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Meet David Hughes

CSP-SM and CSP-PO David Hughes lives in Ambler, PA and is VP of agile process management for Berkadia.

For you, what is the main difference between where you began as a CSM®, CSPO®, or CSD® and becoming a CSP®?

For me, the main difference is the recognition for changing the working lives of others through my dedication to Scrum and the Agile principles. It’s the difference between classroom commitment and real-life commitment.

What is your favorite part about becoming a CSP?

The CSP credential is recognized as a cut above the CSM, CSPO, and CSD credential because it says: “On the job.” The whole point of Scrum is to make a real difference in people’s working lives, so what the CSP says about me is this: “Been there, done that, and passionate to share this experience with you.”

Give us an example of how the CSP certification has helped you in your career.

I’ve been leading enterprise Agile transformations for years, and it’s not unusual to meet dozens of “certified” Scrum folks within each company who think that Scrum is a little easier. Scrum is hard because it requires real discipline, and the CSP certification tends to open mental doors for people. When a team discovers that I’m a CSP, it seems to me that they’re a little more likely to pause and say to themselves, “Hey, this guy might have a few stories about other Scrum teams that overcame what we’re struggling with right now. Let’s ask him.”

How did you first find out about Scrum?

I’ve been doing Agile — quietly and steadily, company by company — since 1997, when I got my certificate in eXtreme Programming from the OMG. I first learned about Scrum around 2000 by reading about Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, because I was doing a lot more object-oriented work and just wasn’t satisfied with either RAD or RUP.

What do you find easiest about Scrum?

The structure of the framework is very easy to grasp.

What do you find most difficult about Scrum?

Proving to Scrum teams that the Scrum framework fosters creativity. I’m a classically trained pianist, and I’ve always appreciated that the piano is an instrument that is simple to play but difficult to master. For me, Scrum is a lot like playing the piano: You have to have the discipline to practice it.

What’s your best/worst work experience using Scrum?

My best work experience with Scrum was taking a talented but sloppy Scrum team from two failed “releases” over six months to five defect-free production releases in 54 days. We did this in just a half a year. What a team!

My worst experience with Scrum was having my high-performance Scrum team get sucked into a rigid, our-way-or-the-highway enterprise program stipulating just about everything we could do in Scrum; this really squashed our morale and, therefore, our joy in creating great products.

How has using Scrum changed you?

Scrum has taught me to “count to ten” and wait for a team to come up with something on their own. Usually I’m pleasantly surprised that my initial idea just wasn’t as good as what the team eventually came up with. This is pretty cool!

If you could add one thing to Scrum, what would it be?

Well, I wouldn’t add anything to Scrum per se because it already meets the tenth principle behind the Agile Manifesto, viz., simplicity is essential. With that said, however, I would place more emphasis on the Lean technique of stopping the line if a defective process is uncovered. As a CSP, I can recount many cases where canceling a sprint was the right thing to do. “Fail early and fast” is just as important as iterative and incremental delivery. Every sprint has two angles: quick delivery or quick, cost-contained failure. I think those of us who are CSPs could do a better job of emphasizing this.

Do you use Scrum in your life outside of work? If yes, how?

My wife and I rehab old, run-down houses so that we can make neighborhoods better. Some rehabs take seven months to complete and involve cross-functional teams of electricians, carpenters, roofers, plasters, plumbers, tile workers, window installers . . . you name it. I swing a hammer, too, and I can tell you that the people in the trades intuitively grasp the Scrum concepts of iterative and incremental delivery, Lean just-in-time practices, demos, and reviews/retrospectives. In the past four years I’ve used formal project management with a contractor exactly once, but I’ve used Scrum methods in every other case. That’s working out great!

What advice would you give to someone new to Scrum?

Scrum is about commitment. Practice is up to you. If you trust the framework and practice using it, you and your teams will be rewarded over and over again.

What is your favorite quote? And why?

Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than ideas.” Jeff Sutherland took an idea from two Japanese researchers and, through imagination, transformed that idea into a fantastic way to value responding to change over following a plan. In my opinion, Scrum is among the most perfect frameworks for unleashing our imagination and applying our effort to create fantastic new products. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but Scrum shows us how to apply our imagination to getting things done. For me, the CSP says that the holder has figured out that Scrum is all about applied imagination.