Posted on Leave a comment

Big Rocks moved in 2020


“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:

  1. Classes
  2. Consulting
  3. Writing
  4. Speaking

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.

Posted on 1 Comment

My life of Scrum (did not start with Scrum)

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 2011. 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.

Posted on 6 Comments

Surprise. I am no wizard. Agile nor Scrum.

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.

The continuous balancing act of a Scrum Master, including the coaching aspect

(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.

Yours truly
Gunther
independent Scrum Caretaker

Posted on Leave a comment

Mova seu Scrum para o Meio de Campo (Seis Traços Essenciais do Jogo)

In my paper “Moving Your Scrum Downfield” I have described the six essential traits of the game of Scrum. They are the traits that underly the rules of the game and make Scrum work.

Vinicius Dos Santos has kindly translated my paper to Portuguese, as “Mova seu Scrum para o Meio de Campo (Seis Traços Essenciais do Jogo)”.

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”):

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
Posted on Leave a comment

Surprise. I am no Scrum wizard.

I don’t create them for that reason, but I am humbled when people say my works (books, articles, papers) were useful in passing certification assessments or in becoming a trainer. I am truly humbled because I know that those individuals did the actual work. They might have gotten some insights and language from my works, but that’s about it. It is more 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)

I don’t know whether it has anything to do with the current 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 see highly engaged teams enjoying their work. I had no idea about certifications, grades, or career moves. 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 it. Not even close. There is so much to learn. I am an eternal novice. There are so many ways to consider and explain Scrum.

I welcome everybody to join my classes or workshops to find out how I express Scrum, or attend the many 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, and learn to think for yourself in terms of Scrum. Regardless of how much I care however, I cannot ‘make’ anyone a trainer or ‘make’ anyone pass some certification assessment. That is not in my powers (if even that would be helpful). I am no wizard. I have no magic, empathy at most.

Yours truly
Gunther
independent Scrum Caretaker

Posted on Leave a comment

3 from “97 Things Every Scrum Practitioner Should Know”

My new book “97 Things Every Scrum Practitioner Should Know” is now available.

In a Zoom Webinar I have read following three Things from the book:

  • article 43. David Starr – Automating Agility
  • article 26. Rich Hundhausen – Is Your Team Working as a Team?
  • article 32. Len Lagestee – Becoming a Radiating Team

I am grateful that the respective authors joined the session to answer questions about their Things.

Besides the recorded episode being available on my YouTube channel, find the audio version on SoundCloud.

Thank you for watching. Thank you for the questions. Thank you for being an inspiration to other Scrum practitioners.

Posted on Leave a comment

Mueve tu Scrum al Centro del Campo (Seis Rasgos Esenciales del Juego)

In my paper “Moving Your Scrum Downfield” I have described the six essential traits of the game of Scrum. They are the traits to make Scrum work, and underly the rules of the game.

Francisco López, aka Paco Cacheda, has kindly translated my paper to Spanish, as “Mueve tu Scrum al Centro del Campo (Seis Rasgos Esenciales del Juego)”. Paco said it helps him to better understand my words. Maybe it does that for other Spanish speaking people too.

How the six essential traits of the game are indicative of Scrum coming to life?

  1. Scrum Is Simple, Yet Sufficient. The players unfold the potential of Scrum by using the simple rules that apply and explore how tactics, interactions, behaviors, and the six essential traits make Scrum work.
  2. Scrum’s DNA. The players form a self-organizing unit around the challenge of collectively creating observable, Done Increments of work, while employing empiricism to manage all work and progress.
  3. Players Demonstrate Accountability. The players contribute to valuable system outcomes through spirited collaboration, and sharing and challenging rules, agreements, skills, practices, ideas, and viewpoints.
  4. Transparency for a Flow of Value. The players use the Scrum artifacts to uphold transparency over all work done and work to be done, manage for a flow of value and preserve the ability to capitalize on unforeseen opportunities.
  5. Closing the Loops. The players regularly and repeatedly close the many intertwined loops within a Sprint toward full closure by the end of a Sprint and preserving unburdened adaptability at the macro level.
  6. The Scrum Values. The Scrum Values of Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage take prominence in the behaviors, relationships, actions, and decisions of the players and their ecosystem.

Cómo los seis rasgos esenciales del juego son indicativos de que Scrum cobra vida:

  1. Scrum es simple, pero suficiente. Los jugadores despliegan el potencial de Scrum usando las simples reglas que se aplican y exploran cómo las tácticas, interacciones, comportamientos y los seis rasgos esenciales hacen que Scrum funcione.
  2. El ADN de Scrum. Los jugadores forman una unidad auto-organizada en torno al desafío de crear colectivamente incrementos de trabajo observables y hechos, mientras emplean el empirismo para manejar todo el trabajo y el progreso.
  3. Los Jugadores Demuestran Responsabilidad. Los jugadores contribuyen a los valiosos resultados del sistema mediante una colaboración enérgica, y compartiendo y desafiando reglas, acuerdos, habilidades, prácticas, ideas y puntos de vista.
  4. Transparencia para un Flujo de Valor. Los jugadores utilizan los artefactos Scrum para mantener la transparencia sobre todo el trabajo realizado y el trabajo por realizar, gestionar un flujo de valor y preservar la capacidad de capitalizar oportunidades imprevistas.
  5. Cerrando los Ciclos. Los jugadores regularmente y repetidamente cierran los muchos ciclos entrelazados dentro de un Sprint hacia el cierre total al final de un Sprint y preservando la capacidad de adaptación sin trabas a nivel macro.
  6. Los Valores de Scrum. Los Valores del Scrum de Compromiso, Enfoque, Franqueza, Respeto y Coraje toman prominencia en los comportamientos, relaciones, acciones y decisiones de los jugadores y su ecosistema.
Posted on 1 Comment

“A Few Things Every Scrum Practitioner Should Know”

My new book “97 Things Every Scrum Practitioner Should Know” is now available.

In a Zoom Webinar I have read following Things from the book:

  • article 4. Ken Schwaber – Scrum is simple. Just use it as is.
  • article 28. James O. Coplien – Specialization is for insects
  • article 30. Bas Vodde – Digital tools considered harmful: Jira
  • article 33. James W. Grenning – Agile is more than sprinting
  • article 58. Marcus Raitner – The court jester at the touchline
  • article 69. Stijn Decneut – How human nature overcomplicates what is already complex
  • article 84. Paul Oldfield – Networks and respect
  • article 91. Bob Warfield – The “standing meeting”
  • article 93. Jasper Lamers – Scrum events are rituals to ensure good harvest

Encore:

  • article 73. Daniel James Gullo – The effects of working from home

Besides the recorded episode being available on my YouTube channel, find the audio version on SoundCloud.

Thank you for watching. Thank you for the feedback. Thank you for being an inspiration to other Scrum practitioners.

Posted on Leave a comment

My PSM class of May 2020 will be online.

A virtual and integral learning experience.

In April 2020, I facilitated my first PSM course (‘Professional Scrum Master’) in an online mode. Ever. Looking at the feedback received, I needlessly worried over the ability to have some great conversations and interactions:

I was pleasantly surprised with the online setup. It did really work and definitely with the size of our group. It was a job well done!

It was amazing to see how Gunther can tell a story and take you into the wonders of Scrum seamlessly. I read the guid upfront but he made it comprehensible and into one story.

So, that certainly increased our confidence and allow our next Professional Scrum Master course to happen online again. Check your agenda for your availability on 28 and 29 May 2020. Seats are limited. Get in touch via my partner Sugar-Me.

Posted on 4 Comments

Availability of the book “97 Things Every Scrum Practitioner Should Know”

My new book “97 Things Every Scrum Practitioner Should Know” is widely available, electronically as well as in print.

Following are a few channels: eBooks.comAmazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon SpainGoogle Books, Barnes & Noble, Bol.com., Computer Bookshop India, and Amazon India.

No fewer than 68 practitioners expended the effort to write one or more essays about Scrum for you. We did not invite them for their titles, ranks, or positions. We invited them because they have valuable insights to share with fellow practitioners like you. I thank every single one of them.
I thank you, reader, for buying the book, but even more for employing Scrum and for sharing and spreading how you make use of Scrum in addressing your specific challenges. Keep being an inspiration to other Scrum practitioners.

Find the full description of the book also at the website of the publisher, O’Reilly Media.

– – –

O’Reilly Media and I started collaborating on the book in August 2019. Looking back, I had no idea what I was getting into, where it would take me, or how much 97 is (a lot, actually, as I discovered). Inviting and working with authors from around the globe was an exciting endeavor however.

The work has much consumed (and sometimes drained and overwhelmed) me, but I am very happy with the result. Given the tons of available literature on Scrum, it proved not an easy feat trying to still make a difference. Thanks to the generous and insightful contributions of the participating authors, I believe we have done that.

I enjoyed looking for commonalities and shared themes as essays poured in. I have tried to group and order the collected essays in a way that makes sense to the many seeking Scrum practitioners out there. It was a way to create some flow across the book:

  • Part I. Start, Adopt, Repeat: 11 Things. Because adopting Scrum is more than just a one-time effort of introducing Scrum; it is a continual exercise of thinking, rethinking, and discovery.
  • Part II. Products Deliver Value: 11 Things. Because in a complex world of unstable requirements and ever-evolving technologies, “product” provides a minimal form of stability to organize your work with Scrum.
  • Part III. Collaboration Is Key: 10 Things. Because creating, sustaining, and evolving complex products and services in complex and changing environments requires collective intelligence, skills, and expertise.
  • Part IV. Development Is Multifaceted Work: 12 Things. Because development of complex products (in often complex circumstances) requires more than technically producing work (like coding or programming only).
  • Part V. Events, Not Meetings: 10 Things. Because what are commonly called the Scrum meetings are actually events that provide specific opportunities for inspection and adaptation.
  • Part VI. Mastery Does Matter: 12 Things. Because mastery matters not just for Scrum Masters, although they are quite important as masters of ceremony.
  • Part VII. People, All Too Human: 8 Things. Because development is done by people, often resulting in work for people. And people are…people.
  • Part VIII. Values Drive Behavior: 6 Things. Because Scrum is a framework of rules, principles, and…values. And values drive behavior.
  • Part IX. Organizational Design: 9 Things. Because introducing Scrum is not possible without impacting the organization and existing organizational structures.
  • Part X. Scrum Off Script: 8 Things. Because for Scrum practitioners to help shape the future of Scrum, we need imagination combined with historical awareness.

Fortunately, the essays can be read separately as well. At the end of the book, a Scrum Glossary was added, listing and explaining in the simplest way the terms used in the book.

Warm regards
Gunther
independent Scrum Caretaker