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From Zero to Agile Hero

Written by Florin Soveja - 04 May 2018

Florin Soveja
Are you one with the Agile Force, Padawan? One of our Agile Jedi Masters, Florin, explains his role in helping Centric become one with the Force.

A New Hope

Five years ago, after having spent 6 years at another corporation, I joined Centric as a tester. Here, I have met some extraordinary people, both professionally and, most of all, socially. It didn’t take too much time to build strong friendships with my teammates. At times, I have felt like I have two families. Dreamworthy!

After half a year of developing the product that we had been working on at the time, using the waterfall methodology, someone  inside the company (I have no idea who it was) had the revolutionary idea (at that time) to transition to Agile. Of course, by switching to this new methodology, the roles of Scrum Master and Product Owner had to be introduced. So one morning, my boss (actually, my former boss) started a conversation with me, more or less informal, while smoking a cigarette. He told me that, starting that day, I was going to be the team’s Scrum Master. I sincerely tell you that it was the first time I had ever heard that particular term. Granted, it does sound interesting, doesn’t it? Scrum Master. Similar to Master Yoda…I already started seeing myself as some kind of Centric Jedi, greeting people with “May the Scrum be with you!”. Anyway, I instantly accepted the role, even though I had no idea what it implied and what responsibilities it brought with it.         

After savoring the cigarette, to take on my new role I quickly walked towards my computer in order to verify what Scrum Master meant. I hastily opened the first link, I skimmed the text and arrived at this conclusion: the Scrum Master is the person who organizes and facilitates 2-3 meetings and, at the same time, makes sure that the level of enthusiasm and motivation inside the team is at its highest level. I had been doing these things, sort of, even before being appointed as Scrum Master, but nothing was official. “Easy, my friend”, I told myself.

The Empire Strikes Back

As you probably anticipated, that feeling didn’t last long and the first complaints appeared within the team, made by people who previously worked with this methodology: “Why aren’t we holding all the scrum ceremonies?”, “Why don’t we have a backlog?”, “Why….?”. The first question that went through my mind was “What? What are you talking about, dear ones?” A question that made me open more and more links about what Scrum actually means. I quickly realized that the way we were working had absolutely nothing to do with how we were supposed to operate. I also realized that it’s extremely difficult to change people’s mentalities, to help them adopt new ways of working. At the end of the day, I realized that switching the whole organization to Agile was not going to be accomplished overnight.

Things were clear: we needed a training session. This event was held by 2 local trainers who, over 2 days, managed to explain the theory of scrum and gave a handful of personal experiences. It proved to be enough for me to attain the Scrum Master certification and enlighten me in regards to the responsibilities of my role: the Scrum Master is responsible for making sure a Scrum team lives by the values and practices of Scrum. During those moments, I realized how much I had to do for my team and later, for my organization.

Return of the Jedi

My team and I managed to quickly define a backlog product, which we filled with PBIs, that were later prioritized based on value and effort. We defined the sprints and started working on them. Hehe - the training helped us. After our first sprint, we had a small demo, which was then followed by retrospective. Everything went smoothly, but again, not for long.

Attack of the Clones

The team slowly grew in size. Conflicts between teammates started to appear. The Product Owner didn’t follow the usual format of the way PBIs are supposed to be written. The leaders were not content with the team’s velocity. The scrum team was getting bored with the same type of retrospective. The daily standup meeting was starting to become a status report meeting, and Scrum theory was not providing too many solutions.

  That was the moment I decided to talk to other Scrum Masters, both from within our company and outside of it. I started reading more and more blogs where people shared their experiences and gave solutions what worked for their teams ( we need to mention that these solutions are not mentioned in scrum theory, but are invented on the spot by creative people).

These knowledge/experience sharing sessions, together with a couple more soft skills trainings, helped me even more in solving the problems that kept appearing inside our team.

The Force Awakens

Around one year ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a program entitled Agile Expert, a program which is still active today. While in this program, I realized that everything I had learned up until that moment was just a tiny bit of what a Scrum Master should know. (It does seem logical, doesn’t it?)

Even though not all the sessions provided me with new information, some of them were life-changing. All the knowledge provided by the trainers made me think of all the things I could’ve changed, all the problems I could’ve solved and all the solutions I could’ve applied in my Scrum Master past.

Although I’d probably need 1350 more pages (just an approximation!) in order to write about everything I learned from those people, I will try to summarize, and hopefully grab your attention and pique your interest, so that you might want to search for more information on your own or why not contact me and talk about one of the subjects.

At the start of this, I was talking about the transition to Agile in Centric. This was one of the topics that really piqued an interest in the colleagues at the course, and that is probably because we all want to contribute to this transition. Thirsty for more accomplishments and wanting to do things perfectly, I made some mistakes in my career as a Scrum Master. Even though the goal was clear in my mind - implementing the Scrum framework into the team - I forgot about one small detail - small, but extremely important: the resistance of people in the face of change. There were people who  had been working for a long time with another methodology. How can you, Master Yoda, change a person’s beliefs? You cannot. Every change must arrive gradually, people need to accept it, the company needs to accept it, and only after that is a next step available.  Another aspect is what people’s perceptions of being agile really are. If you ask 5 people what “Agile” means to them, you will probably receive 5 completely different answers: “ to have a definition of done”, “to have planning and retrospective”, or “to deliver to the customer as frequently as possible”, etc. Even though the answers are different, they all hold some truth, don’t they? All we need to know is that each organization will adopt Agile at their own pace and only until a certain threshold. Nothing will happen instantly, nor will it work instantly. We must always keep our objective in sight and try, as much as possible,  to align it with the company’s objective.

Agile will not be able to predict future obstacles, but it will surely help us overcome them, helping us reach our goal. For the company, adopting Agile is just like any other change, it’s an experience filled with challenges and obstacles, out of which you learn a multitude of things. If you clearly know your final destination, the means through which you want to reach it and what to expect of the road ahead of you, the chances of people helping you towards your goal are very high.

It seems I’ve lied to you about summarizing all of this. I see that quite a few lines have gathered here. My bad!

I wish to continue the discussion about all the other subjects covered by the course as well, but I’d prefer to do that face to face, so don’t hesitate! Let’s grab a coffee and discuss everything!

The Last Jedi

At this time, by having this knowledge, by having this agile mindset, I know for certain that my involvement in everything regarding agility, inside the team and inside the organization, will be even greater. I will keep on writing, although I, as I’ve mention earlier, prefer face to face discussions.

I will keep doing this with the hope that I am something like a mini-Shakespeare and that my words will help others overcome problems that get thrown in their way. I will also keep on giving presentations about what agility means at the individual, team, and organizational levels. I will talk to anyone who is interested in this topic. And last but not least, I will keep on learning even more about this methodology that, at least for me, has had an enormous impact on me, both professionally and personally.

P.S In the likes of all the great authors out there ☺ I wish to thank all of my colleagues who participated in this course, who supported me in all my endeavors, who shared their personal experiences,  who instilled bits of their knowledge in me when I was in need, and who were very understanding when I was going through more delicate moments (but, at the same time, happy moments) in my life.

P.P.S I’d also like to extend my gratitude to the 3 Agile Coaches in Romania, with whom I’ve spent unforgettable moments and from whom I have learned so much. I’m looking forward to a strong collaboration in the future and I very much wish to achieve as many great things together as possible. Thank you very much!


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