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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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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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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

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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. 

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Scrum Day Europe 2016

Scrum Day Europe 2016In March 2012, Ken Schwaber and I agreed to organize a new Scrum event in the Netherlands. We wanted it to be a platform for the attendants, not for the speakers, for the organizers, or for sponsors. We wanted to crave space for people to talk, connect, share ideas, experiences and challenges on Scrum.

On 11 July 2012 the first Scrum Day Europe event happened. 130 People, one day, no booths, no sponsors, no vendors, a few keynotes and lots of small high-energy, collaborative sessions. An event, not a conference. Impact, not volume.

Imagine, on 7 July 2016 the 5th edition of the Scrum Day Europe event takes place. The location is the same: the fantastic Pakhuis De Zwijger in Amsterdam. The ambition and core concept are the same: interactivity, people, Scrum. I am sure that some day we will even stop projecting the names of us, the organizing parties, Prowareness and Scrum.org.

The theme of this 2016 edition is “The next iteration“. We will not only celebrate the 5th anniversary of the event, but we want to use the occasion to be grateful that Scrum has reached the age of 20. We want to celebrate by thinking about the future of Scrum. My opening keynote, “The future present of Scrum”, will introduce some thoughts. But, much more important, during the open sessions and interactive workshops, attendees have plenty of time to interact with each other and the presenters. Therefore we need the input from Scrum practitioners that want to share viewpoints and considerations.

If YOU have ideas to share on the future of Scrum, the future that lies beyond those teenage years, please send in a proposal for the call for papers via the website. What challenges do we face with Scrum? What do you consider crucial looking forward? How can people, teams, and organizations employ Scrum for software development more and better?

Propose a session. Or get your ticket to join us on this fabulous day for high-energy interactions on Scrum. Be quick. Registration is limited!

Thanks for your participation. Thanks for Scrum.
Gunther.
 
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Unwritten futures will unfold (adventures in Scrum)

At some occasions we stop to look back. It happens rather irregularly in my life, although regularly in Scrum. We see the trail we left behind. We notice landmarks, missed chances, forgotten events, achievements. Small or big. We cherish that we cannot undo it. And we look ahead of us, and think of the paths we might create moving forward understanding that our current actions continually determine our future.

Looking back, two fairly recent, symmetric landmarks stand out on my trail of Scrum created since 2003:

Looking back, I am humbled by the opportunities to travel, to speak, to think, to write, to publish a book, to collaborate with people across the globe. I thank anyone who crossed my path, regardless how they chose to interfere with me.

Just for a split second, I pride myself for having gone my ways, having made my choices. In that split second I see some impact on people, on individuals.

Looking forward, I shiver and doubt takes over again. I embrace the solitude that is often my companion and look forward to the future that, to date, is unwritten. There are many unknown futures that can unfold. In a short flash I realize that there are probably much more options than I know of. There are more paths than I can possibly identify.

Although the future will be nothing like the past, it’s fair to assume that my journey ahead will keep including Scrum. The exact directions however…

We can become what we don’t know we want to be.

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Scaled Professional Scrum – Nexus (Nederlandstalig)

Op de Scrum.org  website publiceerde ik recent de whitepaper “Scaled Professional Scrum – Rationale of the framework” (PDF).

Hierbij vindt de geïnteresseerde lezer dit document in (een licht aangepaste) Nederlandstalige versie terug als “Scaled Professional Scrum – Whitepaper (Nederlandstalig)”.

Achtergrond:

Scrum is een framework voor complexe productontwikkeling.

  • “Scaled Scrum” omvat elke implementatie van Scrum waarbij meer dan één team een product realiseert.
  • “Scaled Professional Scrum” omvat elke implementatie van scaled Scrum die bouwt op de fundamenten, principes en waardes van Scrum, met inbegrip van software development professionalisme.

Het framework voor Scaled Professional Scrum van Scrum.org biedt de ruggengraat waarop organisaties hun productontwikkeling op basis van Scrum kunnen opschalen mèt behoud van de eigenheid en de voordelen van Scrum. Het framework bundelt de practices, ervaringen en inzichten van een wereldwijd netwerk van experten, waaronder Ken Schwaber en Jeff Sutherland, co-creators van Scrum.

Het kloppend hart van Scaled Professional Scrum is een Nexus, een ‘exo-skeleton’ voor Scrum. Een Nexus implementeert het Scrum proces zodat 3-9 Scrum Teams zo efficiënt mogelijk gezamenlijk aan één product kunnen werken.

Nexus_Titled_Transp

Het Scaled Professional Scrum framework bevat 40+ practices. Elk van deze practices, indien met kennis en kunde geselecteerd en geïmplementeerd, kan de werking van een Nexus optimaliseren naar een specifieke context.

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Traces of Scrum (Scrum Days Poland)

On May 28 and 29 the first Scrum Days Poland were organized. A great team made it happen, gently directed by two friends of the Scrum.org trainer community, Kate Terlecka and Tomek Wlodarek. Kate and Tomek were so kind to invite me for two sessions at the event:

  • In the executive track I spoke about ‘Empirical Management’. Find the slide deck at SlideShare.
  • For the main event I was asked to do the closing keynote, which was about ‘Scaled Professional Scrum’. Find the slide deck at SlideShare.

Apart from these sessions, I was asked for some thoughts on Scrum by different people:

1/ On behalf of the organization, Paweł Feliński checked in with me on some topics with regards to Scrum, and the adoption of Scrum:

2/ Leszek Pietrzkiewicz went around asking some people, including myself, to ‘describe’ Scrum in one word:

3/ Leszek Pietrzkiewicz asked me ‘Why do Scrum?’

4/ Andy Brandt, another Polish Professional Scrum Trainer, asked me some questions about Product Ownership, questions he typically gets from the attendants of his PSPO classes:

I applaud the local organizers for setting up such a great conference. I am grateful for being at the conference, meeting people and expressing the above thoughts. Traces of Scrum.

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The “Scrum Practitioner Open” assessment

People and organizations regularly ask us at Scrum.org (1) for our ideas on scaling Scrum. They are keen to learn from Ken Schwaber‘s and our community‘s experience in scaling product development done through Scrum.
At the same time (2) we frequently get asked for an assessment that tests a person’s ability to join a Scrum Team, often in a scaled context, and be productive in terms of having practiced Scrum.

They are satisfied with our existing Professional series, offering rigorous help and insights to adopt, implement and grow Scrum and Scrum Teams. Additionally however they look for (1) help and inspiration in their scaling efforts and (2) courses and assessments for Professional Scrum Practitioners. As part of our on-going mission to improve the profession of software development and guide the maturing of Scrum, we have taken action. We are in the process of (1) launching a practitioner course to scale Professional Scrum and (2) we are revisiting our assessments accordingly:

  1. The “Scaled Professional Scrum for Practitioners” workshop introduces our framework for scaled Scrum. It introduces techniques and practices for horizontal scaling, amongst which defining and growing a Nexus, a networked structure of 3-9 Scrum Teams developing a product. Find the next planned session here.
  2. We have also created and made the “Scrum Practitioner Open” assessment available, free to anyone taking it. The Scrum Practitioner Open assessment provides anyone with the ability to assess their skill to productively participate in a Scrum Team that is developing increments of software. This assessment is particularly useful for people on one of multiple teams engaged in a scaled development initiative.

Scrum Practitioner OpenTry the Scrum Practitioner Open assessment. Our industry will benefit from an assessment testing the ability to develop software effectively in a Scrum Team, in a scaled context, and optimize common development issues based on the values of Scrum and the basis of empiricism and transparency.

Thank you for your participation.

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My OOP 2015 talk visualized

On January 29 2015, I was given the opportunity to explore the topic of “Empirical Management” at the OOP congress in Munich.

One of the attendants, Fabian Schiller, shared not only his satisfaction over my talk verbally with me afterwards, he was also so kind to share a visual representation of my session:
IMG_2046

You will recognize how the talk covered the smell over many adoption, scaling or transformation efforts, the (needed) focus on value, and empirically managing software upon evidence of value.

A huge thanks to Fabian, and the rest of the audience.

  • Find the slide deck of my presentation at SlideShare
  • Find an interview on the subject at InfoQ