Veilig aangehaakt, bij vake aan de fiets

Paul van Vliet heeft vele mooie liedjes, maar eentje heet “Veilig op de fiets”. Het beschrijft de veiligheid en geborgenheid die een zoon voelt, jawel, achterop bij zijn vader op de fiets.

Veilig achterop bij vader op de fiets
Vader weet de weg en ik weet nog van niets
Veilig achterop, ik ben niet alleen
Vader weet de weg, vader weet waarheen

Onbewust dreven het voorbije weekend mijn gedachten in de richting van dit lied, het weekend dat we de aanhangfiets voor onze Down-zoon, Jente, in gebruik namen. Deze aanhangfiets zorgt ervoor dat we voor korte trips niet steeds de auto moeten nemen. En ik hoop dat Jente ook vreugde en veiligheid voelt onder het mom “Veilig aangehaakt, bij vake aan de fiets”.

Jente op de aanhangfiets


G-Gym 2012 met Deugd & Moed

September kennen we vooral van de start van een nieuw schooljaar. Maar het is ook de start van de nieuwe verenigingsactiviteiten. En dat betekent dat onze Down-zoon niet enkel terug naar de Akabe-scouts van De Zonnepinkers kan, maar wekelijks ook terug kan gaan turnen.

Onze turnkring, Deugd & Moed, heeft sinds enkele jaren een fantastische G-Gym-werking. Hier kan je kind met een mentale beperking lekker bewegen, huppelen, springen, klimmen en buitelen!

In een interview vermeldt Jessica Vervoort, de G-Gym verantwoordelijke: “Het is allemaal begonnen toen we een kindje met het Syndroom van Down in onze reguliere werking kregen“. Dat was dus onze zoon Jente!

Nieuwe leden zijn steeds van harte welkom. En kijk zoonlief mee ziten blinken op de folder…

Why It Took Time (to become what I didn’t know I wanted to be)

The terrorism of an alcoholic father left me with serious damages and memories of a loveless youth. Nevertheless I graduated as Industrial Engineer in electronics in 1992, age 22. An opportunistic choice of study as philosophy or literature didn’t offer the same job certainty. Purpose?

Time for a little retrospective exercise. What has happened in the 20 years since my graduation? What has been most influential in becoming who I am today? And why did it take that time?

The formative years

I was deeply disappointed when entering the labor market as my grade created the expectation of thorough technical insights while I had hoped for some staff position, and the possibility to work with teams.

My first job was software engineering on VAX but I remember most the great times I spent in the great country of Ireland. After a little project on OS/2 I moved to a small company in 1993 to do assembler programming on Micro-PIC controllers. My 6 months trial period wasn’t too convincing but a one month prolongation did show some success in planning and purchasing, combined with Borland C++ and Paradox programming.

Blind enthusiasm and overwork burned me out so I left in 1996 to take over a bookshop of a large chain on a franchising base. A client of our shop pointed me towards Nietzsche and his ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ (and later on his other works) was an incredible eye opener. Since then I kept saying that 90% of who I am, I am due to my wife and 9% due to Nietzsche. Nietzsche revealed the bare truth to much of my struggles with life to that date. Although my wife and I had the time of our lives being all around books, and we moved to a bigger shop twice, on the last day of 1998 we had to decide to quit. The reason was the imbalance of income, social life and personal development; and being on the verge of debts.

In 1999 I started as business developer for the first Belgian e-commerce site for books and CDs, where I soon grew into a senior management position. By the end of an exciting but burning period I remember me creating a mega (no, wait, giga) analysis for a complete new back office (from IT to logistics), which was my domain to lead. It only took me 3 hours to get a team through it. Once. I don’t know whether it was that analysis or the complete renewal of our server park, but just after I resigned in 2001, I was offered the position of IT director at the company. Although I did co-write a post-crisis survival business plan for the company, I still decided to leave. I felt too young, too inexperienced and -above all- my views on the people aspect were quite different from our investors and other leading managers. I rightfully left, is my opinion still. Later that year, our first son was born.

The Years of Dedication

In 2001 I started working for a large local (Belgian) consulting company.

For my first project I did a complete functional analysis, took the lead in contracting and other negotiations and continued as ‘project manager’. Management advised me not show the estimates to the team. But I did, and it didn’t prevent the project from ending up break-even where all other fixed prices ended in major losses. But I specifically remember helping a team member through a difficult divorce situation. Without minding the actuals.

In 2003 our second son was born. He turned out to have Down Syndrome. Professionally I got called to urgently lead a new project that seemed unfeasible despite the fancy MS Project promise. It took 15 minutes for 2 software architects to convince me about eXtreme Programming. It just had all elements fixed in the method that I had -to a certain extent- tried to do in my first project: communication, iterations, feedback. In December 2003 I presented this project as the first major production XP implementation in Belgium at Javapolis.

When scaling up with the next phase of the project we added Scrum in 2004. I went well-prepared, i.e. having read his 2 books at that time, to a CSM class by Ken Schwaber. And we replaced our organizational XP practices with Scrum practices and names, but we kept doing the core engineering practices (pair programming, TDD, continuous integration, automated testing).

By the end of 2006 we had successfully delivered 2 more phases of our early Agile project, and applied Scrum + eXtreme Programming in 2 additional large website applications, incorporating extensive front-ends, back-ends, integrations and interfaces. Those projects learned me that inclusion of incremental development of even major UX-components is feasible, and even to be preferred.

Due to lack of respect for our results and for the people I decided to leave in 2007. And to date I’m still struck by the observation of an esteemed colleague and team member that I had never consciously made myself, i.e. that he loved the way I tried to turn a project into a total, 360° experience of joy, fun, energy and… results. Never satisfied with less.

Richard Dawkins deepened my Nietzsche experience by adding a genetic and memetic dimension to it. By the end of the year I started at another consulting company, led and blinded by promises of a management position. Around that time our oldest son, age 6, was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Having read Richard Dawkins helped in surviving and dealing with the genetic flaws of our 2 children.

The empty management promises finally covered 2 years of my life in stress and agony. I fought, battled and barely survived, before returning to my Agile roots. I realized that I had never cared about any ‘CS*’ certifications or whatever career, that my satisfaction had been in working with teams and clients, joyful projects, and that I still didn’t care about careering. Therefore I was attracted by the community orientation of Ken Schwaber’s new platform, Scrum.org and followed and joined it from the early days in 2009.

2010 did not only see me giving consultancy a last chance at my current employer, but after 2+ years of medical uncertainty and wandering our daughter was born. No genetic problems, not even carrier of DMD. My first professional experience wasn’t too comforting, but I applied my iterative-incremental approach and turned my first project, once more, and once more against all odds, into a 360° success. In the mean time I evolved with Scrum.org and did the Professional Scrum Master assessments (level I and II), and decided to firmly proceed on that path. I applied for Professional Scrum Trainer for which I went to a PSM class by Ken by the end of 2010 in Zürich.

Booming Business

And then, suddenly, there was 2011. Dutch colleagues found me. I developed an internal Scrum training, which was highly appreciated and became very successful. It opened important gates at clients, caused some amazing breakthroughs and I mutated to another division. I followed the early Professional Scrum Product Owner program and soon became Professional Scrum Trainer in PSM and PSPO.

I had a boost in understanding and living Agility, not in the least through the mentoring and lessons by Ken. My perspective quickly broadened. Authors like Daniel Pink (“Drive”) and Nassim Taleb (“The Black Swan”) augmented my general world views, and greatly supported my belief to use people and empiricism to cope with the complexity of our world. I am now the global expert on Scrum at my company (120.000 people worldwide). And the end is not nearly in sight. Scrum has become a substantial part of what we do and offer. We train our consultants and our clients, we coach and guide them, we promote Enterprise Agility and we inject more and more agility into our own organization.

Soon I will be talking at the Scrum Day Europe event that Scrum.org initiated and that we co-organize. I will introduce how I perceive the Emergence of the Customer-Oriented Enterprise. Previous ‘confessions’ gave some insights in what might have influenced how I developed my views. Who knows what will happen next to change how I see things?

Not Future

Some things take time. Beauty. Growing flowers. Becoming what you didn’t know you wanted to be. Unlearning. Mastery. Dedication and determination.

I am still without much formal title or position. I regularly struggle with the gigantic, monstrous machines that corporations tend to be. I regularly want to flee back to the underground when balancing my personal ethics against my desire for impact. Overall however, I manage and it works out… without power games. I am epigenetically (the seeds sown in my youth) unable to play power games, but I’ve learned to use that in my advantage.

In 2012 I am even making enormous progress on my scales of valuation. In the past I usually was merely tolerated, in the best case appreciated.  Here I am now, not just being motivated, but even able to innovate.

Note

I started writing this blog note to give people insight in what it sometimes takes, at least time, to learn and evolve. I was long in doubt whether to continue this text when I started reading Lyssa Adkins’ book Coaching Agile Teams. Having read the first chapter I decided to go for it. Because my message reflects how I became to ‘be’, not only what I ‘do’. Painful sometimes, but honest. Hoping it might help or inspire others. Hoping it helps people understand that it takes time. The path and the patience pay off. I can now go back to Lyssa’s book again and finish reading it.

Down (drukke zaterdag, elke zaterdag)

Elke zaterdag is een drukke zaterdag voor onze kleine (nou ja) Down-kerel. En dankzij de inhaalbeweging op school kan hij zijn zaterdag, en bij uitbreiding zijn weekend, al goed voorspellen. Hij heeft namelijk de betekenis van het woordje ‘gedaan’ geleerd via SMOG (‘Spreken Met Ondersteuning van Gebaren’, een vorm van gebarentaal). En door dit te combineren met de dagen van de week, die hij intussen ook leerde, heeft hij leren afbakenen in de tijd.

Dus, zijn zaterdag ziet er als volgt uit: ‘slapen’ ‘ gedaan’ + ‘turnen’ + ‘turnen’ ‘gedaan’ + ‘eten’ + ‘eten’ ‘gedaan’ + ‘spelen’ ‘scouts’.

Want in de voormiddag gaat hij turnen bij de G-Gym groep van turnkring Deugd & Moed. Op de foto zie je hem in het midden van de cirkel.

En ‘s namiddags vliegt hij al met hetzelfde, ongelooflijke enthousiasme naar de Akabe-scoutsgroep De Zonnepinkers. Op de foto zie je hem blauw geschilderd, geïnspireerd op Bobo.

The art of the possible life. Confessions of a dedicated father

Our oldest son, now almost 10 years old, has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. It was quite a shocking diagnosis, almost 4 years ago. Mainly the idea of the progressive course bothered us. That was also the big difference with hearing right after the birth of our second son 3 years earlier that he had Down Syndrome.

But it did bring to our minds that we had so much plans and good intentions, and suddenly we seemed to have so much less time to make these come alive. So we decided not to postpone any of the far-away plans that we had. While he was still mobile. And we didn’t and it turned out so much fun, and it told us that we should have done this anyhow, even in the absence of that terrible menace of DMD hanging over us. We maximize within our son’s capabilities.

Although Duchenne is progressive, there is no predicting what will happen or when. But, think about it, this is the case for life in general. The only difference is that in our case it has been made more clear to us.

A sad story to illustrate my point is that a month ago we received message that a boy, almost the age of our oldest son, died after being hit with his bike by a car. Gone were his parents’ plans and good intentions. Let’s hope they have maximized the time they had, got the maximum out of the time with their son and brother. Even knowing that this will not take away the pain, the loss and the grief.

Let the uncertainty of life not be a depressing influence. Let it drive you in outperforming those demons, in living life to the maximum. Live the art of the possible!

Down (le danseur dansant)

In september (2010) zaten we nog volop in de rats met de schoolverandering voor Jente. Maar al snel (1 week later of zo) bleek het de enige, juiste keuze.

In zijn nieuwe school kwam hij in een speel-leerklas (de vorige school wilde hem nog laten kleuteren) en er wordt veel intensiever aan zijn mogelijkheden gewerkt (cognitief, spraak, inzichten, creativiteit).

Hij is er ook semi-intern. Beetje vreemd misschien, want hij komt wel netjes elke dag naar huis. Maar het betekent dat hij de nodige extra begeleiding krijgt, maar ook kan meedoen aan andere activiteiten. Op zijn recente schoolfeest heeft hij alvast laten zien hoe graag hij danst!

ps. Jente is de geweldig enthousiaste kerel in het oranje t-shirt…