong” or a shield: ”You can't tell us what to do, we're self-organizing!”. Needless to say, these types of behaviour don't exactly make it easier to build great products.
Michael's presentation reminded me of one of my favorite presentations of all time, Henrik Kniberg at Scrum gathering in Paris 2013 where he talked about Culture Over Process. It's easy to become so engulfed in the thing you're building that you lose track of the people around you, and many of us need to be reminded to not only work on our technical debt but our organizational debt as well.
Architecture in Grand Canyon
Last but not least, I'm glad I arrived in Phoenix a few days early to go visit the Grand Canyon. As breathtaking as the canyon is by itself, what fascinated me the most were the stories of the people who started their businesses right there on the rim and made it possible for other people to enjoy the sights. The architect Mary Colter was the creator of five of the most well-known structures on the south rim, including The Hopi House which was used as a market for Native American crafts.
Mary Colter's incorporation of Native American elements in her designs were very influental and she is credited with inspiring the Pueblo Deco style. Whenever we are building something new in an organsation, whether it be a digital artefact or a way of developing software, we should all be as mindful of culture, history and surroundings as Mary Colter was. Most of us will never create solutions that can stand the test of time as well as Mary Colter's buildings have, but by being empathetic and daring enough to be unconventional we stand a much better chance of creating sustainable solutions.