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Ryan Brook

United Kingdom




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6 Ryan Brook T
Here's my twist on an old classic - 'The Night Before Christmas'. If I've learnt anything by writing this, it's that I should stick to training Scrum and not writing poetry!

'Twas the night before Sprint Review, when all through the building
Not a dev was there stirring, definitely not out chilling;
The increment had been tagged on the Ops branch with care,
In hopes that the stakeholders soon would be there;
Most of the Scrum Team were all snug in their beds;
While visions of acceptance criteria danced in their heads;
The Product Owner whistled, alongside a Scrum Master clap,
For they had just finished prepping a forecasted roadmap,
When out in the pipeline there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.
Away to the command line I flew like a flash,
Sudo’d the Jenkins and entered my hash.
The logs on the page of the new-tailed error,
Gave the lustre of screw up, and Product Goal terror,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a missed carriage return, oh how they’re unclear,
When a little old DBA so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he would give it a kick.
More rapid than eagles his PRs they came,
As he committed, and pushed, and called them by name:
"Now, SQL! now, Java! now Angular and Bash!
On, Python! on, Perl! on, C# and Stash!
To the top of the class! to the top of the call!
Now merge away! merge away! merge away all!"
As code changes that before the wild Sprint Review fly,
When they meet with a conflict, mount to the sky;
So up to the repo the developer flew
With a brain full of ideas, and hard resets, too—
And then, in a moment, he got a little impatient
Till he heard the whirring of a tiny little agent.
As he drew in his head, and was checking the build,
From the server his joyfulness truly was filled.
He was dressed all in denim, from his head to his foot,
The codebase was tarnished and almost caput;
Of a bundle of value he had just got control,
And he cheered like a child when he met the Sprint Goal.
His code—how it sparkled! his comments, best all year!
His rebases were awesome, finally, his diff was clear!
His droll little mouth was drawn like an array,
Because of the outcomes he’d delivered, and he’d done it his way;
The Definition of Done he’d met and exceeded,
But the pressure it caused, damn! His hair had receded;
He had a broad smile and a little round belly,
Caused by too many Greggs, and trips to the deli.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old engineer,
But he was certainly magical, there’s no argument here;
A wink of his eye and a groupadd for his name
Soon gave me to know we were one and the same;
He spoke not a word, but made his progress apparent,
Into Jira he typed, his changes transparent.
He picked up a pen, and to his colleagues wrote a note,
He logged out of his terminal and threw on his coat.
He sprang to his car, to his engine gave a whistle,
And away he then flew, for fear of dismissal.
Then I rushed to his desk, I read the note, alright?—
“Happy Sprint Review to all, and to all a good night!”

Ryan is the primary trainer at Optilearn. He is an experienced Scrum Master, Agile Coach and educator. He is a Professional Scrum Trainer with Scrum.org and also holds Qualified Teacher Status in the UK. Ryan believes that the best teachers are the ones who practise what they teach, and so he maintains active consultancy to constantly put theory into practice.

To check out his upcoming classes, please check out Scrum.org, Scrum School or optilearn.co.uk.

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6 Ryan Brook T
Are you interested in taking the industry standard Professional Scrum Master I assessment? Hopefully in this post we’ll provide everything you need to know, and even some tips for how to study and pass the test.

Why should you be interested in this certification?

Certification is one method to validate knowledge and experience. Many of us feel impostor syndrome in our jobs and passing a tough assessment can help prove to yourself that your skills and understanding are worthy of ‘being’ a Scrum Master. Alongside this, it is a demonstration of a basic understanding of the Scrum framework that will help you when applying for jobs. At a minimum, holding either the PSM I from scrum.org or the CSM from Scrum Alliance is often needed prior to an application. If the financials drive you, Glassdoor.com currently reports that the average Scrum Master salary in the USA is just under $98k (2021) – not bad, right?

Importantly, you don’t need to take an expensive class like other certification routes, although we definitely recommend it. PSM I classes are offered by accredited Professional Scrum Trainers who pass rigorous selection criteria before being allowed to deliver the courseware – they are at the top of their game. If you’re interested in taking a class, please look at our upcoming offerings here. If you aren’t interested in taking a class, you can purchase an assessment code for $150 directly from scrum.org here. Oh, and if you pass, it will never expire.

What does the assessment look like?

It is a 1-hour time-boxed, multiple-choice assessment that contains 80 questions – that’s 1 question every 45 seconds to maintain your pace. The questions take a variety of forms; true/false, multiple-choice, select all that apply, multi-select, and you will get all of these types at some point during the assessment.

Once you start you can’t pause it, although if you have any significant technical problems, reach out to [email protected] and let them know – they may be able to help.

The passing grade is 85% and you will find out your result immediately after submitting your answers. You can bookmark questions you struggle with to go back and check before clicking submit. To protect the rigour of the exam, you will get a topic breakdown of your answers but not a question by question breakdown.

What will I be assessed on?

There are 13 knowledge areas and you will be assessed on all of them. You can find more information on each in the Scrum Master Learning Path offered by scrum.org here. You can see the example feedback below from a recent attempt at PSM I – in this case, the candidate dropped some marks in two areas.

How can you prepare? Top 10 tips.

1. Attend an accredited scrum.org Professional Scrum Master I class. It will cover all of the content you will need to apply in the exam. Our upcoming classes can be found at optilearn.co.uk, scrumschool.org and scrum.org.
2. Complete the learning paths offered for free by scrum.org.
3. Complete the Scrum Open mock assessment offered for free by scrum.org. These are real, representative questions, so complete them multiple times until you can score 100% consistently.
4. Read and annotate the Scrum Guide. Pay close attention to the terminology used and the underlying reasoning behind it. Consider creating a study group to quiz each other on the framework.
5. Read Mastering Professional Scrum by Stephanie Ockerman and Simon Reindl. It is concise and clear and will even prepare you well for the next two advanced certifications (PSM II and PSM III).
6. Reach out to Scrum Masters in your professional network for a conversation about Scrum. Practice talking about the Scrum Guide with them and deepen your understanding.
7. Attend a Scrum Lake workshop to deepen your real-life experiences and hear stories from experienced Scrum Masters. Find out about upcoming workshops at scrumlake.com. This workshop is not created or endorsed by scrum.org but is very helpful for improving your understanding.
8. Create short videos on the Scrum Framework. Practising concise explanations and sharing information will help you to embed your learning. You don’t even need to share the videos! The process will still help you.
9. Avoid websites offering banks of Scrum questions either for free or for money. Typically they use incorrect and imprecise terminology and refer to old versions of the Scrum Guide. Watch out for references to ‘Development Team’, ‘Stand-ups’ and ‘Project Managers’ – if you see these in the questions, run away! Even if you do find some good questions, they are likely infringing the copyright of scrum.org. Using them does not uphold the values we expect as Scrum Masters. The only accredited practice questions are from the Scrum Open referred to earlier.
10. Try it. Scrum is an empirical framework meaning we gather evidence and adapt. Don’t feel like you need to over-study. If you think you’re ready, give the assessment a go; you might surprise yourself!

There you have it. Everything there is to know about the PSM I. If you still have questions, if you’d like a conversation about the assessment or about one of our classes, please feel free to email us – [email protected]

Good luck!

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6 Ryan Brook T
The Facilitation Formality:

How many times have you, the Scrum Master of your team, facilitated a meeting? For the more seasoned amongst you, I’d imagine that number is likely in the hundreds (if not thousands!). My question to you is this:

Did you facilitate them? Or did you control them?

For most people, these two terms are synonyms. However, when it comes to the Scrum ‘holy grail’ of a self-managing team, they are miles apart. This blog is going to consider these two stances and propose some practical approaches to improve your practice.

Before you continue with this post, I would heartily recommend reading Barry Overeem’s 8 Stances of a Scrum Master. It covers the preferred stances every Scrum Master should model when appropriate. I should probably state that my interpretation of the Facilitator is someone who supports discussion points, encourages the room to contribute and is a passive participant. This is in direct contrast to a Controller who determines discussion points (often setting the agenda), imparts their own opinion and is often commanding the flow of the meeting (note, Controller is NOT one of the preferred stances).

It’s hard to reflect on your own practice and say ‘Yes, I did that’. The truth is though, if you think you’ve never done it, you’re likely lying to yourself. We’ve all had teams whose progress we want to accelerate and often the short-term gain is achieved by becoming the Controller. Now in the (very) short term, there’s not much wrong with this. After all, teacher/mentor/coach are all hats we need to wear. Over the long term though, the Controller becomes a crutch to the self-managing team whereas the Facilitator becomes a supportive pillar.

If you’re struggling to make the transition from an active to passive participant there are a few things you can try. Have a look at resources like ‘Training from the back of the room’ (Sharon Bowman) and ‘Inside the Black Box’ (Dylan Wiliam) – both of these provide great approaches for stepping back. Bowman focuses on techniques akin to Liberating Structures, and Wiliam focuses on how to assess your team’s progress.

The one I want to specifically cover though is Flipped Learning. It is a pedagogical process that aims to make the learners the problem solvers. Now, I’m not going to go into the detail of the theory (see Flipped Learning if you want to know more) but rather provide some take-away techniques to try in your Scrum Events:

Do you feel the need to over-structure your agenda to keep the team on track?
-Display the goals of each activity, it focuses the team and provides clear value encouraging buy-in.
-Prompt topic starters to ‘bound’ the conversation naturally without needing to butt in.
-Rainbow teams (similar to 1-2-4-ALL technique to establish consensus without oversharing).

Do you have an over-bearing team member who dominates the conversation?
-Ask them to facilitate alongside you and run agenda items as a passive participant. It allows the team to grow and contribute without fear.
-‘Randomly’ select an attendee to kick-off the discussion point.

Are your team not demonstrating respect? Are they talking over one another?
-Silent Debate (prompt questions on A1 sheet and colleagues write opinions on them. To disagree, circle opinion and write counterpoint) – it’s a great way to create respectful conflict).
-Provide participants immediate feedback on their points and empower them to control the room and share.

Some of the techniques above have gotten me out of some tricky situations. Even if you don’t think they’ll work for you, the premise of flipping the onus back onto the team to drive their self-management and collaboration is surely a good thing? Don’t we all want our teams to be less reliant on us?

I’ll leave the post with this final note. In future:

Will you facilitate them? Or will you control them?

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Name: Ryan Brook
Country of Residence: United Kingdom
Professional (job) Title: Director and Professional Scrum Trainer
Current Company: Optilearn
Language(s): English
Teaching Start Year: 2021
Tel: +447969092101
Short Introduction: I am a Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) for Scrum.org and also an active consultant for a large corporate organisation. Alongside this, I also hold Qualified Teacher Status.

Earned Certificates

Scrum.org certificates:

Professional Scrum Master™ I
Professional Scrum Master™ II
Professional Scrum Master™ III
Professional Scrum Product Owner™ I
Professional Scrum Product Owner™ II
Professional Scrum Product Owner™ III
Professional Agile Leadership™ I
Scaled Professional Scrum™

Attended Classes

Scrum.org classes:

Professional Scrum Master ™
Professional Scrum Master ™ II
Applying Professional Scrum ™


About your trainer

Ryan is an experienced Scrum Master and Agile Coach based in Gloucester, UK. His past clients include large organisations including BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin, where he specialised in team-level turnaround.

Currently, he is a consultant for a small agile SME, helping the team he works with to focus on frequent value delivery. He achieves this through coaching the people and organisations he works with and applying the Scrum values and empirical principles on a daily basis.

Prior to his move into the software industry, Ryan qualified as a teacher and spent a number of years teaching in secondary education. Ryan prides himself on inclusivity, accessibility and being an engaging public speaker. He plays an active role in the Scrum community through blogging and appearing at events, alongside being a trainer for Optilearn (optilearn.co.uk).

Scrum.org Courses

Professional Scrum Master ™
Professional Scrum Master ™ II
Applying Professional Scrum ™

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