“Can an R&D team of chemists, physicists, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers and embedded software developers optimize teamwork and value by using Scrum? And can live virtual Scrum training deliver a practical Scrum learning experience to everyone on such a functionally diverse team?”
These were the two questions one of my customers asked.
Throughout our conversation I learned more about the team, and we quickly agreed that their work of applied research and technology development includes lots of complexity. When they start a new initiative, a lot more is unknown than known to them, and only through research, experimentation and development they learn more about what is feasible and applicable. So, being empirical, one of the essential principles of Scrum, is already a big part of their work. At the same time, they were striving to improve focus and self-organization especially in the context of COVID-19 which forced them to distribute and collaborate remotely. So, yes. Scrum could be helpful in becoming a more focused and self-organized team.
The second question was a bit more difficult to answer. If the Scrum training was an in-person class, I would have a complex challenge at hand. A challenge that would stimulate everyone on that R&D team to build and integrate mechanical and electric hardware as well as embedded software into an Increment. However, onsite training was clearly not an option due to COVID-19, and the Scrum training would have to be delivered virtually. I felt that a purely digital challenge (as in “build this software…”) wouldn’t create a Scrum learning experience that would stimulate everyone on a team with such a diverse range of backgrounds in chemistry, physics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and software development. So, I had to think about how to create an immersive experience for all of them.
That’s where our amazing community of Professional Scrum Trainers (PST) at Scrum.org came into play. I remembered that Simon Bourk, a fellow PST from Ottawa, Canada, was experimenting with Minecraft Education for his Scrum training. For those of you who don’t know Minecraft, it’s a building block game where you can build your own world and environment. I told my customer that I had an idea that I wanted to explore a bit further to see if it worked and then get back to him. I then contacted Simon and he invited me to join his live virtual Scrum class where he would use Minecraft Education for the first time. So, I joined his training where I became part of a team with equally different backgrounds.