Michael James

About Michael James

Michael James is a software process mentor, team coach, and Scrum Trainer with a focus on the engineering practices (TDD, refactoring, continuous integration, pair programming) that allow Agile project management practices. He is also a software developer (a recovering "software architect" who still loves good design).

Why Take A 3-Day Certified Scrum Master (CSM) Class?

The Certified Scrum Master (CSM) class I’ve usually offered is an interactive cartoon e-learning series (Scrum Training Series completed before attendance) + two days of team lab activities.  It gets great reviews, such as this one from my last class: Attended a Scrum Master class with Michael James as the teacher, and it was amazing. He was extremely knowledgeable, professional, and fun to get along with. I’d highly recommend anyone to take one or more of his classes. While I was writing this article, a participant from the Washington DC area posted this on my LinkedIn profile: I left the …

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敏捷嘉年华, 2013 Scrum Gathering in China (Scrum 中国聚会)

I had the privilege of participating in this month’s China Scrum Gathering, called 敏捷嘉年华, which means Agile Carnival!  While this was designated a “regional” gathering, I saw at least 300 people at the Shanghai carnival.  The gathering also covered Beijing and Suzhou, and featured presenters from the US, Europe, China, and Japan.  Read more about who was there in English or 汉语普通话.  Session proceedings and video will be available soon. Interest in Agility has taken off since my first visit to Shanghai in 2009.  Chinese businesses are trying it for real now, supported by a growing community of local experts and enthusiasts. …

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How Can I Explain To A Coworker That He Writes Bad Code ?

Spaghetti Code

How can I explain to a coworker that he writes bad code?  I just read a discussion of this question on a popular technical discussion site and I was disappointed by the answers.  Most of the answers fell into three categories: Ignore it.  It’s not your problem. Do something dishonest and manipulative, such as asking the coworker for technical advice when the real intent is to be the one giving the advice. Fire him, or try to get him fired.   While these may sometimes be the best available actions, it’s disappointing how many of the respondents are not aware of the …

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Case Study of a Difficult Federal Government Scrum Project: FBI Sentinel

According to today’s Wall Street Journal (“FBI Goes Digital, After Delays“), the FBI’s Sentinel system is finally ready for agents to use, replacing manual processes and older electronic case management tools.  As of Aug 2012 it’s difficult to predict how well it will perform over time.  If it serves the FBI well, Scrum and Agile advocates will cite it as evidence of Scrum working where prior approaches had failed.  For example, Sentinel was already cited in Ken Schwaber’s fourth book. A recent Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report provides a great case study of why both …

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Every Sprint Has A Mix of Activities

Sprints are not purely for construction. In a broad sense, producing a little bit of product is a goal of every Sprint. But not the *narrow* sense of production or construction people are traditionally thinking of. Sprints 1, 5, 19, and 100 should all contain planning, design, choosing tools, (re-)evaluating the best ways to work together, etc., not just the heads down stuff like coding and testing. I think we’ve all seen the hazards of teams having their heads down too much of the time: a pile of bad code written around faulty assumptions. One or two architecture “experts” still …

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15 Ways to Split an Epic, a Team Exercise

Your Scrum Team has been hired by a physical fitness expert to develop a mobile device application to prescribe daily personalized exercise routines and diets for a wide range of people. The app should adapt the routines to users’ fitness goals, current health, age, gender, preferences, food allergies, lifestyle, etc. The fitness expert is excited about all the possibilities of this app but promised a key user a working system in 30 days. The main feature of the system will be this epic: Generate Anyone’s Exercise Routine and Diet Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Extract stories from …

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How Did Scrum Become a Straitjacket?

The ideas behind Agile (before it was a buzzword) largely arose from practitioners looking to eliminate painful or silly management practices between them and their craft. When I first did Scrum, it was more fun than any way I’d worked before. As a member of a self organizing team, we negotiated Sprint Goals with the PO and collaborated to meet them our own way. Scrum’s freedom from micromanagement opened the door to learning Agile technical practices that kept the code enjoyable to work on. So the autonomy, the social environment, and the state of the product itself made it fun. …

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The Team That Said No to KPIs

If you’ve been following the work of behavioral economists and authors such as Dan Pink, or you’ve read my article What Your HR Department Doesn’t Know About Scrum, you already know that truely Agile organizations have abandoned last-century’s habit of treating employees as rats in a B.F. Skinner box with conditional punishments and conditional rewards, particularly tied to “Key Performance Indicators” (KPIs). Scrum requires self organizing teams to expose organizational impediments. The toughest part of a Scrum Master‘s job is resolving these organizational impediments, or at least mitigating their impact on the team. Today I read an example of that …

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Free Web Based Training: Introduction To Scrum, with quiz

We’re beta-testing a web based training module to help people prepare for CSM classes, and counteract misconceptions spread by certain popular but uninformed YouTube videos. The early feedback has been encouraging. After we create additional modules, we’ll come back and polish this one up. Give it a try and let us know what you think. http://ScrumTrainingSeries.com –mj See also: The Scrum Reference Card and The Scrum Master Checklist.

Do Internal Departments Delight Their Internal Customers?

At the Seattle Scrum Gathering I heard Steve Denning say that companies who don’t delight their customers won’t survive the decade. There’s no longer only three TV channels to choose from; the “You Take What We Make” era is over and now the customer is the boss. I’m wondering whether/when the same principle will start applying within organizations. On Slashdot someone posted the topic of employees who would like to use their own devices (iPads and stuff I guess) for work. The tone of the responses, presumably from techs and admins in IT departments, suggests to me these guys will …

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