My journey into Professional Scrum



It has been just over a year since I returned from 3 years in the USA and started naked ALM Consulting, and things are going well.. So far. The key to success in software development is, I believe, Professional Scrum.

A move into consulting was the next logical step for my career back in 2010 when I went to work for Adam Cogan’s SSW in Sydney Australia. Here I learned to work in a team, Scrum, and how to be a Professional Scrum Developer. I also learned how to work remotely, as I lived a full 11 hours difference from the office.


Professional Scrum Developer

PSD13 | 3 Days | Intermediate | Programmers, Testers

The PSD was my introduction to the Scrum world and it changed my outlook on software development in a profound way. I no longer hated all the project managers that I had ever worked with, instead I realised that they were just doing what everyone else was doing.

After my stint at SSW I moved to Bellevue, Washington to work with the premier ALM Consultancy in the USA, Northwest Cadence. In my 3 years at Northwest Cadence I honed my consulting skills and learned how to both build and deliver training material. I created and delivered training in Scrum and Visual Studio ALM. In early 2011 I upped my Scrum game and became a Professional Scrum Training adding the Professional Scrum Master course to my repertoire.


Professional Scrum Master

PSM13 | 2 Days | Advanced | Scrum Masters, Project Managers

Northwest Cadence had their own, home build, training for ALM, and I delivered the PSF both publically for training organisations and privately for customers.

Martin is a pragmatic scrum coach and a great presenter. His teaching style stirs enthusiasm and collaboration, making the training very engaging and pleasant.
-Hamid Zar, Director of Engineering at Mitchell International then came out with a very interesting course that every single one of the Professional Scrum Trainers could deliver. The Professional Scrum Foundations was the most unique course that I have ever taught. Developed by David Starr, it provided a practical look for participants at not just how to do Scrum but why it works.


Professional Scrum Foundations

PSF13 | 2 Days | Beginner | Stakeholders, Managers, Development Team, Product Owners, Scrum Masters

My first ever teach of this course was my most awesome experience of teaching to date. The attendees of the private teach in Park City, Utah were from varying backgrounds, from coders and testers, to warehouse managers and executives. We all learned something and teaching this course showed me the value of training everyone in your organisation. There is so much value in level setting everyone that I don’t price the course per student, and instead charge a flat rate for up to 30 people.

Martin did Scrum training for Backcountry through for three days and I must say it was very useful three days for us. The whole team of about 50+ people thoroughly enjoyed the training and got a lot out of it. In addition to great material and exercises Martin had a great style of delivery and won the respect of everyone including our engineers, which is a big deal.
– Charanjeet Singh, CIO at

In the end though my time at Northwest Cadence came to an end and I headed back to Scotland and started naked ALM Consulting. For the last 15 months I have been working around Europe as a consultant in the ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) domain. This domain is complex and consists of many moving parts. There are so many technologies to understand and learn that it is a very tight knit community.

I learned early that while tools are awesome, especially Team Foundation Server, tools do not solve problems. Only people can solve problems. And problems are rarely about technology. Given a significantly difficult technical problem and smart people who are allowed to experiment, they will inevitably engineer themselves a solution. However almost 100% of problems for software teams are cultural. They are the “way that things are done here” and process and practices (or lack thereof) is the fundamental unit of impediment for any organisation. It is hard to walk that fine line between too little and too much process and most organisations get it wrong.

The solution is easy to understand but hard to implement:

  • You need professionals individuals. That is, you need Professionals that can learn new techniques and that are open mined enough to adapt their solutions to the situation at hand. You don’t want closed minded individuals that that will carry on doing the wrong thing because “that’s the way things are done here” or continuously use the phrase: “that will not work here”.
  • You need professional teams. People that will work together in groups, self-organising around the problems to be solved and taking accountability and responsibility for the work that they deliver.

All of this will result in a greater degree of business agility allowing your organisation to consistently and continuously deliver high quality software that is of value to your customers. I have realised that it is time for a Profession of Software Development to be formed in this world of modern application delivery. There is no room for the cowboy anymore and those organisations out there that are doing this agile thing well are innovating their way around all of their competition.

What works well for the team does not necessarily work well for the rest of the organisation an there are many cookie cutter approaches to delivering Scrum at Scale and in most cases they fail. Why? I fully believe that these cookie cutter approaches were developed in good faith and did indeed work somewhere. However, the culture of every organisation is different and the idea that the same approach will work at every organisation is naive at best, and nefarious at worst. Each company must create its own path from where they are towards greater business agility.


Scaling Professional Scrum Workshop

SPS14 | 2 Days | Intermediate | Development Managers, Coaches, Facilitators, Change Agents, Leaders

Scrum is but a framework around which your team can build the processes, practices, and tools that best suit your organisation, its strategy, its people, and its customers. That’s why it’s a framework and not a methodology. That same framework, along with evidence-based techniques can be used at the organisational level to incrementally and continuously move your organisation down the path to greater business agility. This is not a path along which we know our destination, but with a rough strategic vision we can keep moving in the right direction and occasionally consulting the compass. I recently attended the trainer-prep of the Scaling Professional Scrum workshop and found it enlightening in enshrining that understanding of “no one size fits all” when it comes to agility.

These are the things that I have learned with Professional Scrum. What have you learned?

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