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

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

George Bernard Shaw

Dear reader

If you happen to have attended one of the many online events I have been in last year, you know how important the above quote is for me.

It feels like the past twelve months, more than just about creating myself, my life was mostly about re-inventing myself. Often and repeatedly. Do you feel that way too?

Besides forcing my family and me in a semi-continuous lockdown situation, the past Covid-year has made me professionally go down paths that I never intended, planned or aspired to go down. No matter how annoying that was at times and no matter how it really was not what I wanted to do, I also started realizing that I have should done many of these things many years ago. Do you recognize that too? In my case, it largely boiled down to further increasing my independence as a Scrum Caretaker. Not the easiest position, but still… (integrity, you know?)

One of the results is that I finally took the time to work on my ideas for a workshop about “The value in the Scrum Values“. It was an important next step after describing them on my blog (2012), adding them to my books “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” (2013, 2019, 2021) and “97 Things every Scrum practitioner should know” (2020) and dedicating the separate website https://thescrumvalues.org/ on them (2021). Several members of the global movement of Scrum Caretakers helped me find direction and focus in two pilot sessions of the workshop I facilitated in February and March 2021. Ultimately it inspired me to revamp my materials to a point where I feel comfortable announcing the availability of these workshops and making them available for the general public at https://guntherverheyen.com/shop/.

This new workshop is an important extension to the PSM and PSPO classes that I facilitate too. This is a 3-hours workshop to help people look at the Scrum framework through the lens of the Scrum Values; beyond the rules, roles, artefacts or events (where my other classes deeply focus on). This is not a workshop to teach or preach about values, but to guide people in their discovery of the value in the Scrum Values.

Given our growth I am also looking for better ways to communicate to the (growing) global movement of Scrum Caretakers (beyond the Scrum Caretakers Meetup group). I am therefore going to start sharing Scrum Caretaker updates, news, flashes, scoops and other snippets with interested followers. If you care to be updated, add your e-mail address at  https://guntherverheyen.com/about/ (or in the temporarily annoying pop-up popping up on my website for the time being).

Warm regards

Gunther
independent Scrum Caretaker

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

I have created a new, 3-hours workshop to guide people in the discovery of the value in the Scrum Values. The workshop includes cases I selected from my “Scrum Caretaker Book of Exercises” and will be followed by an informal, 30 minutes after-chat. Find all planned sessions of this specific Scrum Values workshop at my webshop.

Allow me to share why I created this workshop.

Somewhere along my journey of Scrum, that started in 2003, I started calling myself an independent Scrum Caretaker on a journey of humanizing the workplace with Scrum. Because there is more to Scrum than ‘process’. There is more to Scrum than rules, roles, practices and techniques. If called a process, then Scrum is a servant process. The process serves the people employing it. The benefits realized through Scrum largely depend not on the rules, but on the interactions and collaboration of the people employing Scrum. This is why I state that Scrum, actually, is more about behavior than it is about process.

Values drive behavior. Scrum thrives on five values: commitment, focus, openness, respect and courage. As behavior also expresses values, Scrum is also expressed through these values. The Scrum Values are our compass as well as our barometer.

I don’t aspire preaching or even teaching values. I aspire helping people look at the Scrum framework through the lens of the Scrum Values, thereby looking beyond the rules, roles, artefacts or events. What is it that we commit to in Scrum? What do we focus on in Scrum? What do we mean with openness and respect in Scrum? What does it mean to show courage in an environment of Scrum? This is why I created this new, 3-hours workshop: to guide people in their discovery of the value in the Scrum Values.

A quote by a participant of the pilot sessions I facilitated prior to this release for the general public:

I believe that this is a valuable workshop for many Scrum Masters. It is very powerful to be able to talk about Scrum not just in terms of the rules but in terms of these underlying values. It helps to match the Scrum values with company values to highlight and grow shared beliefs in and beyond the teams. It helps to surface impediments to a more fruitful adoption of Scrum more quickly. Throughout my career as a Scrum Master, the Scrum Values have been the most powerful tool in my work with people in and beyond the teams. I believe others can go through a similar experience after attending this workshop.

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

Scrum’s DNA consists of empiricism and self-organization, representing respectively the process and the people aspect of Scrum. As the empirical process as implemented by Scrum is increasingly replacing the old, traditional predictive management approach I hope that the global Scrum communities join me on my journey to shift (and therefore help restore) the balance towards the people aspect.

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How I ended up becoming a (Professional) Scrum trainer

In October 2003 my life of Scrum started, albeit not with Scrum. My life of Scrum actually started with eXtreme Programming which we then wrapped in Scrum. In May 2004 I attended a CSM class (“Certified ScrumMaster”) by Ken Schwaber in Brussels (Belgium). At the time I had no idea but it seems it was the first CSM class in the wider region.

Fast forward >>

In December 2010 I traveled to Zurich (Switzerland) to attend a PSM class (“Professional Scrum Master”) by Ken Schwaber. Attending the class was part of my journey towards becoming a Professional Scrum Trainer (“PST”) for Scrum.org. Ken had founded this new organization a year earlier, in October 2009.

In April 2010, at an event of the Agile Consortium Belgium in Brussels, I asked Jeff Sutherland about this new organization founded by his former companion. Jeff started by sharing his story of Ken’s dismissal from his position at the ScrumAlliance. He continued by saying that he (as a business man) liked that there were now two organizations to promote Scrum. However, what I remember most was how Jeff emphasized that he expected the bars would be raised for anyone aspiring to work with Ken and through Scrum.org.

It intrigued me. I had been closely following up on the emergence and growth of Scrum.org as it coincided with a personal process of professional recovery. I painfully discovered that I had been blinded by management ambitions (and promises) in 2007-2008. I realized that it had only lead me astray. I realized that Scrum was my way and that I needed to not only get back on track but also up my game. Go full throttle. I started focusing on delivering work with Scrum again and without much thought or considerations I did the PSM level I and level II assessments. (Fyi. What was level II then is now level III.) Based on my experience and achievements, Ken allowed me to move forward on the path of becoming a PST. I experienced it as an expression of “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”.

At the time of the PSM class in Zurich, I was also starting to get deeply involved in the Netherlands as the Scrum leader of a large consulting organization. I started engaging with large organizations, often in the financials sector.

In April 2011, Ken came to Brussels for an event I co-organized for the Agile Consortium Belgium. Preceding the evening event, we spent the afternoon chatting in a Brussels hotel. By the end of our conversation Ken invited me to join his pilot PSPO class (“Professional Scrum Product Owner”) in Amsterdam a week later. My manager said “no” (referring to the PSM class I had already attended in December). After Ken offering a few discounts and my manager still refusing permission to go, I decided to take a leave, pay for it myself and attend the class in my personal time. It simply was an opportunity to good to miss.

Shortly after attending, I acquired my license to teach PSM and PSPO classes. As an employee of the large consulting company, guess who got the benefits from me being able to facilitate Professional Scrum trainings in a booming environment like the Netherlands? Still, nobody ever bothered to reimburse my costs. And I never bothered to ask. A matter of pride or a lack of courage?

Although it is not something I had planned for, it looks like in 2011-2012 I ended up being in the eye of the Scrum storm that was sweeping the Netherlands. In March 2012, Ken and I agreed on initiating and driving forward the first edition of a new event, which we called Scrum Day Europe. It took a lot of energy but it happened on 11 July 2012.

Towards the end of 2012, I realized I was combining three jobs:

  1. I was a Scrum trainer facilitating at least one and (at times) up to two classes a week. Most of my classes were in Amsterdam. Having given up staying in hotels (for personal reasons) that meant leaving my home in Antwerp around 5.30am and arriving back at home around 7.30pm for four days a week.
  2. I was the global Scrum leader and local Agile value proposition leader at our company. I was describing, documenting, presenting and trying to sell our approach and offerings of Scrum and Agile transformations. I was internally coaching and collaborating with coaches and Scrum Masters. I was the point of contact for consultants across the world.
  3. I was the course steward maintaining the PSM and PSPO courseware for Scrum.org, working with Ken Schwaber and Alex Armstrong. It consisted mainly of proposing, testing and implementing new ideas, new representations and new exercises.

I take my work seriously. I always have. I still need to learn to say “no”. I have a bit of what I would call an Atlas syndrome. So, I took all these three jobs seriously. I was spending more than 24/7 of my time. I was literally not taking any time off (not even the weekends). It wasn’t too sustainable (I guess).

I remember a Wednesday in March 2013. It was the day before a 2-day event for Professional Scrum Trainers organized by Scrum.org in Amsterdam. Ken and I spent another afternoon of chatting together, catching up and aligning. Two days later, the Friday evening after the internal event, we looked each other in the eyes and realized that it might be better for the both of us to start partnering rather than continuing our dispersed collaboration. Among many other considerations it would allow me to focus on sustaining and promoting Scrum via the Professional Scrum offering and it would allow Ken to reduce his traveling and other exhausting activities. On Sunday evening we had it all settled and I quit the position of Principal Consultant I had recently acquired.

While preparing to transition to Scrum.org, I accidentally created the first edition of my book, “Scrum – A Pocket Guide”.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I remembered the words of Jeff Sutherland of April 2010 regarding Ken’s new initiative and raising the bar.

Scrum, much like life, isn’t about finding it. It’s about creating it yourself. One can however not overlook the importance of accidents, coincidence, chance and luck along the way.

Keep learning.
Keep improving.
Keep…Scrumming.

Warm regards
Gunther Verheyen
independent Scrum Caretaker for Ullizee-Inc

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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.