Starting the life of a Scrum Master

It’s been a while since I posted anything. The truth is I got busy with the day to day routine of being a Project Manager and I haven’t had the inclination to write about Project Management topics.

But I am starting a new chapter now, moving from a Project Manager to the role of a Scrum Master. Nothing new really, many have done it, but I am going to log my progress from week to week, both my failures and my successes over the new few months. Partly to help me understand my own growth and in part to help others who may go along the same journey.

We started the first week with a professional Scrum Master educator. I have to say I feel lucky that I am in organization that has decided to make the investment in the transition. However I am cautious in that I am not sure that our directors understand the difference between a Scrum Master and a PM. It will be worth having further discussion to ensure the expectations are set as move forward of what’s expected of me.

What's your leadership style

Recently I was asked what kind of leader am I.  And while I could describe what I do, I was hard pressed to put a name to my style.  So decided to do some research, the following is a quick overview of different styles leadership and management.

In the long run the most effective leadership style will change according to what is required at the time.  You must be flexible to achieve your goals, do not adopt one style, because it won’t work for every situation.

So now if I am asked that is my leadership style - it’s flexible and encompassing.  I adopt the necessary combination of methods to achieve the desired goal.  My value is that I can judge what is required and when.



Management makes decisions unilaterally without consultation or regards for subordinates.  Offers quick decision but can alienate workers. Close supervision of staff required as employees are not give much autonomy over their work.



Takes into account employee views and communication is mainly downward but feedback from subordinates is solicited.  Decision making is still in the power of management but it does help to build greater loyalty with staff members.



Like the autocratic method all the decision making stays with management thus allowing for quick decision.  The difference is that management will take more time to explain and persuade employees to follow management decisions.  



Management sets the performance expectations.  Goal is to achieve higher standards of productivity and pushes the team towards greater goals.  Although this can help achieve better productivity it can often demoralize staff is pushed too far.



Often used when an organization needs a new direction.  A visionary leader explains what the goals of the organization are but leaves it up to the staff to work out how to get there.  Thus involving everyone in the process.


Management by Walking Around (MBWA)

Managers gather as much information as possible.  Attempting to be pre-emptive, understanding a situation as soon as possible so it doesn’t become a bigger problem.  MBWA provides real-time information directly from the source allowing to management to get a sense of general feeling.  If done incorrectly this can leave the staff with a feeling of being micromanaged



Management allows employees to take part in the decision making process, majority rules.  Extensive communication in both directions is required.  Although the decision making process is slow it is useful for highly technical projects where expert opinion is crucial to the final success.



Like the autocratic method all decision are made by management, with little regard for staff option. It assumes that management has strong confidence in themselves are there to direct and look after the employees.  This method often alienates strong competent staff who feel they are ignored in the decision making process.



The main focus is on developing individuals.  Allowing the staff to align their goals to the goals of the organization.  Usually leads go positive results - especially with motivated employees. But can, at times, be perceived as micromanaging.



Focuses on teamwork, communication flows both ways, but emphasises horizontal communication amongst staff.  The goal is to build well-functioning teams that can be self-directed.  Although can be of great benefit must be careful to keep the group on the right track.



Management acts as a mentor and stimulator but staff management themselves and their areas of concern.  Leadership must be inspirational and employees must have strong sense of duty and loyalty.  Management must be able to have a strong vision that is clearly communicated to all staff, otherwise lack of focus may lead to initiatives that go in opposite directions.


I wish to thank my friend James Smith a Manager at Canada Post  for his contribution to my Blog for this article.

Getting your PMI-Agile Certification

Over the last few years I have been dealing with variations of the Agile methodology.   Not only leading software development project, but introducing the Agile methodology to those organizations that wanted to achieve greater efficiency.

In some cases the full methodology was instigated in other cases it was partial, but overall it was successful.

There are a number of variations of Agile out there such as Scrum, XP, Lean Agile, Kanban, ect.  Each methodology on its own has pros and cons, often I would use a combination of procedures to come up with what is the most suitable set of actions for any particular organization.  

However I had always felt uncomfortable that the Agile arena was somewhat fragmented.  No one clear item I could point the new Agile inductees and set them on a clear course. So when PMI came out with an Agile certification I was delighted to able to have one set standard I could use as a  guide.

I had decided to take the PMI-Agile course, and I will also write the exam, in order ensure that I can maintain the required standards.

My adventure started when I made the decision to take an PMI-Agile course. As the PMI-Agile certification is fairly new the number of schools offering it was rather limited, but there are a few. 

After some research I had decided to go with the Agile Transformation team.  They had provided Agile training and consultation for many years and their representative Stu Weinberg was very good at answering all my questions as I researched which would be right course for me. 

The course itself was thought by Bryan Tew, I found him to be informative and engaging.  Not only did Bryan present the information required to pass the PMI-Agile exam but also what is required in real life scenarios to successfully manage an Agile project.   

There is also an added bonus that once you take the course you have access to multiple sample exam questions to help you prepare for the PMI-Agile test.

I would highly recommend their course, check them out at:

 Over the next few weeks I will post sever articles as I go through the steps required to get your PMI-Agile certification, so please check back for the next article, what you need to qualify


I am back

I am back. A year and a million dollars latter, I had just completed a very intensive project.  It took a considerable part of my life, which is why I had neglected my blog for a long time.  But I am back now and I have a lot of catching up to do.

As I reflect back on the project I have managed to gain some insights which I feel are worth sharing.

First of all due to reasons of client confidentiality I don’t like to give details, which is why this article will cover issues on a broader scale.


The importance of having proper guidance at the top or Inflexible flexibility.

With everyone’s participation a completion date was estimated, once that was the done the date was set in stone.  As further information had become available the team had tried to negotiate for more time, but the answer was always the same, stick to the deadline.  And when the message comes from a senior VP of a major financial institution, you listen.  As I look back on the project this unyielding expectation of meeting the delivery date had forced the team to work harder but it was crucial to making the project a success.  The message from the top was clear and consistent.

Here is the important part of this equation; while we could not move the date we had considerable leeway on the budget, and some on the scope. As long as the primary purpose of the task was achieved, we had room to deviate from scope, on some details, and we were allowed to put in as much over time as required.

The primary lesson of this is that as a Project Manager you must always identify the key constraint of the project from the sponsor’s / client’s point of view.  Projects have a life of their own, as we progress through a project and more information is available to us, we need to have the flexibility to make changes where necessary.  If you ever get the message that all three points (time, scope and budget) are fixed, then you must negotiate until at least one of these points can change as required.  Because if you don’t your project will fail.  However too much flexibility at the top can also lead to “analysis paralysis” with the technical team and project loses sight of what it’s trying to achieve.


People not procedures get things accomplished.

Another key factor to the success of the project were the individuals who worked on the project.  People  who decided that accomplishing goals was more important than simply putting in the minimum required hours. Cultivating the team, acknowledging the performers and making sure that your team knows they can count on you to be there for them is key.  Don’t expect complete harmony the more people you have to manage the more conflicts you will have to deal with.  But as long as you show that you are willing to treat everyone fairly and remind everyone what the true goal of the project is, good people will pull together and get the job done.


Don’t be afraid to speak up.

Finally as a Project Manager you must be able to bring issues that need to be escalated.  I know no one likes to be bearer of bad news, but it is a critical function of a PM.  How you bring up the message is just as important as the message.  If there is a crucial matter, make sure to speak up and get everyone’s attention.  Simply sending an email is not enough, you must confirm that they key people are aware of the issue you have brought to their attention, and that action will be taken. 

I am reminded of a study in the 90’s where South Korean airlines had the highest number of accidents of any Airline in the world.  The main reason for this was lack of communication with in cock pit.  I mean can you believe it, a small room where three people are constantly together and they couldn’t communicate to literally save their lives.  It turns out that if the co-pilot or navigator spotted a critical error on the captain’s part they would rather meekly suggest he alter course and take a chance on dying, then shout or do whatever is necessary to avoid a catastrophe.

So it is with a good Project Manager, when you spot a critical item think of that the plan going down to certain doom, and ask your self will you right the course or just let it go down in flames.

In my case I was lucky the people I had worked for encouraged such communication, and never made it a point of assigning blame.  They just wanted to know how we can get over the challenge and move forward.  This is what I believe all good managers should strive for.


Photo a brainstorming meeting.  Say what you will but sticky notes are one the PM's most valuable tools.





On-Line Project Management Tools Review - Seavus Project Viewer

A tool for people involved in projects who don't create project plans, but only need to open, view and update task progress in the project plans created in MS Project. It provides a complete set of views and additional features to view projects and tasks. 

This product is simple and one I wished for a long time.  To often I have had to convert my Project Plans into other formats so my I could share them with my team members.

This allows my project team to quickly open up my project, and update their progress, if required.

Mainly I found it handy for virtual meetings, it allowed all team members to open up the project plan, then discuss it either via the telephone or a series of e-mails as required.

An added bonus is you can use it to search through a project plan to help quickly pin  point the item(s) of interest.

And it’s priced right a 15 day free trail, and a one time fee of $39.00

A simple and elegant solution.

On-Line Project Management Tools Review - Bright Green Projects



An Agile project tool, founded on principles of Scrum and Lean Kanban

I have to admit I haven’t used this tool much but what I have seen so far has impressed me.


One of my favourite ideas of the Agile methodology is the use a board with a list of items broken down into sections such as:  What needs to be accomplished what is being worked on and what has been done.  The problem is that using  a large physical board doesn’t do much when working with a virtual teams in different parts of the globe.

This application simulates the giant board and allows you to share it with your team members no matter where their physical location happens to be.


Some the noteworthy features are:

 manage requirements, risks, bugs, actions 
* plan sprints and releases 
* visualize your work on a Kanban wall 
* report progress using burn down charts 


It’s free for the first 3 users, and $20 per month per user after that, this can get pricy but it is a unique product.  If you are in need of such a product I would recommend that you evaluate it and see if the cost is justifiable.

On-Line Project Management Tools Review - JIRA Studio


I have used JIRA in the past and have found it an excellent tool for tracking:  Issues, Risks, Bug Tracking, and Scope Changes.   It integrates for Gmail, you can set it up that for certain issues, the required people are emailed so nothing is missed.

It is created around a team-centric view, so collaboration is easy and well laid out.


Some of it’s more notable features are:

 Subversion source control 
* JIRA issue tracking 
* Agile planning and project management 
* Continuous integration 
* Wiki and collaboration 
* Peer code review 
* Source code search, browsing and metrics 

Integration with Google Apps

* Activity Bar: put issues, code reviews, build results, email, events at the fingertips of every user. 
* Google Chat within JIRA Studio: real-time communication and build notifications. 
* Google Docs in wiki pages: embed individual docs or lists of docs. 
* Google Docs attached to JIRA issues: attach Google Docs to JIRA issues, with single-click preview. 
* Exchange gadgets: add Google gadgets to JIRA Studio, and JIRA Studio gadgets to Gmail or Google Sites. 
* Integrated user management: auto-login to JIRA Studio using your Google Apps account.

I love this application the only disappointing part is the cost of using it via Google Apps.


At s $25/month per user,  for even a small team the costs can add up quickly, this app is far more affordable if you purchase it and install it on your own servers and run it locally.  A shame because for me part of the attractions to the Google Apps market place is that Software publishers can afford to bring their prices down due to extra volume they receive by participating in the marketplace.



On-Line Project Management Tools - Gantter Project

There is really not much to say about this products, simply put this is a very basic no frills replacement for MS Project.

It’s outstanding features are that it can import MS Project files, or allow you easily create new ones through the program its self and that you can share your work with others.

It integrates via Google docs so it’s handy for saving files.

While this may not be the best MS Project replacement it is totally free, and it works well.

There have been some reports of lost data, but I have been testing this product myself for the last six months with no problems.

PMI's Agile Certification

Recently PMI has announced that it will be offering an Agile certification.   

As this is just the beginning you can bet that there will be many iterations before this finalized.

However for those interested in getting on the ground floor visit it contains all the information regarding this initiative.

As I am interested in this I will be posting regular updates as the certification progresses.

Before I go into further details, I would like to acknowledge that I have seen a number of debates regarding the usefulness of this or any other certification.  As well as what makes this any better then those who posses certification such as (CSM) Certified Scrum Master, see

It’s not my attempt to try and persuade anyone as to which is better or the value of certification in general but provide simple fact for those who are interested in pursuing PMI Agile certification further.


Important information to note:

Initial pilot for certification application will start around mid May-2011

Those who wish to be certified must prove they have at least 1500 hours of Agile project management experience, as well as the usual required PMI hours.   So if you had an overall PM experience of 5000 hours at least 1500 must be managing Agile Projects.

You need at least 21 hours of agile training, courses that are recognized can be found on the website.   The good news is that some web seminars will be recognized.   Further at this time, you may apply and be approved for certification prior to taking any training, as long as you promise to take the course at a future specified date.

Finally you must pass the test – more information to come.

Once you have obtained your Agile certification to maintain it you must acquire at least 30PDU’s every 3 years.  If you are already a PMP and then acquire PMI Agile certification the original 60PDU’s per 3 years still applies only now 30 of those should be directly towards Agile management/participation.


On-Line Project Management Tools Review - Smartsheet




If you want a simplified version of MS Project, and still retain something with bit more sophistication then a spreadsheet, coupled with easy collaboration then I would suggest looking at this product


  •          Import from Microsoft Project or Excel
  •          Tasks and sub tasks (multiple-levels)
  •          Status, Assigned To, Milestones
  •          Gantt Chart, Grid and Calendar view options
  •          Task dependencies
  •          Customizable project fields
  •          On-line sharing
  •          File attachments on any task
  •          Discussion & comments
  •          Email notifications & reminders
  •          View history of changes
  •          Report across multiple projects
  •          Attach Google Docs to any row in Smartsheet
  •          Google Calendar integration
  •          Open attached MS Office docs as Google Docs
  •          Import and export Google Spreadsheets
  •          Import Google Contacts

There is a number of good reason to use this product. 

First of all it’s easy to share with everyone and anyone.  I have always been hindered  when I have to share the project information by the fact that much of my staff or sponsor’s don’t have to MS Project.  Unless you work for an organization that has Microsoft’s Project Server and/or SharePoint distributing the information is not easy.  Usually I have to print to PDF or transcribe it to a spreadsheet that everyone can see. 

I also love the close Integration with Google products, such Gmail, and the ability to overlay the Smartsheet calendar with your own in order to view conflicts.

Hint:  Integrate the Google Calendar’s of other team members then overlay the Smartsheet calendar, this will allow you to see If there are any existing conflicts for the whole team.

It’s the 20% of Project manager that 80% of us use. 

The only negative is, that it is on the pricy side, you do get a 30day free trial but after that it’s $9.95 per month for the Basic service and goes up to $149.00 per month for the Enterprise version.  But when compared other solutions out there not bad.