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No Guru? How about a Trigger List?

6 August 2007

Richard Lissimore
Pragmatic Approach

I'm a lucky guy. I'm a group ScrumMaster for BT's Web21c SDK teams, and it’s full of extremely bright, hard working, and enthusiastic developers who make my life as a ScrumMaster an enjoyable experience. They get agile, and are agile, and we have lots of certified ScrumMasters and life is good.

Unfortunately, it is not always like that. There are many CSMs out there who are fairly green, but are responsible for leading their teams to success. They would like to know more but aren't sure where to turn. There are many smart and experienced professionals involved in the Scrum Alliance. If they were available to all inexperienced teams, they would be inundated by a barrage of questions on best practices, potential flaws in technical approaches, and the like.

The reality, though, is that not everyone has access to a guru. Many people have to find ways to educate themselves. When they go online and begin their search, they find a plethora of choices in reading material. Unfortunately, not all sources are good. With the advent of every developer and his dog writing blogs, and more than ten years of guides, "best practices," and the like on the web, it’s difficult for a new CSM to know who to trust. I’ve seen far too many examples of bad advice, wrong approaches, and strong biased opinion posing as fact.

Even those who have found some reliable Scrum-related material are still unaware of valuable components of the other agile methods, many of which are complimentary to Scrum, such as XP's core practices for better software development. Others focus more on developing their technical skillset rather than learning the all-important soft skills that ScrumMasters need.

This is where my call to the Alliance comes in.

I'd like to propose a series of "trigger lists" that are maintained by the ScrumAlliance and can be used by all Certified ScrumMasters as prompts of concepts and factors to consider during development projects. To quote wikipedia: "A trigger list in its most general meaning refers to a list whose items are used to initiate ("trigger") certain actions."

Here are some random situations in which a trigger list might be useful:

  1. Starting a project at a high level (mentioning what a development environment should have; SCM, CI, etc.).
  2. At a more focused business cost level (for example, mentioning that upgrading hardware is more cost effective than optimization in most cases).
  3. To make an architect aware of something like memcached as an approach to aid database scaling.
  4. Saving an SME money by listing Selenium as a free way of doing web UI testing.
  5. To help put a spark back into stand-ups (provide a link to Martin Fowler's patterns for stand-ups).

The list could go on and on. The value would be in having them available as mental checklists. Teams can verify that they’re doing as many things as possible in the right way without having to go through more failed projects to learn. The lists could be as simple as prompts and links to other resources that the ScrumAlliance has peer reviewed and finds valuable.

I, for one, would certainly refer to a ScrumAlliance trigger list if it existed, and have it on hand to move the project forward and to check against for piece of mind. What about it, Scrum Alliance?


Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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Anonymous, 8/8/2007 9:54:31 AM
The Scrum Alliance will probably never have a complete list of "if you run into X problem, do Y" responses. There are two reasons: 1) We don't believe it's possible to ever address all scenarios; 2) We don't believe it's even advisable, given the inspect/adapt nature of Scrum.

We do have something similar in our series of "Smells" articles, most of which have been submitted by Mark Randolph. These articles address common Scrum smells, their likely causes, and some actions to try in response. We welcome more authors for these smells, as each one of you has probably encountered a unique smell and had some success in implementing a remedy.

We've also recently published a few articles that are recommended reading for particular roles or situations.

All of the solutions we publish on the site come with this caveat: Solutions should not be applied blindly, since they are rarely repeatable. They are offered for your inspection and adaptation to your own circumstances, within the general framework of Scrum. --Rebecca Traeger, Site Editor, on behalf of the Scrum Alliance Board.

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