“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.“
George Bernard Shaw
If you happen to have attended one of the many online events I have been in last year, you know how important the above quote is for me.
It feels like the past twelve months, more than just about creating myself, my life was mostly about re-inventing myself. Often and repeatedly. Do you feel that way too?
Besides forcing my family and me in a semi-continuous lockdown situation, the past Covid-year has made me professionally go down paths that I never intended, planned or aspired to go down. No matter how annoying that was at times and no matter how it really was not what I wanted to do, I also started realizing that I have should done many of these things many years ago. Do you recognize that too? In my case, it largely boiled down to further increasing my independence as a Scrum Caretaker. Not the easiest position, but still… (integrity, you know?)
One of the results is that I finally took the time to work on my ideas for a workshop about “The value in the Scrum Values“. It was an important next step after describing them on my blog (2012), adding them to my books “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” (2013, 2019, 2021) and “97 Things every Scrum practitioner should know” (2020) and dedicating the separate website https://thescrumvalues.org/ on them (2021). Several members of the global movement of Scrum Caretakers helped me find direction and focus in two pilot sessions of the workshop I facilitated in February and March 2021. Ultimately it inspired me to revamp my materials to a point where I feel comfortable announcing the availability of these workshops and making them available for the general public at https://guntherverheyen.com/shop/.
This new workshop is an important extension to the PSM and PSPO classes that I facilitate too. This is a 3-hours workshop to help people look at the Scrum framework through the lens of the Scrum Values; beyond the rules, roles, artefacts or events (where my other classes deeply focus on). This is not a workshop to teach or preach about values, but to guide people in their discovery of the value in the Scrum Values.
Given our growth I am also looking for better ways to communicate to the (growing) global movement of Scrum Caretakers (beyond the Scrum Caretakers Meetup group). I am therefore going to start sharing Scrum Caretaker updates, news, flashes, scoops and other snippets with interested followers. If you care to be updated, add your e-mail address at https://guntherverheyen.com/about/(or in the temporarily annoying pop-up popping up on my website for the time being).
I have created a new, 3-hours workshop to guide people in the discovery of the value in the Scrum Values. The workshop includes cases I selected from my “Scrum Caretaker Book of Exercises” and will be followed by an informal, 30 minutes after-chat. Find all planned sessions of this specific Scrum Values workshop at my webshop.
Allow me to share why I created this workshop.
Somewhere along my journey of Scrum, that started in 2003, I started calling myself an independent Scrum Caretaker on a journey of humanizing the workplace with Scrum. Because there is more to Scrum than ‘process’. There is more to Scrum than rules, roles, practices and techniques. If called a process, then Scrum is a servant process. The process serves the people employing it. The benefits realized through Scrum largely depend not on the rules, but on the interactions and collaboration of the people employing Scrum. This is why I state that Scrum, actually, is more about behavior than it is about process.
Values drive behavior. Scrum thrives on five values: commitment, focus, openness, respect and courage. As behavior also expresses values, Scrum is also expressed through these values. The Scrum Values are our compass as well as our barometer.
I don’t aspire preaching or even teaching values. I aspire helping people look at the Scrum framework through the lens of the Scrum Values, thereby looking beyond the rules, roles, artefacts or events. What is it that we commit to in Scrum? What do we focus on in Scrum? What do we mean with openness and respect in Scrum? What does it mean to show courage in an environment of Scrum? This is why I created this new, 3-hours workshop: to guide people in their discovery of the value in the Scrum Values.
A quote by a participant of the pilot sessions I facilitated prior to this release for the general public:
I believe that this is a valuable workshop for many Scrum Masters. It is very powerful to be able to talk about Scrum not just in terms of the rules but in terms of these underlying values. It helps to match the Scrum values with company values to highlight and grow shared beliefs in and beyond the teams. It helps to surface impediments to a more fruitful adoption of Scrum more quickly. Throughout my career as a Scrum Master, the Scrum Values have been the most powerful tool in my work with people in and beyond the teams. I believe others can go through a similar experience after attending this workshop.
Scrum’s DNA consists of empiricism and self-organization, representing respectively the process and the people aspect of Scrum. As the empirical process as implemented by Scrum is increasingly replacing the old, traditional predictive management approach I hope that the global Scrum communities join me on my journey to shift (and therefore help restore) the balance towards the people aspect.
In October 2003 my life of Scrum started, albeit not with Scrum. My life of Scrum actually started with eXtreme Programming which we then wrapped in Scrum. In May 2004 I attended a CSM class (“Certified ScrumMaster”) by Ken Schwaber in Brussels (Belgium). At the time I had no idea but it seems it was the first CSM class in the wider region.
Fast forward >>
In December 2010 I traveled to Zurich (Switzerland) to attend a PSM class (“Professional Scrum Master”) by Ken Schwaber. Attending the class was part of my journey towards becoming a Professional Scrum Trainer (“PST”) for Scrum.org. Ken had founded this new organization a year earlier, in October 2009.
In April 2010, at an event of the Agile Consortium Belgium in Brussels, I asked Jeff Sutherland about this new organization founded by his former companion. Jeff started by sharing his story of Ken’s dismissal from his position at the ScrumAlliance. He continued by saying that he (as a business man) liked that there were now two organizations to promote Scrum. However, what I remember most was how Jeff emphasized that he expected the bars would be raised for anyone aspiring to work with Ken and through Scrum.org.
It intrigued me. I had been closely following up on the emergence and growth of Scrum.org as it coincided with a personal process of professional recovery. I painfully discovered that I had been blinded by management ambitions (and promises) in 2007-2008. I realized that it had only lead me astray. I realized that Scrum was my way and that I needed to not only get back on track but also up my game. Go full throttle. I started focusing on delivering work with Scrum again and without much thought or considerations I did the PSM level I and level II assessments. (Fyi. What was level II then is now level III.) Based on my experience and achievements, Ken allowed me to move forward on the path of becoming a PST. I experienced it as an expression of “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”.
At the time of the PSM class in Zurich, I was also starting to get deeply involved in the Netherlands as the Scrum leader of a large consulting organization. I started engaging with large organizations, often in the financials sector.
In April 2011, Ken came to Brussels for an event I co-organized for the Agile Consortium Belgium. Preceding the evening event, we spent the afternoon chatting in a Brussels hotel. By the end of our conversation Ken invited me to join his pilot PSPO class (“Professional Scrum Product Owner”) in Amsterdam a week later. My manager said “no” (referring to the PSM class I had already attended in December). After Ken offering a few discounts and my manager still refusing permission to go, I decided to take a leave, pay for it myself and attend the class in my personal time. It simply was an opportunity to good to miss.
Shortly after attending, I acquired my license to teach PSM and PSPO classes. As an employee of the large consulting company, guess who got the benefits from me being able to facilitate Professional Scrum trainings in a booming environment like the Netherlands? Still, nobody ever bothered to reimburse my costs. And I never bothered to ask. A matter of pride or a lack of courage?
Although it is not something I had planned for, it looks like in 2011-2012 I ended up being in the eye of the Scrum storm that was sweeping the Netherlands. In March 2012, Ken and I agreed on initiating and driving forward the first edition of a new event, which we called Scrum Day Europe. It took a lot of energy but it happened on 11 July 2012.
Towards the end of 2012, I realized I was combining three jobs:
I was a Scrum trainer facilitating at least one and (at times) up to two classes a week. Most of my classes were in Amsterdam. Having given up staying in hotels (for personal reasons) that meant leaving my home in Antwerp around 5.30am and arriving back at home around 7.30pm for four days a week.
I was the global Scrum leader and local Agile value proposition leader at our company. I was describing, documenting, presenting and trying to sell our approach and offerings of Scrum and Agile transformations. I was internally coaching and collaborating with coaches and Scrum Masters. I was the point of contact for consultants across the world.
I was the course steward maintaining the PSM and PSPO courseware for Scrum.org, working with Ken Schwaber and Alex Armstrong. It consisted mainly of proposing, testing and implementing new ideas, new representations and new exercises.
I take my work seriously. I always have. I still need to learn to say “no”. I have a bit of what I would call an Atlas syndrome. So, I took all these three jobs seriously. I was spending more than 24/7 of my time. I was literally not taking any time off (not even the weekends). It wasn’t too sustainable (I guess).
I remember a Wednesday in March 2013. It was the day before a 2-day event for Professional Scrum Trainers organized by Scrum.org in Amsterdam. Ken and I spent another afternoon of chatting together, catching up and aligning. Two days later, the Friday evening after the internal event, we looked each other in the eyes and realized that it might be better for the both of us to start partnering rather than continuing our dispersed collaboration. Among many other considerations it would allow me to focus on sustaining and promoting Scrum via the Professional Scrum offering and it would allow Ken to reduce his traveling and other exhausting activities. On Sunday evening we had it all settled and I quit the position of Principal Consultant I had recently acquired.
While preparing to transition to Scrum.org, I accidentally created the first edition of my book, “Scrum – A Pocket Guide”.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I remembered the words of Jeff Sutherland of April 2010 regarding Ken’s new initiative and raising the bar.
Scrum, much like life, isn’t about finding it. It’s about creating it yourself. One can however not overlook the importance of accidents, coincidence, chance and luck along the way.
Keep learning. Keep improving. Keep…Scrumming.
Warm regards Gunther Verheyen independent Scrum Caretaker for Ullizee-Inc
The Product Owner in Scrum is accountable for the value delivered. Besides the fact that value is a very different driver than volume is (think outcome versus output), that accountability can hardly be demonstrated without a clearly identified ‘product’. Product is the vehicle to deliver value. Neither can a Product Owner be accountable and effective without a mandate to make decisions. Product Owner accountability cannot be mapped on existing roles or functions, nor can it be effectively enacted through deliverables and meetings dating from the industrial paradigm.
Although ‘product’ determines the scope, span and depth of Scrum, it is one of the most ignored considerations when Scrum is introduced. Organizations often introduce Scrum by constructing teams within existing departments and silo structures. The ‘Product Backlogs’ that they work off may be fascinating collections of work, but they are rarely for a…product. But how can you then know what the Product Owner actually owns? What purpose serves Product Backlog if not the single source of work to optimize for the value that a product delivers? What is it that releasable Increments are being created of when not of a well-defined product?
Without a clearly identified ‘product’ optimizing for value is hardly possible and Scrum is hardly used effectively.
When teams work within the confines of a traditional line organization, the highest achievable definition of product is often a part of a system, a component, a module or ‘something’ to be shipped to ‘someone’. Teams deliver work to other teams that in turn combine it with their work or the parts of the system, components or modules they produce. And other teams again depend on the work to be received from them. As the different teams often operate under different line management, it ends up with nobody minding the synergies across them, with nobody minding the actual product and the value delivered to end-users, with nobody minding how poorly Scrum is organized and employed. One might wonder where the courageous Scrum Masters have gone but in the end the effective use of Scrum is impeded by mapping it to the old delivery structures to keep producing the same parts and modules for the same sub-products in a series of open-loop systems rather than thriving on closed-loop feedback control.
The challenge is to know your product or service so you can start organizing your Scrum to best serve the people consuming it and the organization funding its development, while increasing the sense of accomplishment for the people performing the work!
After knowing the product, the mandate and autonomy of the Product Owner is the next tactical challenge to tackle. Is your Product Owner the best placed person to make business decisions or is your Product Owner a proxy, a distant representative, a temp like a project manager or some other intermediary? Are the decisions by your Product Owner fully supported or does your Product Owner have to check in with managers, directors or the steering committee before making a decision? Any decision?
Regardless, the minimal purpose of the Product Owner role in the Scrum framework is to inject and uphold the business perspective in the product development work. The Product Owner connects the worlds of (1) product management and the business side of the organization (think market research, sales, finance, legal, marketing), (2) the user and consumer base and (3) the delivery or development parts of the organization.
Connecting those worlds includes engaging with them to assure that all product management aspects and the wider business perspective are integrated into the actual development. In the other direction it allows the Product Owner to keep stakeholders and product management people up to date on the actual progress, so they can organize or re-organize their work accordingly. Being a connector is not the same as being a bottleneck. Product Owner, not information barrier.
Regardless, the Product Owner is the one person making the final call on the order of the work in the Product Backlog. Product Backlog shows all the work currently envisioned for the product, all work that potentially increases the value that the product delivers. Smart Product Owners show openness for great ideas whatever their source or origin and they gracefully employ skills of development people to convert product ideas and business solutions into requirements. Product Owner, not product dictator.
The Product Owner manages Product Backlog based on the product vision as a longer-term view of the road ahead. A product vision captures why the product is being built and why the product is worthwhile investing in. A product vision helps the Product Owner set or reset specific goals, hopes and dreams, express the expectations and ideas captured in the Product Backlog better and better order the items in the Product Backlog for value.
If anybody wants to know what work is identified and planned for the product, it suffices to look at the Product Backlog, at one artifact only. To understand what is planned for or what is in the product, and why, it suffices to ask the Product Owner, one person only.
Sprint Review is a great opportunity for a Product Owner to learn about the assumed or actual value that the product delivers. At the Sprint Review, (key) stakeholders, the team and (potentially) consumers or (key) users collaborate over what got done and what didn’t get done, what influenced the work and what was the purpose of that work. But value as the overall purpose is a very different driver than volume is. The purpose of Sprint Review is not reporting or justification of the amount of tasks executed and features implemented but sharing relevant information on usage and impact, competition and market trends; feedback that will help optimizing for value in the next Sprint(s). The goal is to collaboratively identify what is the most valuable work to do next for the product. This is evidently captured in the living artifact that Product Backlog is.
There cannot be any doubt that being a Product Owner implies expectations, skills and traits that go beyond those of a traditional requirements engineer, a requirements provider throwing work over the wall to developers or a similar proxy. Product Owner, actually, owns the product and is the owner of the product. Such ownership of a product implies strong organizational adoption of the role. It allows a Product Owner to act like a product-CEO (again, not a product dictator). That accountability cannot be mapped on existing roles or functions, deliverables and meetings. The role simply did not exist in the industrial paradigm.
Note. This article is based on texts that are taken from my current book-in-progress “The House of Scrum” (to be released in 2021).
“Beste beleidsmakers, wetenschappers, politici, experts, professoren, adviseurs (en iedereen die het verder aanbelangt)
Vrijdag 13 maart 2020 is een dag die wij niet snel zullen vergeten. Die dag, vijf dagen voor de eerste lockdown officieel inging, beslisten wij om ons gezin in een toestand van zelfisolatie te brengen. Vandaag, met het einde van 2020 in zicht, zijn we negen maanden, enkele golven, heel wat jojo-bewegingen en enkele zachte, harde of andersoortige lockdowns verder. Maar wij bevinden ons met ons gezin nog steeds in die toestand van zelfisolatie.
De reden is eenvoudig. Onze oudste zoon (hij was 18 jaar op vrijdag 13 maart 2020) heeft een progressieve spieraandoening gekend als “Duchenne” (ook wel: DMD, zijnde “Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy”). Dit heeft niet enkel een impact op zijn mobiliteit en motorische vermogens (hij is volledig rolstoelafhankelijk) maar het zorgt ook voor een verminderde long- en hartfunctie. Dus, ondanks zijn jeugdige leeftijd (intussen is hij alweer 19 geworden), behoort hij naar onze mening tot een extreme risicogroep voor het Sars-Cov-2 virus dat Covid-19 veroorzaakt. Wij durven er niet aan denken wat er gebeurt als hij Covid-19 zou oplopen, in het ziekenhuis zou belanden, voortdurend op zijn rug moet liggen of aan de beademing moet. Levensbedreigend, dat is zeker. Eerlijk is eerlijk, wij lopen dat risico liever niet.
Op donderdag 12 maart eindigde de 100-daagse week van onze zoon. Want ondanks zijn aandoening werkte hij de gewone humaniora af. Geloof ons, dat is veel minder evident dan het lijkt (inclusie is nog al te vaak niet meer dan een illusie in onze samenleving, maar laat ons het daar met uw permissie nu even niet over hebben). Niet veel later werden alle schooluitstappen alsook zijn eindejaarsreis afgeblazen. En de schoolpoort ging op slot. Eerlijk is eerlijk, wij waren daar als ouders bepaald niet rouwig om.
Sinds vrijdag 13 maart 2020 hebben wij geen verjaardags- of andere feestjes georganiseerd of bezocht. Wij hebben geen vrienden of familie ontvangen. Wij zijn niet op gezinsvakantie geweest, in het buitenland noch in het binnenland. In de zomerperiode zijn we een zeldzame keer op restaurant geweest en hebben we een zeldzame keer een bezoek gebracht aan goede vrienden. In beide gevallen zaten we buiten en met de nodige afstand.
Eigenlijk hebben wij sinds vrijdag 13 maart 2020 niet veel meer dan essentiële verplaatsingen gedaan. Geen fun- of andere vormen van shoppen voor ons. Het mag u niet verbazen dat wij ook alle versoepelingen aan ons voorbij hebben laten gaan, in de hoop zoveel mogelijk aan de daaraan gepaarde, opwaartse bewegingen van het virus te ontsnappen. De nieuwe federale regering lijkt meer standvastig en weet schijnbaar de inzichten van de wetenschap meer te waarderen. Eerlijk is eerlijk, wij zijn daar als ouders bepaald niet rouwig om.
Toegegeven, alhoewel wij over een tuin beschikken zijn onze kinderen wel op zomerkamp geweest. Dat was geen eenvoudige beslissing en daarbij namen we veel aspecten in overweging. U mag gerust weten dat onze andere zoon (17 jaar) het syndroom van Down heeft. We moeten er geen geheim van maken dat de belasting op ons als dubbele mantelzorgers zonder netwerk een rol speelde in onze beslissing. Gezien de beperkingen van onze zonen ging het echter om aangepaste kampen met een zeer beperkt aantal deelnemers die super-beveiligd waren opgezet. Oh ja, misschien ter volledigheid, onze dochter (10 jaar) heeft geen officiële beperking. En daarmee kent u onze gezinssituatie zo’n beetje (behalve de kat en de hond).
Onze oudste zoon heeft in september universitaire studies aangevat. Tegen de gangbare, ideologische hardnekkigheid in besliste het universiteitsbestuur om in code rood te gaan en afstandsonderwijs in te voeren. Eerlijk is eerlijk, wij waren daar als ouders bepaald niet rouwig om. Zoals we daarom alleen al blij waren dat hij niet meer in het middelbare onderwijs zit. Dat onze zoon om die reden ook minder het openbaar vervoer moet nemen met zijn elektrische rolwagen is in zekere zin een meevaller (alhoewel, het is bizar dat een ‘meevaller’ te moeten noemen, maar laat ons ook de ontoegankelijkheid van het openbaar vervoer niet hier aankaarten).
Natuurlijk, de scholen van onze beide andere kinderen zijn wel hervat. In het geval van onze zoon met Down betekent dat elke dag de schoolbus nemen (ook over het onwezenlijk slecht geregelde busvervoer tijdens dit Corona-tijdperk moeten we het misschien op een ander moment nog eens hebben). Want, zo is verordonneerd, het BUSO (“Buitengewoon Secundair Onderwijs”) moet en zal open blijven en zal geen afstandsonderwijs inrichten, gevaarlijke leeftijd of niet (zoals gezegd, hij is 17 jaar). De herfstvakantie werd wel verlengd. Eerlijk is eerlijk, wij waren daar als ouders bepaald niet rouwig om.
Het heeft wel niet kunnen verhinderen dat wij een verwittiging van een positieve Corona-melding op school kregen tijdens de vakantie, nota bene al acht dagen ver in wat eigenlijk een quarantaine-periode had moeten zijn. En in de twee weken die volgden op de vakantie zijn we onze zoon drie keer van school moeten gaan halen wegens Corona-alarm. Daarbij is hij zelf ook twee maal getest (en gelukkig genoeg negatief bevonden). Kan u zich de stress voor ons gezin voorstellen? De stress dat we ongewenst het virus alsnog binnen hadden gehaald? Kan u zich voorstellen wat het betekent om hier een jonge kerel met een (in zijn geval ernstige) mentale beperking door te moeten halen, inbegrepen afstand houden van zijn broer en ouders/zorgverleners?
Wat we echter ook missen sinds die vermaledijde vrijdag 13 maart 2020 is enige beleidsaandacht voor jongeren, zoals onze zoon, met chronische aandoeningen (van welke aard ook). Er bestaan blijkbaar enkel of gezonde, jonge mensen of mensen van meer gevorderde leeftijd met ‘onderliggende aandoeningen’. Waar moeten wij onze zoon situeren, jeugdig maar toch met een onprettige, blijvende aandoening? Waarom krijgen hij en zijn lotgenoten wel voorrang voor een prik tegen de nochtans veel minder bedreigende seizoensgriep, maar niet om hen te beschermen tegen Covid-19?
U heeft er mogelijk geen idee van, maar weet u wat een onwaarschijnlijke geruststelling het zou zijn dat hij zo’n prikje krijgt? Zelfs maar te weten wanneer dat kan? Hoeveel druk dat zou wegnemen op ons gezin? En welke impact dat onrechtstreeks zou hebben op zijn studies en vooruitzichten?
Maar…ook bij de huidige, mediatieke start van de vaccinatiecampagne wordt over hen niet of nauwelijks gesproken. Het multi-disciplinaire team van het ziekenhuis dat onze zoon opvolgt, weet het ook niet (of en wanneer hun patiënten aan de beurt zijn). En luidruchtige verenigingen die hen vertegenwoordigen of voor hen kunnen lobbyen, op kabinetten of in de media, zijn er ook al niet. Er zijn gewoon heel veel individuele mensen met een chronische aandoening en hun naaste omgevingen die gelaten hun lot dragen en zich intussen braaf en stilzwijgend schikken naar de maatregelen.
En natuurlijk weten wij dat u veel oproepen krijgt, en dat veel mensen en groepen van mensen in de maatschappij aandacht vragen en verdienen. En natuurlijk weten we dat dit deze crisis grillig en onvoorspelbaar is.
Mogen we hierbij desalniettemin even ons hart luchten en de hoop uitspreken dat hier geen belangrijke risicogroep over het oog wordt gezien? Mogen wij op u een beroep doen om ervoor te zorgen dat jongeren met een chronische aandoening geen vergeten doelgroep worden in de vaccinatiestrategie?
Warme groet Gunther”
(via mail ook verstuurd aan Alexander De Croo, Frank Vandenbroucke, Erika Vlieghe, Steven Van Gucht, Marc Van Ranst, Pierre Van Damme, Herman Goossens en Hans-Willem Snoeck)
Scrum has been around for a while, they say. The Scrum Guide holds the definition of Scrum, they say. The first, official version of the Scrum Guide was released in February 2010. So, how was Scrum defined before 2010 then? How did its definition evolve before and after 2010 and become the framework that we know today? What else happened along the road to the way that Scrum is defined and represented?
In the paper “Scrum: A Brief History of a Long-Lived Hype” I have described what changed to the definition and representation of Scrum over time, before and after the creation of the Scrum Guide. It shows how Scrum evolved into the framework that we know today since its first formal introduction in 1995. Because a touch of historical awareness is more than helpful in understanding Scrum and caring for the future of Scrum.
I looked for sources that are not just credible in terms of authorship but also offer regular enough check points. In the end, the sources I used for describing the evolutions of the definition of Scrum are:
The paper “SCRUM Software Development Process” by Ken Schwaber (1995, 1996)
The paper “SCRUM: An extension pattern language for hyperproductive software development” by Mike Beedle, Martine Devos, Yonat Sharon, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland (1999)
The book “Agile Software Development with Scrum” by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle (2002)
The book “Agile Project Management with Scrum” by Ken Schwaber (2004)
The book “The Enterprise and Scrum” by Ken Schwaber (2007)
“The Scrum Guide” by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland (2009, 2010)
“The Scrum Guide” by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland (2011, 2013, 2016, 2017)
“The Scrum Guide” by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland (2020)
For every source I have described the same three topics to show what Scrum consisted of at the time (regardless the different terms used), what the ‘definition’ of Scrum was at the time:
Roles, responsibilities, accountabilities
Controls, deliverables, artifacts
Phases, meetings, time-boxes, events
For every source I have included a graphical representation of Scrum or of a Sprint that was either taken from the source directly, either from an alternative source of the same period.
Finally, I have shared my thoughts and observations on the changes to the definition of Scrum for every source. Obviously, they represent what I deem noticeable. They hold no judgement, directly nor indirectly.
To complete the paper I have listed some important landmarks in the history of Scrum and included some personal musings on the topic of “Scrum and the Desire for Universal Truths” (and what the Scrum Guide was not created for).
I hope you will enjoy reading the paper. I hope it will help you grow a deeper understanding of Scrum. I hope it will help you shape your Scrum to get the most from it. I hope it will help you create better products with Scrum while humanizing your workplace.
Take care Gunther Verheyen independent Scrum Caretaker
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
(generally attributed to George Bernard Shaw)
I call myself an independent Scrum Caretaker. It reflects who I am, how I feel, what I do: caring for Scrum AND caring for people. It is my identity in the sense that it defines me professionally in my relationship to the world.
I call myself an independent Scrum Caretaker on a journey of humanizing the workplace with Scrum. That reflects what drives me. It is my personal why. It is also an infinite game. Success is not in winning (or losing) but in movement.
Throughout the years I have discovered I prefer ideas and ideals over positions and titles, even when the latter do pay better. I want room to observe, create, connect, share. Like a butterfly flapping its wings I do those because it is in my nature, not because I envision specific consequences, big or small, or set goals or targets, hard or soft. I create opportunities to deliver value and serve people around the world. I facilitate people’s learning and unlearning to increase their awareness of Scrum in several ways:
I have learned that I can’t be as active as I wished I could be in every domain at the same time. I am a one-person company. I make choices.
Facilitating people’s learning in Professional Scrum classes or custom workshops (1) is my most constant/stable way of delivering value.
Saying ‘no’ to speaking opportunities (4) seems quite difficult, if not impossible. I speak for free at community events (a vast majority of my speaking engagements) and for a fee for commercial enterprises.
When I am consulting (2) that consumes most of my mental energy (caring for organizations more than they care about themselves, it seems), which rules out extensive writing (3). And vice versa.
I organize my work on a weekly cadence. I have a long backlog of work. I keep it ordered all the time. I re-order it regularly, including adding, changing or deleting items. I keep separate notes on separate items as needed. Every week I identify what I assume most important to work on. My backlog has some Big Rocks, that are clearly marked to stand out and should be kept as high on my backlog as possible (as possible!). “Big Rocks” is a term that my friend David Starr introduced when we worked together at Scrum.org. I keep using it because it resonates with me.
My Big Rocks give me direction and focus. They are not targets, objectives, milestones, hard, soft, SMART or other sorts of goals. And I don’t put deadlines on them. I discover new Big Rocks, and existing Big Rocks shift position. I limit the number of Big Rocks I keep on my radar.
I am a one-person company. There is more to do than the work on my Big Rocks. I can’t afford to work only on my Big Rocks. It doesn’t mean I am not committed to them or don’t focus on them. Work not spent on my Big Rocks can be important too, whether I like it or not. I have to run my company. I take care of my administration and finances. I spend much time on my classes and speaking engagements because I take them seriously and treat every single instance of them as unique (in preparing, doing and in following up). I answer mails and provide other ways of support. I take care of some online presence. I support other authors. I (try to) read. I (try to) blog.
If not working on them because of the aforementioned reasons, my Big Rocks themselves don’t allow me to work on them full-time, all the time. I regularly feel forced to stop, do other work, reset my brain, and then suddenly they call me back because of some new ideas, angles, perspectives, different directions and inspiration popping up.
When in the spring of 2019 my consulting services for a large company were no longer needed, I discovered I had not done a lot of serious writing for a long time. I decided to shift my focus for the rest of 2019 towards writing and supporting several others that were writing. The book “97 Things Every Scrum Practitioner Should Know” became my next Big Rock. Collecting, editing and ordering the essays from practitioners around the world consumed most of my energy and time during the fall of 2019. That Big Rock was moved in May 2020, as the book became globally available.
My ambition to start doing consulting again as from 2020 was smothered by the “SARS-CoV-2” virus spreading. At the same time my planned classes all got canceled. I am a one-person company and the only source of income for my family. Over the first six months of the pandemic my revenues dropped with 90+%. I used the ‘free’ time to create and make available my paper “Moving Your Scrum Downfield” meanwhile considering my independent role and position. An unplanned (Big) Rock moved!
My next Big Rocks consist of work on my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” and creating a new book, tentatively called “Views from the House of Scrum”. They won’t be moved in 2020 anymore. More than deadlines they give me direction and focus.
October 1995. After a few years of searching and experimenting, “Scrum” was documented and presented to the general public.
October 2020. Scrum turns 25. Hip hip hooray! I record a few highlights of “My life of Scrum”, a few aspects from the past 17 years of the life of an independent Scrum Caretaker.
September 2003. The founding managers of the company that employs me, ask me to have a look at the challenge of delivering the core server platform for a digital television implementation (one of the first in Europe at a bigger scale). Due to delayed negotiations, the project is already late and the real work hasn’t even started. Two software architects give me a 15-minutes introduction of eXtreme Programming. I fall for it. Completely. The urgency and feeling of crisis is also such that we are allowed to start applying it. We throw away all existing plans, create an ordered pile of User Stories, get together a great gang of developers, and go to work in iterations of 3 weeks. Later, we add Scrum to our approach. Scrum cannot be applied effectively without clear and agreed development practices and standards in place.
May 2004. I attend a CSM class (“Certified ScrumMaster”) by Ken Schwaber. It turns out the first CSM class in the region (Belgium, Netherlands). We join with 5 people from our organization. There are 25 people in total. We need to pay in cash. In my memory it was a 3-days class. Although that is said to be impossible, in my memory it still is. I am not to be trusted in such things. I don’t care about titles, positions, certifications, career. I don’t keep up with all the certifications being created, but just practice Scrum with different teams, in different domains, for the next 7 years.
December 2010. I attend a PSM class (“Professional Scrum Master”) by Ken Schwaber as part of my journey towards obtaining a license as a Professional Scrum Trainer. I also start working full-time in the Netherlands: helping, assisting, coaching, guiding, and advising large organizations on their journey of adopting Scrum. I could not have done so without the 7 years of practice that preceded this phase of my professional life. I would have not had the firm foundation to stand my ground. Some things take time. More dots get connected as I engage in a partnership with Ken and Scrum.org from 2013-2016, and as I continue my journey afterwards as an independent Scrum Caretaker.
I regularly get inquiries from people reaching out for instructions, assistance, or other forms of guidance to learn about Scrum, pass exams, become a trainer, or advance their career towards “Agile coach”. Surprise. I am no wizard. I do not have the magical powers that would be required.
I really don’t want to go into people’s motivation to approach me with those desires (‘free’ seems to be a recurring theme), but I can share my personal and professional stance and considerations.
(1) Honestly, I don’t know what an “Agile Coach” is or does. Not even attending a “Coaching Stance” class by the Agile Coaching Institute in 2012 has helped me in that regard. The same goes for having worked with many people holding the title. I have never called myself that and I have never used the label in my profile, CV, or service offerings, let alone that I would have the powers to turn somebody into it.
Looking back on the 16+ years that have passed since I started applying the powerful combination of Scrum and eXtreme Programming in 2003, I realize I only ‘had’ to start thinking about and explaining what ‘Agile’ might mean, or what an “Agile Coach” is, since 2010-2011 (7 years later). I don’t think it is a coincidence that this is when I started engaging with large companies and the wave of ‘scale’ sweeping my world, the time when ‘Agile’ became a corporate thing. I still can’t clearly explain what an “Agile Coach” is or does.
(2) I have always been and am still all about Scrum. It makes transparent what I stand for, it makes tangible and actionable the services I offer and bring, and it includes plenty of room and openness for contextual customizations. As Scrum is an open framework, an organization can standardize on Scrum and substantially increase their agility without industrializing their Scrum to death.
(3) I don’t create them for that reason, but I am humbled when people say my writings (books, articles, papers) or my classes were useful in achieving a certification, in becoming a trainer, or in passing some other milestone. I am comforted knowing that those individuals did the actual work. They might have gotten some insights and language from me, but that’s about it. I did not hold their pen or control their brain. It is likely that they struggled, fell, got back up, failed, tried again. Maybe along the road they took a break, read more, gained more experience with Scrum, and demonstrated other forms of patience, persistence, and belief.
The many requests from people that seem to believe that I can ‘make’ them a trainer or ‘make’ them achieve a certification leave me flabbergasted. Surprise. I CANNOT. And even if I could, I wouldn’t. It would not be helpful for the requestor’s autonomy and development. I don’t know whether it has anything to do with the current covid-crisis sweeping the planet, but I worry seriously how this seems an obsession for quite some people.
On a personal note, I want to share that my journey of Scrum started in 2003. And I spent 7 years (seven!) of just applying Scrum, and enjoying how it helped deliver great results, make users and consumers happy, and observe highly engaged teams enjoying their work. During that time, I had no idea about certifications, grades, or career moves, and I can honestly say that I couldn’t care less. It was only by accident in 2010-2011 that I became what I didn’t know I wanted to be. Looking back it still feels odd. Although it may look as if there was a plan, there wasn’t.
Even after more than 16 years of this stuff, I am no expert. Nor am I tired of Scrum. Not even close. I am an eternal novice. There is so much to learn. There are so many ways to consider and explain Scrum, even having published two books and considering two more books as we speak.
I welcome everybody to join my classes or workshops to find out how I express Scrum, or attend the many events and webinars I participate in, check out my YouTube channel, hire me for some consulting and coaching. I will do my best to help you understand Scrum, its purpose and design, how to get the most out of it, and learn to think for yourself in terms of Scrum. Regardless of how much I care however, I cannot ‘make’ anyone a trainer, a Scrum Master, Product Owner, or “Agile Coach”. I cannot ‘make’ anyone pass some certification assessment or exam. That is not in my powers (if even that would be helpful). I am no wizard. I have no magic, some empathy at most.
And, like it or not, the primary source of learning about Scrum is from practice, from doing Scrum. It is the way to learn Scrum, beyond learning about Scrum. There is a huge difference.
This feels like a great addition to the translation of my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” to Portuguese as “Scrum – Um Guia de Bolso (Um companheiro de viagem inteligente).”
Following describes (in Portuguese) how the six essential traits of the game are indicative of Scrum coming to life (“Como os seis traços essenciais do jogo são indicativas de que o Scrum está a ganhar vida”):
Scrum é simples, mas suficiente. Os jogadores desdobram o potencial do Scrum usando as regras simples que se aplicam e exploram como as táticas, interações, comportamentos e os seis traços essenciais fazem o Scrum funcionar.
O DNA do Scrum. Os jogadores formam uma unidade auto-organizada em torno do desafio de criar colectivamente incrementos de trabalho observáveis e factuais, enquanto empregam empirismo para gerir todo o trabalho e progresso.
Os Jogadores Demonstram Responsabilidade. Os jogadores contribuem para os valiosos resultados do sistema através de uma colaboração energética e da partilha e desafio de regras, acordos, habilidades, práticas, idéias e pontos de vista.
Transparência para fluxos de valor. Os jogadores usam artefatos Scrum para manter a transparência sobre todo o trabalho feito e a ser feito, gerenciar um fluxo de valor e preservar a capacidade de capitalizar oportunidades imprevistas.
Fechando os Ciclos. Os jogadores fecham regularmente e repetidamente os muitos ciclos de encravamento dentro de um Sprint até ao encerramento total no final de um Sprint e preservam a capacidade de se adaptar sem obstáculos ao nível macro.
Os Valores Scrum. Os Valores Scrum de Compromisso, Foco, Abertura, Respeito e Coragem assumem destaque nos comportamentos, relacionamentos, ações e decisões dos atores e seu ecossistema.