A brief look backwards

So, what was I up to these last few months when I wasn't blogging regularly? Quite a few things really:

  • in January I took the certified Scrum master course with Ken Schwaber (organised by Conchango)
  • I attended the Retrospectives facilitators' gathering in Phoenix in February
  • in March I went skiing for the first time with my family
  • just a week or so ago I was a panellist at the Boston Scrum gathering
  • and mostly I have been coaching a couple of banking teams towards adopting Agile software development

Each of these came with its own rewards and challenges. I'll be posting briefly about all of them, starting here with the one that took the most effort: the coaching.
The coaching engagement was hard work for a variety of reasons. For example: there was a fragile legacy code base to deal with; the transition to an Agile way of working was imposed not chosen; several developers were unfamiliar with the chosen programming language; a succession of team leads had created a strong hero culture; the team were unfamiliar with negotiation and collaboration; managers were conditioned to blame avoidance; and customers were used to communication that was infrequent or even misleading.
I guess you could say that these teams were not the ideal candidates for an Agile transition, but you have to start where you are and with what you have. By the end of the engagement the teams had successfully adopted an iterative style of working, learned to write unit and acceptance tests (and appreciate having them!), and were conversing more constructively with their customers and users.
All of this made me feel that the hard work was worthwhile, though I wonder how durable the changes that I saw really are. Much of the time I felt that I was pushing against the culture of the organisation, and I suspect that over time those strong organisational and cultural forces will push the teams back to a place similar to where they started. But I hope not.