NOV. 3 – 8, 2019
POTSDAM, GERMANY

EUROPE'S GREATEST AGILE SOFTWARE TESTING FESTIVAL!

The Agile Chef - Cooking with SCRUM


It all started with a Scrum Master course in March 2017. I joined that course as an event manager & conference organizer. I was the only one in that course without a tech background. I initially joined this course to understand and learn more about agile and getting a better understanding of my own projects as their main topics are always related to agility and agile processes. It was only after the course, that I realised that I would like to become an active Scrum Master and want to implement agile methodologies in our working processes. In the end I was so hyped by the ideas and benefits of using Scrum that I started to implement it in our team right after the course.

During the training course I quickly understood the essentials for Scrum and I tried to connect and link those to my work context. I needed to transfer the tech-driven content into my event-driven world. At that point I saw the connections and benefits to many other things in my life. I linked it a lot to sports, because I have been a sports professional in my youth. I thought, how great it would have been, if my coaches would have used the Scrum methodology back in those days, when I trained very hard to become a successful athlete.  

I also thought that organizing the weekend activities of my family would be more efficient if it would be organized the agile way. By trying to apply the Scrum method in different contexts, I learned a lot and I learned to understand it better and quicker.

After the Scrum course I met my friend Tibor; we went to school together and we had the same sport coaches. He became a full-time athletics coach and I told him, “Your team should become agile for a better team chemistry and more fun and success!”

He was very keen to learn more I thought how can I teach him the essentials of Scrum quickly. I thought the best way to learn, is to put it again into a different context, so no tech, no sports, but something we both can identify with. Cooking! That’s the way, cause we both like it.

I invited him and his wife to a Scrum cooking evening. Beforehand I prepared everything. I bought the ingredients for the meal, I created a backlog, I defined tasks (by using the steps of the recipe) and we used the kitchen window as a Scrum board with magnetic notes. I gave everyone a brief intro into Scrum and the upcoming processes. Then we defined the team roles and started directly to plan our first sprint. For this experiment I had to break some rules; I was Scrum Master and Product Owner at the same time. Afterwards, I thought I could have given the Scrum Master role to Tibor and so that he could directly have learned it by doing it hands-on. If you plan to cook using Scrum, give the role of the Scrum Master and Product Owner to two different people. In total we planned with 4 sprints with 45 minutes each for active cooking and 15 minutes in between for a break, a review, a retrospective and a new sprint planning. We decided to cook an Indian dish: Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani). For each sprint we defined a sprint goal. Sprint 1 was mainly dedicated to prepare everything, like slicing, chopping the ingredients and mixing up the spices. Sprint 2 was dedicated to fry the chicken and making the sauce. In Sprint 3 we planned to cook the rice and the sauce until it is ready. In Sprint 4 we set the table and enjoyed the meal. Each sprint was garnished with little side tasks and some gamification, like mixing a cocktail or drinking a beer.

 

AGILE COOKING SCRUM BOARD

 

We had a lot of fun and learned a lot. For me this little experiment worked very well and it helped me to understand the Scrum process even better. It was also a good way to practice in a safe environment and repeat what I have learned during the course. Finally, it helped me to implement the Scrum process at work, because I had a test run at home.

Furthermore, it inspired others to learn more about Scrum and to use it in their daily life as well, for instance if you are a teacher or a sport coach.  My cooking experiment helped me to adjust the Scrum process so that it is applicable for our non-tech related work environment. I also found out that adding funny side tasks and some gamification into the single sprints leads to more motivation and fun.

I think Scrum can be applied to many fields in our lives. It needs some kind of adjustments to make it fit; compromises are needed to make it fit, and not always and not everywhere will be pure textbook Scrum possible. Even no-goes as compromises were needed to get the agile transformation started. For example at work, we used a more Kanban-like style in the beginning, but with each sprint we tried to implement and change more things to make it a more pure Scrum process. We also couldn’t split the team and their members in separate projects. Many of us are working on many projects and side-projects at the same time. The biggest no-go compromise was the role splitting. For more than 8 months I was scrum master, product owner, team member and sometime stakeholder at the same time. Kind a hard juggling was needed. Now we have my wonderful colleague Sabine as scrum master and team member, so still not a full-time scrum master in our team, but at least an improvement and another further step into a better Scrum process.

If you struggle to implement Scrum in your team due to a lack of understanding or motivation organize your own cooking session inviting your team and Product Owner. It will be also an awesome team building event!

I think that a Scrum Master or an Agile Coach is also very beneficial in non-tech related businesses and working environments. I would suggest that every Scrum Master or Agile Coach goes to their local Sport Clubs, Fine Dining Cuisines, Schools, or where ever you think an Agile Coach or Scrum Master would be a good addition and present the Scrum methodologies. Tell them about the benefits and how the Scrum process could make their life easier. Show them how agility can affect the outcome of their work positively.    

During my bachelor studies, I always wanted to become the General Manager of the L.A. Lakers, now I would like to be their Agile Coach or Scrum Master! So Rob Pelinka, when you read that, hire me! ;-)   

It was also my sports background which brought me to the idea to try the Scrum Cooking. When you do sports, a good technique is necessary to achieve the optimal results. Coaches are using a similar method to help you improve your techniques or at least to understand what you need to do. For example, when you play Basketball and you usually tend to play right-handed, you shoot the ball with your right hand or “dominant” hand, whereas your left hand is the “weak” hand. However, to maximise your potential you need to use your left hand as you use your right hand. Practicing your left hand needs more focus and concentration when you want to hit the basket. Using your left hand more is new for your brain and it creates new links in the brain. Once you switch back to your right hand, it will be easier for you to implement the new technique.  Putting Scrum into a different context had - to some point -  the same effect on my brain, and will probably have on yours, too.

I hope this blog post provides any value for you and encourages you try something new; might it be Cooking with Scrum or implementing Scrum in your daily work. I had fun writing it and I want to thank Sabine Wede for encouraging and motivating me to start writing again. Thanks Sabine for kicking my ass out of my comfort zone or shall I say conference zone ! :-) I hope you enjoyed reviewing and blue-penciling the post. I know how much you hate reviewing my gramatical painful texts and my tpyso ;-)

Last but not least I want to encourage others to start writing too. So Tibor, when you have a chance to read this, please feel inspired! I would like to see a short blog post on your thoughts how Agile methodologies can be successfully implemented into the daily sports life. What are the challenges and what could be the benefits for the teams and single athletes? Happy to support you with this post!

At everyone else, thanks for reading! Please let me know what you think about this post! Just leave a comment! If you have used Scrum in uncommon environments as well, tell us how it went by commenting below.

About Uwe Gelfert

Born as a rebel fighting against authorities I always wanted to go my way, but somehow I ended up on the conservative road, so since my bio isn’t very extraordinary I’ll keep it short:

born → kindergarden → school → university → work life → marriage → kids → house ... to be continued.

In my spare time I like to do sports (body pump, basketball & cycling). I prefer real life inspired or true story based movies & books, I love signing & rapping loud to my favorite music while driving in my car to work, I enjoy gaming (NBA2K & PES), and I am fan of cooking sous vide & tasting craft beer.

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