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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.

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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.
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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

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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.

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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.
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“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.

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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.

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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

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Moving Your Scrum Downfield (Six Essential Traits of the Game)

Apparently, it is easy to get stuck at interpreting the rules of Scrum. In the publication “Moving Your Scrum Downfield” I have described the six essential traits of the game to help you get unstuck and up your game. As they express rather intrinsic and implicit principles, they are too often disregarded. Yet, they are needed for a more unconsidered performance of Scrum, which allows minding the goal of the game–push back the old adversary of predictive rigidity–rather than the rules. These six essential traits are indicative of Scrum coming to life.

Having worked with Scrum since 2003, I am fascinated by its ever-expanding use, which is not limited to software and (new) product development.

Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber moved the development of Scrum forward in the early 1990s. They are the co-creators and gatekeepers of (what is) Scrum.

Ken Schwaber first documented Scrum in 1995 in the paper “SCRUM Development Process.” In 2010 he initiated the creation of the Scrum Guide. Upon Jeff Sutherland’s consent, the Scrum Guide became the definitive body of knowledge holding the definition of Scrum (and what is not Scrum). A few small, functional updates were released since then, without drastic changes to the core definition of Scrum.

Scrum was instrumental in embracing software development as a form of new product development, and thus as complex work. An ever-increasing variety of work in modern society however is inherently complex too. Software and (new) product development are a subset of complex challenges, but the use of Scrum is not limited to it.

As an independent Scrum Caretaker, I care for people and organizations asking for guidance and support on their journey of Scrum, no matter the nature of their problem.

My work builds on the belief that organizations best envision their Scrum. I don’t believe in mechanistically reproducing past or others’ ways. Every case of Scrum is unique. Your Scrum is unique. No external instance—expert or otherwise—can devise your Scrum for you. There is no copy-paste. What works today might not work tomorrow. Rather than cookbook solutions, I offer help in developing people’s ability to think in terms of Scrum.

Apparently, many get stuck at interpreting the (exactness of the) rules, meanwhile losing sight of the goal of their game. Having authored the books Scrum – A Pocket Guide (2013, 2019) and 97 Things Every Scrum Practitioner Should Know (2020) I took a step back to consider what it is that makes Scrum work. The rules of the game are well documented. Assuming they are understood, what is needed to get unstuck, engage, and up your game?

I believe it is in embedding the six essential traits of the game. As expressions of rather intrinsic and implicit principles, they are easily disregarded. Yet, they are crucial to excel at Scrum and need to underly your game strategies. They are indicative of Scrum coming to life. They need to be ingrained and embodied for a more unconsidered performance of the game, for you to focus on the goal of the game again rather than on the rules.

Consider 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.

Are you ready to start moving your Scrum downfield, push back the old adversary of predictive rigidity and sustainably increase your agility?

Gunther Verheyen
independent Scrum Caretaker

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Daily Scrum Pocketcasts – Episode 5

Ever since the accidental creation of my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” in 2013, and its deliberate evolution in 2019, I’ve been receiving inquiries about an audiobook version. So far, I have not been able to make that happen but the 2020 pandemic storm got me into implementing the audio idea in a different form.

In subsequent daily broadcasts I have read all chapters from my pocket guide to Scrum. Every reading session happened on working days at 3 pm CET (Central European Time), with each session continuing were the previous session ended. The sessions were open for 100 attendants and were time-boxed to a total of 1 hour of me reading.

On Monday 30 March 2020 I delivered episode 5 (the final) of my “Daily Scrum Pocketcasts” in which I have read following chapters from my book:

4. THE FUTURE STATE OF SCRUM

4.1 Yes, we do Scrum. And…
4.2 The power of the possible product
4.3 The upstream adoption of Scrum

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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