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 Scrum.org 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

Gunther
Scrum Caretaker
Eternal novice

Creating opportunities to deliver value (as an Independent Scrum Caretaker)

I have wandered the fascinating realms of IT, technology and software development since graduating in 1992, except for the years of running a bookstore (1996-1999). I discovered an Agile way of working through eXtreme Programming and Scrum in 2003. It became my purpose, my belief and my core; spreading the Agile paradigm to help people create better products and humanize their workplace.

After a career as a consultant (2001-2013) and spending 3 years working exclusively at Scrum.org as partner to Ken Schwaber, in 2016 I decided to further my path as an independent Scrum Caretaker; a connector, writer, speaker, humanizer.

I’ve come to accept the difficulty of grasping what this holds. I understand the difficulty when people offer me positions and assignments, assuming I am desperate (for money, status, work). Regardless, through my self-chosen ‘title’ I consider the areas through which to deliver value to the world, to help that world become a better place to live and to work in.

  • Classes“: Facilitating people’s knowledge and insights in Scrum through Professional Scrum Master and Professional Scrum Product Owner classes, and custom workshops.
  • Events“: Attending and speaking at events.
  • Writing“: Creating papers, a new book and blog notes (reproduced at some other channels).
  • Consulting“: Working with teams and organizations, upon the non-negotiable requirements that it must be personal, about Scrum and serious.

Every activity involves plenty of hours of devising the right words and even many more hours of silent reflection, travelling mental cobblestone labyrinths. I don’t look for money for every single activity in every single service area. Context prevails.

From my standard offer of services:

Through my work I have come to appreciate the uniqueness of every person, team, department and organisation. It has inspired me to move away from fixed approaches. (…) I don’t require specific task descriptions. I require no title. I don’t post my assignments or expose the name of your organisation, unless you explicitly allow or ask me to do so.

Through the initiative of the Scrum Caretakers meetups, I see my experience confirmed that it is not easy being a Scrum Caretaker. It takes quite some intrinsic motivation, belief and dedication (a purpose) to give up (paid) time for mere collaboration on open-ended topics that rarely serve a commercial purpose. It did get me in touch with a lot of non-usuals suspects, outside of the threaded paths of ‘Agile’. The sheer beauty of that experience makes up for a lot of the sacrifices.

I am gratified for the opportunities I stumbled into through my years at work. It served me well in becoming what I didn’t know I wanted (or was able) to be. Most dots only got connected in retrospect, still making it seem as if there was a plan. There wasn’t. In general I had no clue. I still haven’t. But becoming an independent Scrum Caretaker did help me shift towards creating opportunities to deliver value, and help more people deliver value. Reciprocity.

Re-vers-ify (re-imagine your Scrum to re-vers-ify your organization)

Agility is why organizations adopt Scrum.

Organizations suffer as they fail to act with agility through product releases, on the market, for users and consumers, facing competitors. Scrum is mandated and it is overlooked that the agility demonstrated outwardly also depends on the setup of internal structures.

Organisational rigidity is the result when people are separated in functional silos, when collaboration is instructed through hand-overs and governance, when go-see management is not practiced, when the daily work has no room for discontinuous innovation. Basically, such rigidity is the anti-thesis of Agile and impedes outward agility.

Scrum is a simple framework for complex product delivery. Scrum thrives on the self-organizing capabilities of collaboractive people creating finished versions of product in short cycles, called Sprints. Scrum is in itself agnostic of internal structures, positions, titles, hierarchies. Scrum has no mandatory rules for organisational constructs. Scrum is simple, not easy. The simple rules and roles of Scrum are most often twisted and broken to fit an existing organization. Yet, it is nearly impossible to benefit really from adopting Scrum without updating the internal operating systems.

The sensible and courageous way forward is to re-vers-ify, to re-imagine your Scrum to re-emerge your organization. It is a path, not the destination. The destination, an updated organization, is unknown, remains to be discovered.

  • Use Product Backlog as the single plan for one (1) meaningful initiative (project/product/service). Slice the initiative if it is too big.
  • Reset the accountabilities for the selected initiative to Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development Team(s).
  • Facilitate the eco-system with tools, infrastructure and a (Scrum) team zone in order for them to create sashimi releases. A controlled and automated deployment pipeline is certainly a much needed step forward.
  • Repeat, grow, learn, expand.

“Re-vers-ify” is a narrative to help people re-invent their organizations; an invitation for people to re-imagine their Scrum to re-vers-ify their organization. Over the course of 2017 I have introduced re-vers-ify in several ways. I have now highlighted the essence in a short movie. It takes only slightly over 3 minutes of your time. Enjoy!

If you have more time to spend, consider reading my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide (A smart travel companion)“. It ends with following belief:

Scrum, a simple framework for complex product delivery

Much has been said, is being said, and will be said about Scrum, the most adopted Agile process.

Scrum, in the end, is a simple framework for complex product delivery. Scrum has a limited set of mandatory rules and roles. They all serve to create an environment within which people inspect their work regularly, so they can adapt. Scrum is an open framework in the sense that people can employ a variety of specific practices. When these practices are employed well, the integral result is still… Scrum.

Despite/due to its popularity and simplicity, much misunderstandings exist. I highlighted the essence of the Scrum framework in a short movie. It takes less than 3 minutes of your time. Enjoy!

If you have more time to spend, consider reading my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide (A smart travel companion)“.

The future of Agile (is in the small)

Where Agile is synonymous to ‘adaptive’, organizational adaptiveness comes through small, networked communities and ecosystems collaborating.

This will happen inside organizations, and across organizations. For many organizations the challenge is how to adopt such organizational setup. It is a critical challenge because it is the only way to wake up from the latent coma caused by size, cash and rigid structures. Many large organizations, in their current state, are dead already.

In 2013 I created the book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide (A smart travel companion)“, helping people restore, update or confirm their understanding of Scrum. I am currently working on a new book on the current state and the future value of ‘Agile’.

Find my thoughts on how the future of Agile is actually in the small in a short movie. It takes less than 2 minutes of your time. Enjoy!

Scrum Master, the modern manager

A Scrum Master is rarely seen, let alone enacted, as a management role. The role however does show us how a modern manager would act.

Scrum Master, as a modern manager, fosters an environment of safety. An environment of safety is an environment in which people, from a traditional point of view, act in a highly unsafe way; speaking up, challenging, sharing, thinking, pausing, collaborating, deviating, creating, innovating.

In the past I have already published my views on how Scrum Master is a manager. I have now highlighted the essence of the Scrum Master role in a short movie. It takes less than 3 minutes of your time. Enjoy!

If you have more time to spend, consider reading my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide (A smart travel companion)“.

Promoting Professional Scrum (in Ukraine)

In March 2017 I enjoyed being in Kyiv (Ukraine) to open the first Scrum Day Ukraine, introducing “re-vers-ify“.

I am continuing to support my local friends of Scrum, Slava Moskalenko and Bogdan Misyura (Brain Rain UA) in promoting Professional Scrum in their region. On 27-28 April we organise a Professional Scrum Product Owner class in Kyiv. Join if you want to explore the diverse aspects of product ownership in Scrum!

With ‘Professional Scrum‘ we promote the use of Scrum beyond the mere following of the formal ceremonies (‘mechanical Scrum’), but employing Scrum from an understanding of the underlying values and principles. In our Professional Scrum workshops we follow the difficult path of helping people explore how to build on the empiricism of Scrum, the intelligence of people and the Scrum Values, to tackle difficult and complex challenges. The easy path would be to be instructors, treat attendants as mindless robots and give people easy black/white solutions.