My name is Todd Holden.
I arrived to software development through a very unique path. I started my professional career as family services worker so I spent about the first decade of my professional cultivating skills of listening, coaching, negotiation and servant leadership. I think these experiences and skills assisted me when I transitioned to a career in software product development. I have always had a strong affinity to build things and be part of a team firmly believing in the idea that you 'lead from where you stand".
After a solid decade in software development in the areas of software testing, business and process analysis and technical leadership, I observed a disturbing pattern of failure in projects, especially large multi-year endeavors. They all started out with exciting groups ready to change the world with the product to be built but often ended in demoralized teams, general dissatisfation by stakeholders and typically lots of finger pointing to "the problem" by every group. I would then see a repeat this cycle again to fix the problems that happened before. I knew that there had to be a better way to work,
I was fortunate enough to have bosses that allowed me the flexibility to experiement and was able to try a more feature driven team focused approach while working in the cancer research software industry. I saw a great deal more success with this small team focused on feature horizons where collaboration and communication was high. At the time, I think I attributed the success to a group of highly motivated software professionals just getting it done. What I didn't know is that I was knocking on the doors of working in an agile way.
Being an avid thinker, I followed a lot of thought leaders for various software concepts. It was one of these forward thinkers that was one of the initial delegates of the agile manifesto. This document and the scrum framework built upon these principles really resonated for me and after reading them I was a convert. I knew it was the way that the industry as the whole needed to work and the direction of being value focused made so much sense to me and I started immediately to apply the principles within my work. I have worked very hard over the years to understand fully and implement scrum starting as a scrum master to progressing to more of an agile coach at an organizational level and guiding those in other areas, specifically in the government domain eventually as a leader of product development. I am a true believer that you can apply concepts of agility in any situation and that many practices of scrum can be applied outside of the area of software development.
I always look for opportunities to exchange ideas, grow myself or assist others to transform so please feel free to reach out to me!
Department of Transportation, Scrum Master\Agile Evangelist
November 2006 - Present, Nashville, Tennessee, US
I initially joined the Tennessee Department of Transportation as a analyst with a background in software testing to create a quality assurance unit. What I found when I arrived was a very bad execution of a CMMI process that was in a vicious cycle of death marches with low customer satisfaction and IT blaming the customer for "not knowing what they wanted".
I was allowed to create a small scrum team by mid level management (and received my first certification as a PSM I) to explore the possibility of what would be necessary to implement scrum effectively within a state environment. It showed some promise but there was a lot of people and organizational issues to work through. The project ended in a whitepaper being written for management and the delivery of a product but little else. They returned to their command and control approach and I prepared to depart to find work as a scrum master as I believed it would work if given the effort.
I was given, or rather created, another opportunity with a project manager (who was really a product owner in sheep's clothing) and we created a skunks-work project for a need we knew that the executive team had expressed and IT continued to fail to deliver. We were granted to ability to create a co-located space in a small back area and given a few team members. By this time, I had immersed myself in scrum and helped the newly minted product owner (who had a marketing background) through product planning and coached him on team guidance. The product release was so well-received that it gained him the new IT director position and allowed us to begin advocating for the value of scrum to our department and the state as a whole.
Articles I've written
Should We Grow Agility Instead of Scaling It?
I often see people trying to "go Scrum" overnight, which I compare to planting an apple tree and going to bed that night excited to pick apples for the next morning’s juice. . . .
Don't Leave Your Teams in the Dark!
If we exclude certain aspects of product planning, we are asking our teams to accept product guidance with no end definition in sight. How can we help provide a more complete picture to our teams?
As software teams, we have an innate desire to create new and exciting things about which we are passionate -- hence the reason most of us got into this work. As business leaders, we should provide opportunities to allow this creativity on the part of our teams.