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The new Scrum Pocket Class “Scrum in the Large” is now available [SPC-XL1]

In 2021 I developed and launched an online workshop to interactively explore with the people participating The Value in the Scrum Values. Soon I found out that I had more in store than I could interact over with attendants in the half day that I had foreseen. So I limited the material to a first module and cover in it how “Values drive behavior”. The second module “Behavior reflects values” remains to be launched and will obviously build on module 1.

While looking back at my rocks moved in 2021 I was thinking about more ways to engage, collaborate and interact with friends of Scrum across the planet in 2022. I decided to create more half-day online workshops and call the series Scrum Pocket Classes (“SPC”). The idea is to create more modular learning opportunities. The series will be based on and is therefore named after my book Scrum – A Pocket Guide, of which the third edition was released in early 2021.

After updating the Dutch translation of my pocket guide for the second edition of “Scrum Wegwijzer”, I have now developed module 1 of a new SPC called Scrum in the Large. I have planned and opened up registrations for the first sessions for this module 1, called “The rules don’t change”, at a reduced price. Book your seat now »


WHY did I create this new Scrum Pocket Class called “Scrum in the Large”?

This new Scrum Pocket Class is the next step in my ambition and endless journey to help people and organizations re-think their structures around Scrum (and not the other way around). That is how to move Scrum forward: to help people, teams and leadership look beyond the rules by acting upon them and upgrading their organization accordingly. Because “Scrum is only used effectively if organizations re-think the structures around it”.

We need to move Scrum forward because we are running around in circles. And a sense of progress is missing. We are re-inventing the wheel. Over and over again. On the one hand, some keep repeating the same old dysfunctions. Others present their revelations about (aspects of) Scrum as if they are true pioneers. The underlying motivation is pretty similar. Clickbait. On the one hand, some glorify certifications as if it’s the only thing that counts. Others curse even the mere existence of certifications. The underlying motivation is pretty similar. Clickbait. On the one hand, some keep debating the nuts and bolts of the official definition of Scrum as a way to pretend they are the only ones who truly understand. Others seem to have no other purpose than to bash Scrum. The underlying motivation is pretty similar. Clickbait.

Clickbait, indeed. Because, what is the way forward that they are offering? Where are the constructive ideas and suggestions beyond the personal branding? Where is the action upon the observation, the adaptation after the inspection?

On the whole, we keep running around in circles. Back to square one (if ever we left it in the first place). What is needed is the courage to transcend our personal desire for our 15 seconds of online fame, our forming of camps and…start moving (your) Scrum downfield. If helping people and organizations is the purpose…

Moving (your) Scrum downfield starts, but doesn’t end with understanding the essentials of Scrum and get them to work (for you). In early 2020 I described the six essential traits of Scrum in v1 of my paper “Moving Your Scrum Downfield”. Download it for free. However, as said, it doesn’t stop there. Over the past years I have been introducing what else is needed to move (your) Scrum downfield: “Engagement is the key”, “Humanizing the workplace”, “Managing for value”, “Organizing for value”. Find all recordings of my talks about them on my YouTube channel.

At the heart of my views is the gradual transformation of an organization towards a networked structure of what I call Product Hubs. A Product Hub is a mini-organization acting as a start-up within the organization. It is optimally organized for a product (not for functional specializations), as ‘product’ is the vehicle to deliver value. Because such a product (or service) is managed with Scrum, in this first module of the new SPC Scrum in the Large the focus will be on “Multi-team Scrum”, and what is needed to get there. Without any additional scaling frameworks. Just…Scrum.

I do believe it is essential to cover that first before building up to (1) the inclusion of ‘other’ skills in a Product Hub and (2) the level of what I call “Multi-product Scrum”. Those are the topics I hope to be covering in the future module 2. I profoundly believe it is important to avoid the mistake of many “Lean” transformations. I described that mistake in my book as introducing management and organisational constructs and practices from what we call “Lean” without the beating heart (“Scrum”) being present in the system. In the case of “Lean”, that was actually the introduction of management practices of TPS (the Toyota Product System) through the lens of Western managers. Obviously, the future module 2 will build on this module 1.


Do you want to attend module 1 of my new Scrum Pocket Class “Scrum in the Large”?

  • Given the considerable interest in the pilot session for module 1 of the new Scrum Pocket Class “Scrum in the Large” on Thursday 17 March (1.30-5 pm CET) I added some extra seats. This session is offered at the reduced price of 200 € (the future standard price will be 300 €). Book your seat now »
  • The next session will take place on Friday 22 April (1.30-5 pm CET). After offering subscribers to my (irregular) news updates a head start, the session is now also publicly available at the reduced price of 250 € (the future standard price will be 300 €). Book your seat now »
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Rocks moved (small or big) in 2021 (besides other accomplishments)

Life isn’t about finding yourself.
Life is about creating yourself.

What have I been up to in 2021?

Next to spending time on running my one-person company Ullizee-Inc (always more time than expected and hoped for), I feel gratified for having facilitated the learning process of 300+ people in various courses and workshops. In 25+ speaking engagements I have tried to share ideas and observations regarding different aspects of Scrum (check out my YouTube channel for recorded sessions).

Besides those ‘regular’ activities at least a few rocks got moved (small or big):

  • Creating a dedicated website for my Scrum Glossary (with translations in 25 languages);
  • Creating a dedicated website for the Scrum Values (with translations in 25 languages);
  • Publication of the 3rd edition of my bookScrum – A Pocket Guide“;
  • Creating and facilitating various sessions of my new workshop “The value in the Scrum Values”;
  • Creating and distributing a “Certificate of Gratitude” to all people having attended my courses or workshops in 2021.

Overall and despite these accomplishments, it’s been a more than challenging year as an independent Scrum Caretaker. Yet, I look forward to 2022 and uncovering more and more diverse ways to humanize the workplace with Scrum. It is my North Star, my infinite game. What is yours?

With love
Gunther

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Zijn jongeren met een chronische aandoening alsnog in de vaccinatievergeetput geduwd?

Achtergrond

Op 28 december 2020 hebben wij onze persoonlijke bezorgdheid omtrent de vaccinatie van jongeren met een chronische aandoening online kenbaar gemaakt en via mail verstuurd aan Alexander De Croo, Frank Vandenbroucke, Erika Vlieghe, Steven Van Gucht, Marc Van Ranst, Pierre Van Damme, Herman Goossens en Hans-Willem Snoeck.

Vandaag, 13 mei 2021, zagen we ons verplicht onderstaand bericht te sturen, in opvolging van ons eerder bericht en op basis van een aantal verontrustende vaststellingen. Daarbij voegden we Jan De Maeseneer aan de communicatie toe.

Bericht

“Meer dan vier maanden zijn intussen verstreken nadat we u onze individuele, oprechte ongerustheid overmaakten met betrekking tot de vaccinatie van jongeren met een chronische aandoening.

Professor Snoeck antwoordde onmiddellijk. De professoren Vlieghe (empathisch) en Van Damme (eerder afstandelijk) deden dat na een kleine herinnering van onzentwege een week later. De overige aangeschreven betrokkenen hielden zich stil. Vanuit de politiek kregen we twee weken later (!) een onpersoonlijk, geautomatiseerd antwoord via mail. Wij ontvingen op onze beide mails zelfs woordelijk hetzelfde antwoord (en inderdaad, telkens twee weken later). Een inhoudelijk antwoord kwam nooit. En dan hadden we alleen mensen aangeschreven waarvan wij meenden dat ze onderdeel zijn van de oplossing (en niet van het probleem). Dokter De Maeseneer heb ik nu aan de communicatie toegevoegd, omdat professor Van Damme aangaf ons bericht naar hem te hebben geforward.

[Update voor de aandachtige lezer: het onpersoonlijke, geautomatiseerde antwoord van een van beide politieke kabinetten komt nu onmiddellijk in plaats van twee weken later. Dat heet vooruitgang, niet?]

Onze case zit allicht ver weg in uw geheugen, maar wat wij vreesden, is bewaarheid geworden: jongeren met een chronische aandoening zijn alsnog in de vaccinatievergeetput geduwd.

Sta me toe dit te kaderen.

Ik ben zelf 51 jaar en heb geen risicoprofiel. Maar ik kreeg al wel een eerste prik (want weigeren of doorgeven bleken geen opties). Ik verneem vandaag in de pers (naar aanleiding van de vaccinatie van Tom Waes, zie oa. De Morgen) dat dat om privacy-redenen is. En het lijkt erop dat dit in alle ernst wordt gezegd.

Ondertussen heeft onze bloedeigen zoon (19 jaar), die WEL een risicopersoon is door zijn progressieve spieraandoening (en ook als dusdanig erkend is en op de befaamde lijst met risicopersonen staat via het ziekenfonds en de huisarts), zelfs nog geen uitnodiging gekregen. Laat staan dat hij uitzicht heeft op volledige vaccinatie. En als ik in de belangenverenigingen van deze personen mijn oor te luisteren leg, is hij bepaald niet de enige.

Tot onze verbazing kreeg onze tweede zoon (17 jaar), die ook op de risicolijst staat als persoon met Down, onlangs wel zijn eerste vaccinatie. Toen wij op zoek gingen naar de reden waarom de jongere zoon zijn vaccin wel kreeg en onze (oudere) zoon (met een erger risico) nog niet, bleek dat talloze anderen in de leeftijdscategorie 16-18 jaar plots voorrang hadden gekregen via hun behandelende ziekenhuizen. Dat traject (via zijn behandelend ziekenhuis) bleek dan weer niet te kunnen voor onze oudste zoon (wegens: 19 jaar). Hij moet via het vaccinatiecentrum en dus lijdzaam wachten op zijn uitnodiging. Kafka, iemand?

En het lijkt er sterk op dat het niet de laatste groep is waarvoor de vaccinatievolgorde en -prioriteiten stilzwijgend veranderd worden.

Ondertussen zien we versoepeling na versoepeling aangekondigd, maar houden wij ons gezin na 14 maanden nog steeds zo geïsoleerd mogelijk en in een quasi-lockdown. Eigenlijk hebben wij sinds vrijdag 13 maart 2020 niet veel meer dan essentiële verplaatsingen gedaan. En volgt onze zoon zijn cursussen aan de universiteit via de computer, ook diegene die hij in principe op de campus zou kunnen volgen.

En dan lezen we dat de vaccinatiecampagne goed volgens de prioriteiten verloopt. Zoals ze al een tijdlang zeggen dat de campagne nu echt wel op kruissnelheid komt. Hoeveel opeenvolgende weken kan je dat zeggen zonder te moeten toegeven dat het x weken eerder dus eigenlijk een leugen was?

Begrijpe wie begrijpen kan. Marketing en mooie praatjes zijn het in onze ogen, ja.

Beleid is beleid, en dat is aan politici. Dat verzekeren de betrokken wetenschappers ons keer op keer. Waar blijft dan de oprechte en eerlijke informatie van wetenschappers, zeker als ze ook artsen zijn, wars van wat de politiek met hun adviezen doet? Wat betekent dit op vlak van individuele, menselijke èn professionele integriteit?

Warme (maar ook wat cynische) groet
Gunther Verheyen en familie”


Ons origineel bericht vind je terug als “Zijn jongeren met een chronische aandoening een vergeten doelgroep in de vaccinatiestrategie?“.

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The 3rd edition of “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” is now available.

A big rock that was moved in 2021.

The updated, third edition of my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” is now available worldwide, as a digital and as a paperback edition. Still small enough to fit in your pocket and carry it with you anywhere, anytime. Still a smart travel companion.


accidentally created the first edition of my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” in 2013. I consider how I described the Scrum Values in that first edition. In July 2016 they were added to the Scrum Guide. I consider how I already described the traditional three questions of the Daily Scrum as a good but optional tactic in that first version. These questions being optional was added to the Scrum Guide in November 2017 and their description was even completely removed from the November 2020 edition; taking away all doubt that they are indeed optional. In 2018 I deliberately evolved my Scrum travel companion into a second edition (available 2019).

Rather than repeating the rules of the game, in my pocket guide to Scrum I focus on the purpose of those rules while clearly distinguishing them from tactics to play the game. Tactics are not described in the Scrum Guide because they ‘vary widely and are described elsewhere’. Given its size (small) and volume (only about 100 pages) I hope my book lives up to what its subtitle says: a smart travel companion. Creating and updating my book, accidentally or otherwise, had many unanticipated (mostly positive) consequences, for which I am very grateful. I could not hope for, nor aspired, continual appreciation for being such a comprehensive description of the Scrum framework seven+ years later.

In the meantime, more and bigger challenges keep surfacing. The balance of society keeps drastically and rapidly shifting from industrial (often physical) labor to digital (often virtual) work. More and different people ask for guidance and insights on their journey of Scrum in domains beyond software and new product development. Organizations look for clear insights in the simple rules of Scrum as they envision re-emerging their structures and their way of working around Scrum. Without rendering them overly vague I believe that the third edition of “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” holds more generic, yet still appropriate and complete descriptions of the rules of Scrum; using different words and other angles to the known set of rules without creating or leaving holes. Rather than omitting them all, terms and examples from Scrum in software and new product development environments now serve more as examples for other industries where Scrum is adopted.

I believe that this third edition offers the more than ever needed, foundational insights for people and their organizations to properly shape their Scrum, regardless of their domain or business. The focus is still more on the intent and purpose of the rules and roles in the framework, while clarifying some changes in terminology from the 2020 update of the Scrum Guide. Helping people understand the purpose of the rules and the roles of Scrum remains at the heart of all my work and actions as an independent Scrum Caretaker–training, coaching, consulting and speaking. It helps me drive forward an evolution towards more humanized workplaces.

Following are some of the more popular channels to acquire the third edition of “Scrum – A Pocket Guide”:

For readers in the wider India region:

For readers in Belgium and the Netherlands:

I thank Bhuvan Misra for his much-appreciated, critical feedback on this third edition. I thank all translators for their past and on-going efforts to spread my words in different languages. Translations of this updated, third edition in Russian, Polish, French and traditional Chinese are in progress. I thank all at Van Haren Publishing, and especially Ivo van Haren, for giving me the chance to express my views on Scrum.

Enjoy reading!

Gunther
independent Scrum Caretaker

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About life and re-inventing my life as an independent Scrum Caretaker

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

George Bernard Shaw

Dear reader

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).

Warm regards

Gunther
independent Scrum Caretaker

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The online workshop of Gunther Verheyen to discover “The value in the Scrum Values” is now available

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.

The workshop complements our existing offering of Professional Scrum Master and Professional Scrum Product Owner classes.

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.

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How I ended up becoming a (Professional) Scrum trainer

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 too 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

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Product Owner. Not the Agile name for project manager, requirements engineer or other outdated functions.

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 tosomeone’. 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).

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Zijn jongeren met een chronische aandoening een vergeten doelgroep in de vaccinatiestrategie?

“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)