Although I don’t have fixed moments at which to do it, I like to also regularly reflect and look back in my personal life or when operating my one-person company called Ullizee-Inc (my vehicle to deliver value in four Scrum Service Areas). [It is not a form of or a part of ‘Scrum’, because —well— that’s not what it is.] Even if I rarely experience such moments of reflection as reasons for a hard stop or to drastically pivot, turn back or turn around, it does help me to validate the direction I am taking, review what is most important or change direction.
Moving into a new year is one of those cyclical periods where I typically practice some larger scale reflection by considering the past year–its defining events, emotions and experiences. However, I do stay away from making so-called ‘new year resolutions’. I embrace the continuity of time and prefer more incremental changes along the way. Whatever we do, and even if we prefer otherwise, time will tick on (regardless its relative speed) and we will go forward. We can’t actually stop or turn back the clock.
I maintain a “Backlog” as an evolving list of work or realizations that I deem as needed or potentially valuable without having some calendar year separation in it. [I don’t use an electronic tool for it, unless my Apple Notes app is considered such a ‘tool’ obviously.] There is no hard stop in my list of ideas and opportunities just because of the flash moment where we go from 31 December to 1 January (which in my calendar means we go from one calendar year to the next). I manage my opportunities to deliver value continually. Although juggling is a better word than ‘managing’ is. My Backlog is always actual. My Backlog is the source from which I extract the work I will focus on on a week-by-week basis. [I don’t consider my weekly iterations ‘Sprints’, because that’s not necessarily what they are.]
It is not entirely unlike managing my reading list. I buy more books than I can possibly read. Every newly bought book starts high on my list, but given my ever-changing interests, unplanned readings that demand my attention and time ticking away relentlessly it remains to be seen whether it stays that high. And then only actually reading them can validate whether I gave it the right priority. I can only be sure of the books I have actually read.
Next to the first cluster of online classes that I have planned for 2023 as part of my Scrum Caretakery activities, I plan to more mindfully undertake my Home Caretakery activities: the care for our two sons with very special needs (given their respective disabilities). In practice, the activities in this fifth, shadow service area already ruled out being away from home too frequently or for more than a few days anyhow.
I do envision however (finally) creating my new book about Scrum in which I currently envision sharing ideas and ways to move (your) Scrum downfield. As we speak and as I am embarking on this new writing journey, I also discovered a few ideas somewhere hidden in my brain for a fourth edition of my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” as well.
As part of the Scrum Service Area “Events”, I look much forward to traveling to the USA for the first time in several years. I will deliver a talk at the Scrum Day USA event in Madison, Wisconsin (kindly invited by Mary Iqbal). I will probably share my latest ideas, observations and findings about “Moving (your) Scrum Downfield” and, who knows, a status update on my book about the topic. >>> Get your ticket soon (early bird until 30 April).
Allow me to close my message by going back to the theme of calendars. Did you know that the Chinese Year of the Rabbit (sometimes a hare) has started? In general, I am not into zodiac and alike things, but this one caught my attention. A very long time again (at the age of 11), in a ritual called ‘totemisation’ at a summer camp with the boy scouts, I was given the name of “Diligent Rabbit” (“Ijverig Konijn”).
I wish us all the best for 2023 and beyond, even if the Doomsday Clock was recently moved forward to 90 seconds to midnight, which is the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been.
Love Gunther Verheyen your independent Scrum Caretaker
People regularly approach me (often privately) with the request to speak out (potentially publicly) on various things ‘Agile’. Although I am humbled by the trust that genuinely speaks from their words, there is also (o, the horror!) the expectations in their requests.
I want to share my (multi-layered) doubts and hesitance regarding the matter of speaking out publicly on (some) things ‘Agile’. And thereby, in a way, speak out publicly anyhow… albeit offering–what I hope is–a nuanced perspective.
1. Regarding the matter of importance and impact
I wouldn’t overrate the importance or impact of my words and viewpoints. Because, surprise, surprise, I am no wizard. Agile nor Scrum. I’ve only found a way to stick around for a long time and still be hopeful. It is an ‘achievement’ that also includes that I have survived a bunch of ups and downs and have seen many others come and go.
The fact that some of my public messages get a lot of ‘likes’ is to a certain extent meaningless. It is not a sign of importance (let alone of impact). Because pressing ‘like’ on some social media platform does not represent commitment or action. I have found over and over that it often doesn’t even mean that a liker has actually read what I’m sharing. Worse, I observe regularly how some of the comments seem to have no other aim than trying to shine a light of importance on the commenting subject, often through some form of simplistic clickbait message. One of my core beliefs is that a name and a reputation can at most be a side effect, never the purpose (unless one doesn’t mind a very poor purpose).
Judging by the number of people actually actively joining me in my journey of humanizing the workplace with Scrum(extremely low), much of the expressed ‘respect’ is no more than paying lip service. Best case it is a confirmation of my wrongly presumed importance. It is not a confirmation of any impact that I may have (or not). Commitment is not in what people say, not in how they name themselves or look like. It is in what they do.
Nor can there thus be much expectations (in a positive or negative sense) of the actual impact of my words or viewpoints regarding the question whether a process or framework (whatever name they chose for themselves) is “Agile”.
2. Regarding the matter of action and contribution
Another highly personal belief is the belief in positive action. I want to deliver a positive contribution to our world, help increase the global levels of positivity. Believe me, I have little idea where that drive comes from. As I am aging however, the finding keeps taking root more firmly that I am a man who took the pain of his youth and transformed it into a mission.
There are already so many haters and bashers, certainly regarding my favourite tool, Scrum. So much energy is wasted on spreading negativity. Some people seem to spend their entire life on nothing but ranting. It might help them gain many followers and leave them with a feeling of being a ‘leader’ (again, what a strange idea of purpose). Whether it is through some form of simplistic clickbait messages or otherwise, helpful it is not. Giving them more attention is unlikely to help either. Unless increasing their feeling of importance is the goal. Not to mention that I have found that it often completely drains me, which, I realize, is just one of my many shortcomings for which nobody else is to be blamed.
So, I feel comfortable enough to ‘speak out’ by liking, sharing or commenting on certain messages as a sign of my support. In my case, it is generally a well-considered choice, as is not liking messages. (On a side note, this also applies on the many requests by authors I get to read their article) It is similarly a well-considered choice not to spend time on correcting, judging or contradicting messages, not even when I think I could. I don’t overrate my ability to make people listen, let alone change their mind.
Furthermore and finally, I simply have too many plans, hopes, dreams and ambitions to allow such a waste of time to creep in. Life’s too short.
3. Regarding the question whether a process or framework (whatever name they chose for themselves) is “Agile”
Regardless whether free-floating opportunists like it or not, there is no denying that the source and roots of all things ‘Agile’ is the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development”, or the “Agile Manifesto” in short. Whatever gets labeled as “Agile” should by default mean that it is in line with the four value statements and twelve principles of that Manifesto. It is only fair to use that alignment to assess the validity of the claim of the label “Agile”. And although those value statements and principles were expressed in the realm of software development, they are sufficiently generic to be interpreted outside of software development.
In my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” I repeat that “Agile” is not one fixed process, method or practice. In the absence of a concise, specific definition of “the Agile process”, I list and describe three characteristics as the core traits that are common and typical to an Agile way of working:
Value as the measure of success.
I also describe “agility” as the (organizational) state envisioned by moving to an Agile way of working: a state of continuous flux, high responsiveness, speed and adaptiveness. It is a state needed to deal with the unpredictability so common to most of today’s work and to the moving markets that organizations operate within. I consciously capitalise “Agile” but not “agility”.
SAFe, like a few other methods, can be many things (helpful or not, who knows) but it is neither Agile, nor is it a framework. SAFe is exactly the sort of process (in the sense of ‘methodology’) as referred to by the signatories of the Agile Manifesto in the first Agile value statement (“INDIVIDUALS and INTERACTIONS over processes and tools”). SAFe turns this statement upside down and reverses the expressed preference, as it does to the 3rd and 4th Agile value statement (and likely even the 2nd). Similar findings can be made about the lack of various aspects of “Agile” highlighted in the twelve principles, like timescales, collaboration, emergence and self-organization. After all, there is a reason why there were no people from RUP invited for the Snowbird gathering.
My hesitance to speak out loudly is not because of my ‘reputation’ (I have none) or commercial or legal consequences. It is because I know first-hand that the best form of promotion that SAFe got in the past was a few global leaders heavily speaking out against it. What they said was correct, well-intended and of high integrity. Still, the effect was people massively looking at SAFe, thereby causing damage and big setbacks in helping the world move away from the paradigm of industrial views and beliefs.
It shows how the statement of my book is true: the old (industrial, Taylorist) paradigm has deep roots and a considerable half-life time. So, let’s hope nobody reads this text if it increases even more interest in a methodology that claims you can change without having to change. And I’ve already spent too much valuable time on it anyhow.
By the way, various other approaches claiming to be “Agile” don’t put people (as human beings) and capitalizing on people’s intelligence and creativity front and center either. Nor are they iterative-incremental. Work is not organized in short cycles allowing and provoking emergence, pivoting and bottom-up knowledge creation. They also aim at pressuring for ‘more’ (volume) instead of discovering ‘better’ (value). They can be useful or helpful (who knows), but they are not “Agile”.
And for the bashers/trolls, I am well aware that many implementations of Scrum suffer from the same problem. At least, it is a problem of interpretation, not of definition. I stand my ground when stating that "Scrum is the most widely adopted definition of Agile".
I don’t abide by it, but the reality is that many, many people don’t care about integrity but prefer (commercial) convenience.
A last, personal example: As part of my ambition and will to deliver a positive contribution, I have developed a Scrum Pocket Class called “Scrum in the Large”. It is based upon the insights on ‘scale’ that I already shared in the first edition of my book, in 2013, which was even before (or maybe at the start of) the whole scaling hype. As most of my public classes, it barely attracts people (it is not what most want to hear), although the people that join generally describe it as a true eye-opener. I accept it as a confirmation of what I stated regarding the matter of importance and impact: my limited impact or recognition rather than being an “important voice” or “Scrumfluencer” (quoting some direct messages).
I’m at peace with that. It’s even good to keep my feet on the ground while being able to sustain my family and do my part of personal caretakery at home. At most, I am a man who took the pain of his youth and transformed it into a mission. It’s an infinite game anyhow. I plant seeds.
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.
I 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”:
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.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.“
George Bernard Shaw
If you happen to have attended one of the many online events I have been in last year, you know how important the above quote is for me.
It feels like the past twelve months, more than just about creating myself, my life was mostly about re-inventing myself. Often and repeatedly. Do you feel that way too?
Besides forcing my family and me in a semi-continuous lockdown situation, the past Covid-year has made me professionally go down paths that I never intended, planned or aspired to go down. No matter how annoying that was at times and no matter how it really was not what I wanted to do, I also started realizing that I have should done many of these things many years ago. Do you recognize that too? In my case, it largely boiled down to further increasing my independence as a Scrum Caretaker. Not the easiest position, but still… (integrity, you know?)
One of the results is that I finally took the time to work on my ideas for a workshop about “The value in the Scrum Values“. It was an important next step after describing them on my blog (2012), adding them to my books “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” (2013, 2019, 2021) and “97 Things every Scrum practitioner should know” (2020) and dedicating the separate website https://thescrumvalues.org/ on them (2021). Several members of the global movement of Scrum Caretakers helped me find direction and focus in two pilot sessions of the workshop I facilitated in February and March 2021. Ultimately it inspired me to revamp my materials to a point where I feel comfortable announcing the availability of these workshops and making them available for the general public at https://guntherverheyen.com/shop/.
This new workshop is an important extension to the PSM and PSPO classes that I facilitate too. This is a 3-hours workshop to help people look at the Scrum framework through the lens of the Scrum Values; beyond the rules, roles, artefacts or events (where my other classes deeply focus on). This is not a workshop to teach or preach about values, but to guide people in their discovery of the value in the Scrum Values.
Given our growth I am also looking for better ways to communicate to the (growing) global movement of Scrum Caretakers (beyond the Scrum Caretakers Meetup group). I am therefore going to start sharing Scrum Caretaker updates, news, flashes, scoops and other snippets with interested followers. If you care to be updated, add your e-mail address at https://guntherverheyen.com/about/(or in the temporarily annoying pop-up popping up on my website for the time being).
I have created a new, 3-hours workshop to guide people in the discovery of the value in the Scrum Values. The workshop includes cases I selected from my “Scrum Caretaker Book of Exercises” and will be followed by an informal, 30 minutes after-chat. Find all planned sessions of this specific Scrum Values workshop at my webshop.
Allow me to share why I created this workshop.
Somewhere along my journey of Scrum, that started in 2003, I started calling myself an independent Scrum Caretaker on a journey of humanizing the workplace with Scrum. Because there is more to Scrum than ‘process’. There is more to Scrum than rules, roles, practices and techniques. If called a process, then Scrum is a servant process. The process serves the people employing it. The benefits realized through Scrum largely depend not on the rules, but on the interactions and collaboration of the people employing Scrum. This is why I state that Scrum, actually, is more about behavior than it is about process.
Values drive behavior. Scrum thrives on five values: commitment, focus, openness, respect and courage. As behavior also expresses values, Scrum is also expressed through these values. The Scrum Values are our compass as well as our barometer.
I don’t aspire preaching or even teaching values. I aspire helping people look at the Scrum framework through the lens of the Scrum Values, thereby looking beyond the rules, roles, artefacts or events. What is it that we commit to in Scrum? What do we focus on in Scrum? What do we mean with openness and respect in Scrum? What does it mean to show courage in an environment of Scrum? This is why I created this new, 3-hours workshop: to guide people in their discovery of the value in the Scrum Values.
A quote by a participant of the pilot sessions I facilitated prior to this release for the general public:
I believe that this is a valuable workshop for many Scrum Masters. It is very powerful to be able to talk about Scrum not just in terms of the rules but in terms of these underlying values. It helps to match the Scrum values with company values to highlight and grow shared beliefs in and beyond the teams. It helps to surface impediments to a more fruitful adoption of Scrum more quickly. Throughout my career as a Scrum Master, the Scrum Values have been the most powerful tool in my work with people in and beyond the teams. I believe others can go through a similar experience after attending this workshop.
Scrum’s DNA consists of empiricism and self-organization, representing respectively the process and the people aspect of Scrum. As the empirical process as implemented by Scrum is increasingly replacing the old, traditional predictive management approach I hope that the global Scrum communities join me on my journey to shift (and therefore help restore) the balance towards the people aspect.
In October 2003 my life of Scrum started, albeit not with Scrum. My life of Scrum actually started with eXtreme Programming which we then wrapped in Scrum. In May 2004 I attended a CSM class (“Certified ScrumMaster”) by Ken Schwaber in Brussels (Belgium). At the time I had no idea but it seems it was the first CSM class in the wider region.
Fast forward >>
In December 2010 I traveled to Zurich (Switzerland) to attend a PSM class (“Professional Scrum Master”) by Ken Schwaber. Attending the class was part of my journey towards becoming a Professional Scrum Trainer (“PST”) for Scrum.org. Ken had founded this new organization a year earlier, in October 2009.
In April 2010, at an event of the Agile Consortium Belgium in Brussels, I asked Jeff Sutherland about this new organization founded by his former companion. Jeff started by sharing his story of Ken’s dismissal from his position at the ScrumAlliance. He continued by saying that he (as a business man) liked that there were now two organizations to promote Scrum. However, what I remember most was how Jeff emphasized that he expected the bars would be raised for anyone aspiring to work with Ken and through Scrum.org.
It intrigued me. I had been closely following up on the emergence and growth of Scrum.org as it coincided with a personal process of professional recovery. I painfully discovered that I had been blinded by management ambitions (and promises) in 2007-2008. I realized that it had only lead me astray. I realized that Scrum was my way and that I needed to not only get back on track but also up my game. Go full throttle. I started focusing on delivering work with Scrum again and without much thought or considerations I did the PSM level I and level II assessments. (Fyi. What was level II then is now level III.) Based on my experience and achievements, Ken allowed me to move forward on the path of becoming a PST. I experienced it as an expression of “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”.
At the time of the PSM class in Zurich, I was also starting to get deeply involved in the Netherlands as the Scrum leader of a large consulting organization. I started engaging with large organizations, often in the financials sector.
In April 2011, Ken came to Brussels for an event I co-organized for the Agile Consortium Belgium. Preceding the evening event, we spent the afternoon chatting in a Brussels hotel. By the end of our conversation Ken invited me to join his pilot PSPO class (“Professional Scrum Product Owner”) in Amsterdam a week later. My manager said “no” (referring to the PSM class I had already attended in December). After Ken offering a few discounts and my manager still refusing permission to go, I decided to take a leave, pay for it myself and attend the class in my personal time. It simply was an opportunity 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:
I was a Scrum trainer facilitating at least one and (at times) up to two classes a week. Most of my classes were in Amsterdam. Having given up staying in hotels (for personal reasons) that meant leaving my home in Antwerp around 5.30am and arriving back at home around 7.30pm for four days a week.
I was the global Scrum leader and local Agile value proposition leader at our company. I was describing, documenting, presenting and trying to sell our approach and offerings of Scrum and Agile transformations. I was internally coaching and collaborating with coaches and Scrum Masters. I was the point of contact for consultants across the world.
I was the course steward maintaining the PSM and PSPO courseware for Scrum.org, working with Ken Schwaber and Alex Armstrong. It consisted mainly of proposing, testing and implementing new ideas, new representations and new exercises.
I take my work seriously. I always have. I still need to learn to say “no”. I have a bit of what I would call an Atlas syndrome. So, I took all these three jobs seriously. I was spending more than 24/7 of my time. I was literally not taking any time off (not even the weekends). It wasn’t too sustainable (I guess).
I remember a Wednesday in March 2013. It was the day before a 2-day event for Professional Scrum Trainers organized by Scrum.org in Amsterdam. Ken and I spent another afternoon of chatting together, catching up and aligning. Two days later, the Friday evening after the internal event, we looked each other in the eyes and realized that it might be better for the both of us to start partnering rather than continuing our dispersed collaboration. Among many other considerations it would allow me to focus on sustaining and promoting Scrum via the Professional Scrum offering and it would allow Ken to reduce his traveling and other exhausting activities. On Sunday evening we had it all settled and I quit the position of Principal Consultant I had recently acquired.
While preparing to transition to Scrum.org, I accidentally created the first edition of my book, “Scrum – A Pocket Guide”.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I remembered the words of Jeff Sutherland of April 2010 regarding Ken’s new initiative and raising the bar.
Scrum, much like life, isn’t about finding it. It’s about creating it yourself. One can however not overlook the importance of accidents, coincidence, chance and luck along the way.
Keep learning. Keep improving. Keep…Scrumming.
Warm regards Gunther Verheyen independent Scrum Caretaker for Ullizee-Inc
Scrum has been around for a while, they say. The Scrum Guide holds the definition of Scrum, they say. The first, official version of the Scrum Guide was released in February 2010. So, how was Scrum defined before 2010 then? How did its definition evolve before and after 2010 and become the framework that we know today? What else happened along the road to the way that Scrum is defined and represented?
In the paper “Scrum: A Brief History of a Long-Lived Hype” I have described what changed to the definition and representation of Scrum over time, before and after the creation of the Scrum Guide. It shows how Scrum evolved into the framework that we know today since its first formal introduction in 1995. Because a touch of historical awareness is more than helpful in understanding Scrum and caring for the future of Scrum.
I looked for sources that are not just credible in terms of authorship but also offer regular enough check points. In the end, the sources I used for describing the evolutions of the definition of Scrum are:
The paper “SCRUM Software Development Process” by Ken Schwaber (1995, 1996)
The paper “SCRUM: An extension pattern language for hyperproductive software development” by Mike Beedle, Martine Devos, Yonat Sharon, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland (1999)
The book “Agile Software Development with Scrum” by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle (2002)
The book “Agile Project Management with Scrum” by Ken Schwaber (2004)
The book “The Enterprise and Scrum” by Ken Schwaber (2007)
“The Scrum Guide” by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland (2009, 2010)
“The Scrum Guide” by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland (2011, 2013, 2016, 2017)
“The Scrum Guide” by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland (2020)
For every source I have described the same three topics to show what Scrum consisted of at the time (regardless the different terms used), what the ‘definition’ of Scrum was at the time:
Roles, responsibilities, accountabilities
Controls, deliverables, artifacts
Phases, meetings, time-boxes, events
For every source I have included a graphical representation of Scrum or of a Sprint that was either taken from the source directly, either from an alternative source of the same period.
Finally, I have shared my thoughts and observations on the changes to the definition of Scrum for every source. Obviously, they represent what I deem noticeable. They hold no judgement, directly nor indirectly.
To complete the paper I have listed some important landmarks in the history of Scrum and included some personal musings on the topic of “Scrum and the Desire for Universal Truths” (and what the Scrum Guide was not created for).
I hope you will enjoy reading the paper. I hope it will help you grow a deeper understanding of Scrum. I hope it will help you shape your Scrum to get the most from it. I hope it will help you create better products with Scrum while humanizing your workplace.
Take care Gunther Verheyen independent Scrum Caretaker
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
(generally attributed to George Bernard Shaw)
I call myself an independent Scrum Caretaker. It reflects who I am, how I feel, what I do: caring for Scrum AND caring for people. It is my identity in the sense that it defines me professionally in my relationship to the world.
I call myself an independent Scrum Caretaker on a journey of humanizing the workplace with Scrum. That reflects what drives me. It is my personal why. It is also an infinite game. Success is not in winning (or losing) but in movement.
Throughout the years I have discovered I prefer ideas and ideals over positions and titles, even when the latter do pay better. I want room to observe, create, connect, share. Like a butterfly flapping its wings I do those because it is in my nature, not because I envision specific consequences, big or small, or set goals or targets, hard or soft. I create opportunities to deliver value and serve people around the world. I facilitate people’s learning and unlearning to increase their awareness of Scrum in several ways:
I have learned that I can’t be as active as I wished I could be in every domain at the same time. I am a one-person company. I make choices.
Facilitating people’s learning in Professional Scrum classes or custom workshops (1) is my most constant/stable way of delivering value.
Saying ‘no’ to speaking opportunities (4) seems quite difficult, if not impossible. I speak for free at community events (a vast majority of my speaking engagements) and for a fee for commercial enterprises.
When I am consulting (2) that consumes most of my mental energy (caring for organizations more than they care about themselves, it seems), which rules out extensive writing (3). And vice versa.
I organize my work on a weekly cadence. I have a long backlog of work. I keep it ordered all the time. I re-order it regularly, including adding, changing or deleting items. I keep separate notes on separate items as needed. Every week I identify what I assume most important to work on. My backlog has some Big Rocks, that are clearly marked to stand out and should be kept as high on my backlog as possible (as possible!). “Big Rocks” is a term that my friend David Starr introduced when we worked together at Scrum.org. I keep using it because it resonates with me.
My Big Rocks give me direction and focus. They are not targets, objectives, milestones, hard, soft, SMART or other sorts of goals. And I don’t put deadlines on them. I discover new Big Rocks, and existing Big Rocks shift position. I limit the number of Big Rocks I keep on my radar.
I am a one-person company. There is more to do than the work on my Big Rocks. I can’t afford to work only on my Big Rocks. It doesn’t mean I am not committed to them or don’t focus on them. Work not spent on my Big Rocks can be important too, whether I like it or not. I have to run my company. I take care of my administration and finances. I spend much time on my classes and speaking engagements because I take them seriously and treat every single instance of them as unique (in preparing, doing and in following up). I answer mails and provide other ways of support. I take care of some online presence. I support other authors. I (try to) read. I (try to) blog.
If not working on them because of the aforementioned reasons, my Big Rocks themselves don’t allow me to work on them full-time, all the time. I regularly feel forced to stop, do other work, reset my brain, and then suddenly they call me back because of some new ideas, angles, perspectives, different directions and inspiration popping up.
When in the spring of 2019 my consulting services for a large company were no longer needed, I discovered I had not done a lot of serious writing for a long time. I decided to shift my focus for the rest of 2019 towards writing and supporting several others that were writing. The book “97 Things Every Scrum Practitioner Should Know” became my next Big Rock. Collecting, editing and ordering the essays from practitioners around the world consumed most of my energy and time during the fall of 2019. That Big Rock was moved in May 2020, as the book became globally available.
My ambition to start doing consulting again as from 2020 was smothered by the “SARS-CoV-2” virus spreading. At the same time my planned classes all got canceled. I am a one-person company and the only source of income for my family. Over the first six months of the pandemic my revenues dropped with 90+%. I used the ‘free’ time to create and make available my paper “Moving Your Scrum Downfield” meanwhile considering my independent role and position. An unplanned (Big) Rock moved!
My next Big Rocks consist of work on my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” and creating a new book, tentatively called “Views from the House of Scrum”. They won’t be moved in 2020 anymore. More than deadlines they give me direction and focus.
This feels like a great addition to the translation of my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” to Portuguese as “Scrum – Um Guia de Bolso (Um companheiro de viagem inteligente).”
Following describes (in Portuguese) how the six essential traits of the game are indicative of Scrum coming to life (“Como os seis traços essenciais do jogo são indicativas de que o Scrum está a ganhar vida”):
Scrum é simples, mas suficiente. Os jogadores desdobram o potencial do Scrum usando as regras simples que se aplicam e exploram como as táticas, interações, comportamentos e os seis traços essenciais fazem o Scrum funcionar.
O DNA do Scrum. Os jogadores formam uma unidade auto-organizada em torno do desafio de criar colectivamente incrementos de trabalho observáveis e factuais, enquanto empregam empirismo para gerir todo o trabalho e progresso.
Os Jogadores Demonstram Responsabilidade. Os jogadores contribuem para os valiosos resultados do sistema através de uma colaboração energética e da partilha e desafio de regras, acordos, habilidades, práticas, idéias e pontos de vista.
Transparência para fluxos de valor. Os jogadores usam artefatos Scrum para manter a transparência sobre todo o trabalho feito e a ser feito, gerenciar um fluxo de valor e preservar a capacidade de capitalizar oportunidades imprevistas.
Fechando os Ciclos. Os jogadores fecham regularmente e repetidamente os muitos ciclos de encravamento dentro de um Sprint até ao encerramento total no final de um Sprint e preservam a capacidade de se adaptar sem obstáculos ao nível macro.
Os Valores Scrum. Os Valores Scrum de Compromisso, Foco, Abertura, Respeito e Coragem assumem destaque nos comportamentos, relacionamentos, ações e decisões dos atores e seu ecossistema.
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.