May 25, 2021

Diversity Is Essential for "Done" According to These Highschool Students

The pandemic has stimulated me to teach Scrum outside my home in the United States. I have been fortunate to collaborate with many diverse cultures worldwide.  I am also grateful to facilitate a team of very talented high-school students in my area. They implemented Scrum to build a real-world mobile application called "The Edge".

The self-managed team of 5 Developers works in Sprints to deliver The Edge.  Also, a diverse range of stakeholders use The Edge.  

Connie Skomra is an Application Development & Programming Instructor for The Delaware Area Career Center.  She created a program called ADaPT, "a two-year high school career-prep program which offers immersive, personalized, and interactive learning opportunities to aspiring software developers".  She saw an opportunity to offer the services of the program to her friend, Katie Miller.  

Miller is a softball coach of over 80 apprentices and mother of 3 daughters.  She wanted a way to organize her paper coaching notebook and videos from her phone. Skomra suggested combining ADaPT and Scrum to build a mobile app.  Miller agreed and serves as the Scrum Team's Product Owner.  Skomra and her talented students would serve as Developers.  Skomra asked me to serve as Scrum Master.

“Often what happens is that these kids show me how it works in the app better than what I’m thinking in my head” --Katie Miller

All students volunteered to be on the team.  Most students jumped at the opportunity immediately to work on a real-world application. This diverse Scrum Team includes people of different genders, ages, races, and experience levels.  Many say that the Scrum values are at the heart of the team's diversity.

"Each member has great Respect for the other members...because of their character and values--Scrum values", says Skomra.

A virtual Sprint Retrospective on The Edge
A "What, So What,
Now What" Sprint
Retrospective

Diversity also means flexibility to collaborate. We started as a full-remote team.  Choosing tools and technologies became secondary to collaboration, higher transparency, and cross-functionality.  The Developers often schedule time outside school to work on the increment.  When the school moved to a hybrid model, Skomra was able to arrange the students’ school lab time on Fridays to include working on The Edge.  

The students also adapted ways to include Miller and me when needed. "At mentions" became an accepted way to answer questions and remove impediments.  Also, the "Ask Katie" column on our board became a way to collaborate with our Product Owner.    

These adaptations prepared The Scrum Team for the ending school year.  Tools and technologies are not as available as during the school year.  Lifting pandemic restrictions also offers new opportunities, but also presents new challenges.

"Our team showed great Courage and Commitment to learn...to take on something that has never been done before; to Focus on [the] 'next right thing' Sprint after Sprint; and to be Open to failure and scrutiny", Skomra added.

The team collaborating during Sprint Planning (notice the Sprint Retrospective outcome on the right)
The team collaborating during
Sprint Planning with the Sprint
​​​​​​Retrospective outcome visible.

Planning and delivering a softball coaching mobile app is not easy. Scheduling Scrum Events around an already busy work-school lifestyle is often challenging.  The team realizes the value of the empiricism that the events offer.  "Commitment and Focus speak to me the most, as those two values are the most essential to getting the project done", states a student Developer. 

The diversity doesn't stop with the Scrum Team.  Miller is considering inviting some stakeholders to Sprint Reviews.  “Often what happens is that these kids show me how it works in the app better than what I’m thinking in my head”, states Miller.

The Developers use the valuable feedback to expand the Definition of Done.  Testing the app on popular mobile platforms is essential.  An automated build pipeline delivers the latest and greatest features to stakeholders.  The Developers are capturing and incorporating stakeholder feedback into their continuous delivery process.

The team has developed such a strong bond that they want to stay together after the school year.  Sprint Retrospective feedback includes feelings of "optimistic", "creative", and "grateful".  Scaling the app to include more stakeholders will happen this summer.  

The team has also gained the recognition of the local media.  You can read about that story in The Delaware Gazette.

The Edge in action during a Sprint Review
The Edge in action during a Sprint Review