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Regarding the matter of speaking out publicly (on some things ‘Agile’)

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:

  • People-centric.
  • Iterative-incremental progress.
  • 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.

your independent Scrum Caretaker

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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 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

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 (or in the temporarily annoying pop-up popping up on my website for the time being).

Warm regards

independent Scrum Caretaker

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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 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

It intrigued me. I had been closely following up on the emergence and growth of 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:

  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, 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 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, 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.

Warm regards
Gunther Verheyen
independent Scrum Caretaker for Ullizee-Inc

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Scrum: A Brief History of a Long-Lived Hype

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:

  1. Roles, responsibilities, accountabilities
  2. Controls, deliverables, artifacts
  3. 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

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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 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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The importance of human contact against the backdrop of a viral war

Observations from an independent Scrum Caretaker with an eye on humanization of the workplace

The United Nations’ World Health Organization (“WHO”) correctly describes “Covid-19” as the disease caused by the “SARS-CoV-2” virus, a new variant within the Corona family of viruses. A Covid-19 infection typically shows through symptoms of fever combined with respiratory problems — a dry cough, shortness of breath, and (severe) breathing difficulties. As we speak, Covid-19 is exponentially spreading across large parts of the world, infecting frightening numbers of individuals. Although “Corona” actually is the name of the family of viruses, references to the current pandemic outbreak typically are “Corona (something).”

Beyond anything else, my thoughts are in the first place with individuals that are infected, whether they are quarantined in hospital, at home, or elsewhere. And I think of their loved ones and the people that are taking care of them –professionally or privately.

As soon as courses at school in Belgium were officially suspended, my wife and I decided to voluntarily put ourselves and our 3 kids in a lockdown situation. Given our oldest son’s progressive disability we weren’t going to take any risks. And although our decision went beyond the measures formally imposed by our government (at the time), we also believed our decision to be in the true spirit of these measures. Our decision encompassed not receiving visitors other than the professionals helping our son, avoiding all external contacts, and only leaving the house for the utmost urgent matters. Less than a week later Belgium officially went into a ‘lockdown.’

The spreading disease has a huge impact on people’s lives worldwide. My classes and work assignments got canceled (without any consultation). Partnerships I had given priority and exclusivity and other alliances I had invested and believed in much turned out not being about reciprocity at all. Again, I had to restore my personal and professional integrity. At a macro and a micro level I see the world brusquely being forced to a standstill. Beyond the dismay and stress, I try to grasp the opportunity to slow down. To some extent this crisis is a chance to pause the rat race, in which we do get caught up more than we like to admit. I try to grasp the opportunity to reflect, step back, pick up on some writing and reading ambitions that have been on hold for too long, do some gardening, and other highly unproductive activities. I further the development of my tortoise side.

Like so many, I am obviously suffering from some financial and economic setbacks. Although financial survival is important, I try not to let the monetary repercussions get me into short-term thinking and actions. I smell the danger of damage in the long run. I honestly believe in slowing down for now. I obviously cannot push “pause” indefinitely. Like so many, I revert to different ways to keep in touch with people and organizations I work with. There is stuff that I will now do virtually, remote, and distributed rather than in-person. There is much more I will not do virtually, remote, or distributed.

Most, if not all, of my work consists of helping and supporting individuals and groups explore complex challenges. We jointly figure out how Scrum can help them and what acting with agility means, in addressing their complex adaptive problems in their professional environments. Activities like teaching and coaching for that purpose require intense live interaction, dialogue, and deep conversations. My materials, my cases, and my approach are designed exactly for that. I am not in the face mask selling business. I do envision alternative ways of helping people, including remote channels. That however requires development of suitable materials and will not be magically available overnight.

Measures are being imposed on us to limit direct inter-human contact. They serve spreading the increase in infections in time and avoiding our care and health systems from crashing. I embrace them and use them as an invitation to consider the importance of human contact. I only see that importance strongly affirmed, more than ever before.

I am in awe of the people taking care of infected people. I try to turn this period into a time to reflect on the madness of our regular working situations — the rat race. Meanwhile I am perplexed, although not completely surprised, to observe how many people and organizations consistently put the economic losses over the human cost. I see the desperate instructions and desires to keep up productivity and efficiency in a situation where people are unable or prevented from coming to their regular workplace, not to mention that they most likely have other stressing concerns on their mind. What strikes me is this primal tendency to believe that ‘the shown must go on’ as if nothing else matters. Just do some tele-work and all will be fine. Really? Why would we pretend we can (or should) continue as if ‘normal’? Or –even worse– call this situation the ‘new normal,’ thereby pretending this will be the future way of working anyhow? I am appalled to see the continued disrespect for people trying to absorb what is happening to them, their children, their elderly parents or grand-parents, their friends, their relatives, their colleagues.

A storm is sweeping our planet. Is that too difficult to acknowledge? Accept giving up the idea of continuing ‘every day business’ for now. Losses will be incurred. Look beyond today, today’s productivity, and the current crisis. Give people a break, allow them to hit “pause.” Give them room and space now, and they will come back later fully recovered and re-energized. Losses will be incurred. The human cost caused by shifting the rat race from an on-site situation to tele-work today, denying people the opportunity to cope with the stress and tensions, will result into far more grave economic costs once this is over. It will backfire — economically and humanly.

I advise keeping that in mind when faced with all these self-called long-time proponents of distributed and remote ways of working that are suddenly popping up everywhere. Quite a lot are trying to take advantage of the crisis and your fears to increase their commercial position, sales figures or name and fame. Maybe they honestly intend to offer help, like they all obviously claim they do, but they, unintended or not, devaluate in-person human contact while keep people in the familiar productivity stranglehold. I understand how tools, platforms, papers, and more promoting remote work are helpful in this period. On a temporary basis and to some extent! But what is the pressure to keep productivity up to pre-crisis levels good for? I understand how many who are forced into distributed and remote working conditions are trying to make the best from their situation with tools, platforms, and various approaches. They ultimately try to get as close as possible to working in a co-located way. Still, it is no more than a surrogate solution. Even if it comes close, it will never be the same. And it is definitely not the new normal. Don’t allow the current way to turn into a permanent situation if that wasn’t your situation before the crisis.

Don’t allow snake oil merchants to abuse this viral war to spread the virus that human contact is not that important in the end. Don’t allow yourself to be limited to being a cog in a productivity machine. We are human beings. Our identity builds on our contacts, relationships and interactions with other human beings. And those relationships and interactions are richest when happing in-person. More than a cog in someone’s productivity machine, you are a social creature.

I can’t wait to move away from sub-optimal remote communications, go out again, and feel and touch people, shake hands, give a hug, and look my fellow people in the eye for the best collaboration possible. I can’t wait to go out again and enjoy direct human contact.

I wish you all the best. Be safe. Take care, like a humane Scrum Caretaker does.

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The illusion of agility (what most Agile transformations end up delivering)

Agility is a unique and continuously evolving state that is typical to a specific organization. It is a state that corresponds to the combination of an organization’s people, set-up and history. A traditional (industrial) approach to becoming more Agile commonly creates no more than an illusion of agility.

Agility is a specific state as it reflects the unique lessons and learnings that an organization and its inhabitants went and go through. It reflects the way in which specific annoyances and hindrances were and are overcome, the many inspections and  adaptations that occur along the journey. It is a state that prepares organizations for the unknown future challenges that will demand distinct responses.

Agility is a unique signature with imprints of all people involved and their relationships and interactions, of used and abandoned tools, processes, and practices, of the constructs within and across the many eco-systems that make out an organization, potentially even stretching across the organization’s boundaries.

No model can predict, anticipate or outline the unique signature that an organization’s state of agility is.

However, many of our organizations have their roots, and their beliefs, in the past industrial age. As they feel the need and the pressure to increase their agility, they naturally revert to familiar, yet old-school, industrial recipes. They undertake cautiously planned attempts to gently shift to the Agile paradigm (although they need to leap) wrapped in separate change projects (although their organizations need re-integration). They look around and imitate what other organizations do. They copy-paste what others, regardless whether they operate in the same economical domain or not, claim brought them success. They enforce unified ways of working and practices in a cascaded and mass-production way. They rely on text-book models that prescribe generic pre-empted blueprints of organizational structures. The learnings and the hard work needed to acquire sustainable agility, tuned to the organization’s specific context, are conveniently ignored.

Ironically, these are the exact approaches that block these organizations in their growth. These are the exact ways of working that they need to abandon in order to enter and survive the new worlds, the worlds that require a higher agility.

The mismatch is fundamental. They need and want to hose down  their industrial ways, yet they end up re-enforcing them. No more than an illusion of agility is created as a result. This is painfully revealed when the deflation by reality hits hard, often after several years. When the actual increase in agility turns out negligible, a painful finding certainly in the face of the urgency. The actual results turn out disappointing. The lost time is a catastrophe.

Increasing agility is a path. Progressing on that path requires vision, belief, persistence and… hard work. Agility, as a state of high adaptiveness, can only be achieved by regularly… adapting. Adaptations only make sense upon inspections of actual work and observable results. Think feedback loops (all around). The new reality, for which higher agility is needed, mandates that what works today might not work tomorrow. What works for one company (i.e. a complex system of interconnected people, processes and tools) might not work for another company. What works for one combination of teams, technology and business might not work for another combination.

Signposts that might help you detect whether an illusion of agility is being created:

  • It is not a transformation if it doesn’t change how you work;
  • It is not an Agile transformation if it doesn’t simplify how you work;
  • It is not an Agile transformation of Scrum if it doesn’t increase the actual collaboration of people (customers, teams, stakeholders).

Note. None of the above makes sense if no proper attention is given to technical excellence.

The new reality tells us we need to act in the moment more than we did before. Ever. Embracing uncertainty and unpredictability has a great potential too. Getting the most out of the possible thrives upon acceptance of the unwritten state of the future and what that future might bring. It reminds us that we are not alone in this, that each individual, no matter their function, level, position or silo, can contribute. Living the art of the possible against unpredicted outcomes has the potential benefit of engaging people as it shapes their future. Acceleration comes from vision, determination and dedication; from the courage to move away from following a plan or copying a model to continually shaping and re-shaping your future.

Regardless an organization’s past attempts and choices, the path of hard work is always a workable way out, a way to break the illusion of agility.

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(Thank you, Higher View, for your professional expertise in video creations and Jellylab for the graphics)

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The deliberate evolution of “Scrum – A Pocket Guide”

In 2013 I accidentally created a book, “Scrum – A Pocket Guide”. In 2018 I deliberately evolved my Scrum travel companion into a second edition.

I am humbled over the many unanticipated consequences of the accidental creation of my pocket guide to Scrum. I equally enjoyed updating my book to a second edition 5 years later. This time around it was a deliberate evolution rather than an accidental creation. The first batch will be available 16 January 2019 and soon after in all major formats (hard copy, Kindle, PDF, eBook, ePub) via all main channels worldwide.

Who would have figured that there was room for a second edition of my pocket guide to Scrum? Certainly as my book remained in the best-seller list of my publisher all the time?

For this deliberate endeavor, I considered how I described the Scrum Values in the first edition. In July 2016 they were added to the Scrum Guide. How I described the traditional 3 questions as a good, but optional tactic for the Daily Scrum. That too is now in the Scrum Guide, since November 2017.

Obviously and fortunately, that does not mean there are no further evolutions to mind.

Not only have I found new ways to express Scrum, while working with teams and executives, facilitating various classes, and connecting with practitioners at events. We also adopted terminology that better expresses the intentions of Scrum.

Beyond these intrinsic drivers for change, I observe how the balance of society keeps rapidly shifting from industrial (often physical) labor to digital (often virtual) work. In many domains of society, the unpredictability of work increases, drastically and continually. The need for the Agile paradigm is bigger than ever, and thus the value of the tangible framework of Scrum to help people and organizations increase their agility while addressing complex challenges in complex circumstances.

More and different people look for guidance and insights on their journey of Scrum, increasingly in domains beyond software development. Organizations look for clear insights in the simple rules of Scrum as their current ways of working fail them in the Complex Novelty space.

As the third Scrum wave is rising, the second edition of “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” remains the simple and straightforward compass for those that want to surf that wave. This second edition more than ever offers the foundational insights into Scrum for Complex Novelty players and their organizations to properly shape their Scrum.

Some of the updates in the second edition that stand out (a bit more than the other changes) within the preserved overall structure (of chapters and modules):

  • The definition of Agile is condensed to three key characteristics.
  • Observations are added on the post-chasm years of Agile.
  • The Scrum Game Board is slightly tweaked.
  • The forward-looking design of the Scrum events is expressed more clearly.
  • A Release Burn-down chart as a forecasting tactic is added.
  • The pictures, naming and descriptions of the included scaling tactics are improved.
  • The Scrum Glossary was updated.

I thank Blake McMillan ( and Dominik Maximini for their much-appreciated review of this second edition. I thank all translators for their past and on-going efforts to spread my words in different languages. Stay tuned for more news about translations.

If I have done a proper job of re-imagining my book, the second edition won’t feel like a new book. A word-by-word comparison would prove otherwise.

Enjoy reading!

independent Scrum Caretaker

(Thank you, Higher View, for your professional expertise in video creations)

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The accidental creation of “Scrum – A Pocket Guide”

Contrary to a common assumption, the creation of my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” (2013) was anything but a long-lived hope, ambition or dream. As I shared with Joe (Jochen) Krebs on his Agile.FM podcast, it was an accidental and unplanned endeavor.

By the end of January 2013 I was not only entering my last period of work at a large consulting company, I was also asked by Dutch publishing house Van Haren to review a manuscript of a book about Scrum.

That turned out more difficult than expected. I gave it a few attempts but each time I ended up not finishing the manuscript completely or fluently. I found myself changing and updating the content way too much. And -most of all- I found myself not recognizing and not liking much of what I was reading. I felt bad about it. I felt even worse for being unable to turn my findings into positive, constructive feedback that would be helpful for both the (unknown) author and the publisher.

After a few weeks of mentally running around in circles I decided to skip a detailed reading, but go through the manuscript once more and list my biggest findings. At the bottom of the still impressive list, my most important remark to the editor was to not mention my name as a reviewer in case it was decided to move forward with the publication.

Soon I received news that the publication was cancelled. It turned out that most reviewers were not too impressed. The publisher shared that they still saw value in a book about Scrum and asked how I envisioned a possible involvement. A quick consultation round within my network, including Ken Schwaber, helped me set aside the doubts whether I could write a book myself and got me into grabbing the opportunity.

I was completely unsure of what I was getting myself into, but I felt somewhat comforted by the idea that I had 2 full months to work on it (April-May 2013), the time between ending my work at the consulting company and starting my partnership with Ken at

I additionally found comfort in the fact that I had already published quite some articles and blog notes on Scrum. I assumed that I could easily assemble them into a book. How I was wrong! As soon as I had brought my previous publications together, the real work started, taking much, much more time than I ever could have anticipated. That time went into writing and rewriting, eliminating, simplifying, improving flow and cohesion, stepping back, waiting and getting back to it, aiming at barely enough descriptions to trigger the reader’s imagination. My first working title was “The path of Scrum (A comprehensive travel companion)“. That changed into „Scrum Pocket Guide (A smart travel companion)“ and ended up as “Scrum – A Pocket Guide (A Smart Travel Companion)”.

At the heart of my book are the (mandatory) rules of Scrum, from a deep understanding of the purpose of the rules, the main principles underlying Scrum and the Scrum Values. The essential rules are clearly distinguished from (possible) tactics to apply the rules. Some historical perspective to the becoming of Scrum (and Agile) is added, while I end the book reflecting on the future state of Scrum, the challenges that lie ahead of us. I consider “discovery” and “journey” the ultimate key words in the way I wanted to present the Scrum framework. Scrum is the compass that guides people and organizations on their journey of discovery in the land of complex challenges. Adopting and employing Scrum is in itself however also a journey of discovery. Hence the subtitle of my pocket guide to Scrum, “A Smart Travel Companion,” and the picture on the initial cover.

When visiting the office in Burlington-Boston in June 2013 I shared my final manuscript with Ken, and Ken kindly agreed to write a foreword, which he delivered in August (find it below).

Finally, in November 2013 I was able to announce that my book was released to the world, and available in all major formats (hard copy, Kindle, PDF, eBook, ePub) and via all main channels worldwide. If you have trouble finding my book, ask Google.

And my personal amazing journey as an author continued, with many unanticipated consequences of the accidental creation of my pocket guide to Scrum:

  • In the spring of 2016 I created a Dutch translation of my book asScrum Wegwijzer“.
  • In the fall of 2016, at the occasion of the 4th reprint, the cover of the English version got updated and I recorded a 3-minutes introduction of Scrum.
  • In 2017 (spring) Peter Götz and Uwe Schirmer created a German translation as “Scrum Taschenbuch“.
  • All that time, my book remained in the best-seller list of my publisher, Van Haren (the Netherlands).
  • In 2018 I have created a second edition of my book. This time around it was a deliberate evolution rather than an accidental creation.
  • In 2018 several people approached me to create translations of my book. Stay tuned for more news.

It is quite amazing and humbling that the result of my accidental work in 2013, after 5+ years, is more alive than ever, and that demand is big enough for a deliberate evolution into a second edition of the book. I hope you open up my book again now in a while, to find information that is most valuable to where you are on your journey at that time.


independent Scrum Caretaker

(Thank you, Higher View, for your professional expertise in video creations)

The foreword to “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” by Ken Schwaber, Scrum co-creator:

An outstanding accomplishment that simmers with intelligence.

Scrum – A Pocket Guide is an extraordinarily competent book. Gunther has described everything about Scrum in well-formed, clearly written descriptions that flow with insight, understanding, and perception. Yet, you are never struck by these attributes. You simply benefit from them, later thinking, “That was really, really helpful. I found what I needed to know, readily understood what I wanted, and wasn’t bothered by irrelevancies.”

I have struggled to write this foreword. I feel the foreword should be as well-written as the book it describes. In this case, that is hard. Read Gunther’s book. Read it in part, or read it in whole. You will be satisfied.

Scrum is simple, but complete and competent in addressing complex problems. Gunther’s pocket guide is complete and competent in addressing understanding a simple framework for addressing complex problems, Scrum.

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Springtime and work anniversaries

The many congratulations today reminded me of my most recent work anniversaries.

  • April 2013, five years ago. I started Ullizee-Inc. It was a huge step to abandon my safe position at Capgemini, even when it was to move to the home of Scrum.
  • April 2016, two years ago. Letting go of exclusively partnering with Ken Schwaber and working for was, if not just an even bigger step, certainly a more frightening one.
  • April 2018, today. Reflecting, looking back, those were decisions I ‚had‘ to take. For they were the most honorable decisions to take.

Looking back, I regret none of my job changes, despite the losses, the pain, the regret to find we were not in it together after all. They turned out very revealing experiences in many regards, not only professionally but certainly at a personal and human level (if ever those aspects can be separated). Looking back, those were the best decisions possible. Looking back, it leaves the misleading impression that it was all part of some bigger plan.

Looking back even further, I wonder. Quite some of my many job changes actually happened in springtime. More importantly probably, every single one was based on principles and values and was a forward-looking decision, in search of a different, if not better, future.

Over time, certainly, I started recognizing, appreciating and ultimately embracing that I am good at searching, not at finding, that I am good at travelling, not at arriving. Really good at not belonging too, an outsider. Wholeheartedly however. Walking the difficult path, facing the challenge to achieve what I may find I need to achieve without being part of formal, corporate or commercial structures anymore.

There are plenty of challenges, more than I ever will be able to handle, and probably even more deciding to be on my own 2 feet. Some challenges are known, most are not. What life is all about, right?

Allow me to thrive on deliberately emerging opportunities to bring value; to the individuals, the communities, the teams, the organizations I am grateful to work with.

With love

Scrum Caretaker
Eternal novice