ScrumMaster Removing Impediments

Scrum and XP and indeed many of the Agile methodolgies value the idea of from XP of courage. In Scrum this is the ScrumMaster bubbling organizational problems to the surface and trying any reasonable tactic that won’t get her fired to resolve the issue for the team. In the Agile Manifesto it’s People over Process.

Today I successfully applied this idea by reexamining a problem I thought was beyond my control. The issue revolved around sending one of my developers, Ian, to an internal use case training course that we’re offering. The history of this effort:

  • Ian asked for some use case training 1.5 years ago due to a professional interest around requirements gathering. I asked Ian to research possible classes.
  • A class was arranged, but cancelled due to low enrollment.
  • We brought in a coach/mentor to do some Agile training including a two day Use Case class about 7 months ago.
  • A use case class was arranged in September, and I was assigned to attend despite being pretty proficent with use cases.
  • I argued that I would go so that I understood how we were implementing use cases, but I really wanted Ian to get a slot. Ian didn’t get to attend the class, but there was supposed to be a second class.
  • There was a second class in November, so I asked if Ian could attend this time. It was explained to me that there might be some open slots, but no promises. Ian again couldn’t go because there weren’t any open slots.
  • I had Ian research Use Case courses available even if it involved travel. He found one in San Francisco by the coach/mentor that we had hired and their company and another one by a different company in Boston.
  • He talked to our coach/mentor about attending the training, but she explained that the class was being cancelled due to low attendance.
  • In the meantime Ian researched and found training in January for ScrumMaster training in San Diego.
  • Then in late December two of my developers were assigned to an official Agile project and signed up for Use Case training with the coach/mentor.
  • I again made the case that Ian should be added, and I got the feeling that there were open slots this time, so on the fly Ian had to switch the ScrumMaster training because it was on the same dates as the Use Case training internally.
  • Following up on the Use Case training slot for Ian I was told that spots were being reserved for other organizational groups. I explained the whole history of trying to arrange this one class for Ian, and got the promise that if there were empty slots that Ian could have one, but no promises.
  • I calculated that if we had to send Ian to Boston for the same training that it would cost the company about $2000-$3000 versus almost free since the coach/mentor doing the training is being paid on a billable hours basis. As a business decision this seemed obvious.
  • I didn’t get any answers about whether Ian could go or not this morning so I sent him over to the class.
  • Tomorrow Ian will successfully complete the Use Case training class finally.

I may have to deal with fallout from this action, but as a manager trying to remove impediments I’m willing to take a little bit of heat. And it’s good to reexamine your assumptions every so often. If I had just waited to be told there were no slots again Ian would still be waiting and we may have had to spend $3000 and send an employee across the country just to get training we’re offering internally through a very capable trainer.

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