The Phoenix Scrum User Group Kick-Off Meeting

A week ago today the Greater Phoenix Scrum User Group held their Kick-Off meeting.  It was an excellent start to what I hope will be a thriving community of Scrum and agile practitioners.  It was not without issues and liberal application of “inspect and adapt” should smooth out the bumps.

Good Parts

Getting StartedThe meeting was hosted by Infusionsoft, a software company that recently implemented Scrum to reportedly great results.  Being great hosts they had a huge “room” for the group, tables, chairs, wireless Internet and pizza for all.  A projector beamed the image of an empty chair on the huge wall, waiting for the special guest.

I was greeting attendees at the door with Amanda Pulawski, another volunteer.  We enjoyed helping people find their badges which we failed to alphabetize (a mistake).  We did not see the meeting actually start and walked in to see a very large group!  I roughly counted more than 80-90 in attendance.  Months ago I never imagined to see such a large number of people at PhxSUG’s first meeting.  Very encouraging!

As I walked in Perry Reinert (@PerryReinert), Director of Development for Infusionsoft, was working the microphone.  He shortly introduced Ken Ward, the local Scrum practitioner who was the main force to get the group organized.  And we quickly moved to the main event.

Ken Schwaber Describes ComplexityOn the large projection Ken Schwaber (@KenSchwaber) was getting settled into the chair.  After joking about not being able to see us, he began his “Scrum, But” presentation.  This presentation discusses the too common occurrence of organizations who use a modified Scrum instead of all the practices.  They usually say something like “Oh, yes!  We do Scrum, but not [insert difficult practice here].”  (Here is a video version of the same presentation with Ken Schwaber.)

Ken stopped the presentation from time to time so the attendees could form small teams to discuss different scenerios of  “Scrum, But.”  He would come back on to ask and take questions from the small teams or the group as a whole.  It was an interesting and useful format.  (You can request a similar live event for your group from the ScrumHub events page)

After the interactive session with Ken about a third of the people left the meeting.  It was getting quite late, for reasons explained below.  Perry then introduced Jim Cundiff, Managing Director of the Scrum Alliance.  He had great remarks about how Scrum is growing and spreading.  The new Scrum Alliance tag line, “Transforming the world of work” reflects this wider view.  I asked some questions about the new certification exam and what it means to currently certified ScrumMaster, Practitioners and so on.

Bad Parts

A big picture question hit me as I was sitting in the back, looking at the large group below Ken Schwaber’s huge video image:  How does one do personal interaction and learning with such this many people?  Agilists know that efficient learning takes place in a highly interactive environment.  If attendance at PhxSUG continues at even half this level, scaling the interaction will take some work and thought.  Ken’s use of small group forming helped tremendously.

The video connection was bad.  Almost unusable bad.  Every few minutes Ken’s image would freeze for 10 seconds or so and then unfreeze to fast-forward to real time.  The fast-forward parts made the audio completely unintelligible for those seconds.  These pauses were very frustrating.  I don’t know what to blame, from the client software at both ends to connections in the middle.  It was just bad.

The audio nearly matched the video in quality, which made for a very quiet audience!  The remedy to the audio problem was to hold Perry’s mobile phone to the microphone while Ken spoke into his phone on the other end.  One might think that is a bad solution but it was better than the remote meeting connection.

A cautionary tale for remote presenters unfolded after one of the break-out points.  Ken somehow bumped his microphone mute button as he began speaking.  For several minutes he could not hear any reports of problems as he spoke about the next slides.  He gracefully recovered and repeated what we missed and even promised to do another session for us in the future to make up for the problem.  It was an honest mistake but did make the meeting last longer than planned.  Lesson: Watch that mute button!

Inspect and adapt will solve these birthing pains.

A Challenge to the Group

My last concern is that the Pheonix area Scrum community appears dormant even after such a sucessful and friendly first gathering.  PhxSUG has a Yahoo! group but traffic in the email since the event has been zero.  Does this portend an attitude of passive participation?  Or is it just that everyone is still getting ramped up to the idea of a Scrum group?  I’m not sure.

I intend to work on creating buzz and energy among the Scrum practitioners here in the Valley of the Sun.  I challenge all Phoenix area agillists to talk, exchange, communicate, meet-up, tweet and whatever else.  We’re probably all Internet savvy and know there is no need to wait till the next meeting to interact.  Interact now!

  • Join the Yahoo! group and post questions, answers, observations there.
  • Contribute photos to the Flickr group created for all of us.
  • Create and announce meet-ups or other events.

Let’s take the energy of the kick-off meeting to create a dynamic, connected group!


Thank you to Ken Ward, Perry Reinert, Infusionsoft and Ken Schwaber for a great first meeting!  The location was awesome.  The results impressive.  I look forward to the next meeting on May 21st!

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