Meet Steve Ostermiller

steve_0stermillerCSP-SM and CSP-PO Steve Ostermiller lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is an Agile coach for Platinum Edge.

For you, what is the main difference between where you began as a CSM®, CSPO®, or CSD® and becoming a CSP?
As a CSM and CSPO, I attended a class and gained awareness of valuable insights and mindset changes to help improve in my Scrum team role. But it takes a lot of experience and additional learning and mentoring to get good and to learn how to make an impact in the broader organization. Real scrutiny begins with the CSP, and the requirements forced me to look broadly at my overall involvement in the community and consider ways of learning, collaborating, and mentoring that I may not have considered on my own. The time I spent working to qualify and exceed qualifications for the CSP is probably when I grew the most in my career to that point.

What is your favorite part about becoming a CSP?
I cofounded and now lead a user group called Wasatch Front Agile. It was one of the things I did to give back and get involved in something outside of my day job. Group members and meet-up attendees continually express appreciation for the quality of our meetings and the benefits they enjoy from being involved. Getting involved in the broader community as I worked toward the CSP has stuck with me, and it's nice to give back and help mentor others interested in CSP certification for themselves.

Give us an example of how the CSP certification has helped you in your career?
It has opened doors for me to coach and co-train with seasoned Agile experts whom I admire and learn much from. It's nice to be taken seriously as someone who contributes value to the conversation.

How did you first find out about Scrum?
I don't remember the time or place, but two things stick out in my memory. As a young project manager, I worked with a couple of executives in a maturing start-up to revamp our project management and product development processes. One of them introduced several practices I now know to be things like Daily Scrums, sprints, pair programming, user stories. Then, several years later, after a recession and a failed start-up, I landed in a long job search, which was one of the greatest things to happen to me. I decided not to rush into just another job but to find my passion. I found it. It was Scrum, and an opportunity to organically spread it across an organization, one Scrum team at a time.

What do you find easiest about Scrum?
I love logic. I love reason. Agile values and principles resonate with me. It's fun to teach and see it resonate with others.

What do you find most difficult about Scrum?
Helping teams see it as an exposure model, rather than thinking if it doesn't work right away, then Scrum must be the problem. Most people struggle to be patient with the learning and change curve. I always hope to have enough time with a team to help them through all the growing pains and keep them moving forward. Getting good at Scrum — becoming Agile — is a journey.

What's your best/worst work experience using Scrum?
The worst experiences are any time I present the case for Scrum and transition support, everyone clearly sees the value, but then the internal politics or executive inaction kills it.

How has using Scrum changed you?
Scrum has reinforced my core personal beliefs that life is about continuous improvement, not about being super all the time. I feel like what I talk, teach, write, and think about all the time for work is so in line with what I'm trying to teach my children and promote in my church and community. I think that's called integrity. I've grown up with a perfectionist mindset, which was actually destructive in my earlier years. Too much pressure for any flawed human being, as we all are. Scrum has generally helped me pursue perfection within the bounds of reality.

If you could add one thing to Scrum, what would it be?
I add things to Scrum all the time. That's the great thing about it. Three roles, three artifacts, five events — that's all it is. Scrum is simple enough to work well with so many other Agile practices, tools, and techniques. It doesn't stand alone, but that doesn't mean it lacks anything to be an effective way to organize work and expose progress.

A lot of seasoned Agile experts get frustrated with the product owner role being just one person. I don't think Scrum prescribes against that. The product owner should be one person, but Scrum doesn't prescribe that he/she does it all by themselves. The product owner is the decision maker but only does so through collaboration with the right mix of people.

Do you use Scrum in your life outside of work?  If yes, how?
Yes. I've written and presented on using Scrum for households. We use it on family projects from time to time. I've helped news content teams organize using daily sprints and video production teams visualize their work flow within the Scrum framework. The most natural way I've used it personally is on a last-minute trip with my wife to Hawaii. We had a couple days to plan a roadmap and then treated each day as a single sprint to continually inspect and adapt what we wanted to do based on what we did the day before. We didn't call it Scrum until after we got home and looked back and realized that's exactly what we did.

What advice would you give to someone new to Scrum?
Learn what Scrum is and is not. People get upset when a framework feels prescriptive in a way that doesn't work for them. Understood for what it is, Scrum should never feel prescriptive. When teams understand this, the tension on whether or not to do it disappears, and they can focus on letting Scrum expose what it is that does need tweaking.

What is your favorite quote? And why?
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood." — Stephen R. Covey
So many problems prevented by this.