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)“.

Traces of my presence at events (Selected Recordings 2012-2017)

I go to speak at events without commercial or monetary intentions. I primarily go to meet people and share ideas and connect with the Agile communities and Scrum practitioners. On my YouTube channel I have uploaded all recordings of my sessions that are available.

Following is a selection (so far):

2012 – Entering the public domain

In March 2012, at a trainer event, Ken Schwaber checked with me on the possibility of a yearly event about Scrum in the Netherlands. We moved it forward and the first Scrum Day Europe event happened on 11 July of that same year in Amsterdam. My session, “The emergence of the Customer-Oriented Enterprise”, wasn’t recorded, but you can check out my rehearsal of the presentation at the mentioned March trainer event.

Find the presentation at Slideshare.

Note: At the heart of the concepts presented (2012) is the belief I expressed in my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” (2013) and the ideas I am building on again in my “re-vers-ify” narrative (2017).

2013 – Scrum for the enterprise

At Capgemini I had already  worked with Ken Schwaber on Agile transformation ideas and Scrum at the enterprise level. As I entered as director for the Professional Series in June 2013, that was our first priority to elaborate on. We presented a first set of ideas at the second edition of the Scrum Day Europe event on 4 July 2013 in Amsterdam.

2014 – Evidence-Based Management

We started focusing more on the inspection part of “Agility Path”. We separated it into “Evidence-Based Management (of software)”. The plan was to present it jointly as the opening keynote of Scrum Day Europe 2014. However, as Ken had visum troubles, I presented it alone.

I had already written a paper about the core ideas of the concept presented. As ideas keep evolving, I started using the term ‘Empirical Management’ and am tending towards using ‘Exploratory Management’ nowadays.

2015 – Scaled Professional Scrum with Nexus

Our focus shifted from organizational transformations back to helping people and teams to employ Scrum. A lot of concerns existed around employing Scrum in the large. Figuring that ‘Scaled Scrum is still Scrum’ we probably ignored the need for too long. We created the Nexus framework, and described it in the Nexus Guide. I presented our approach to Scaled Professional Scrum with the Nexus framework as the opening keynote at Scrum Day Europe 2015.

2016 – The Future Present of Scrum

Scrum has been around since 1995. In the spring of 2015, Ken and I discussed how “Done” was a much misunderstood and certainly undervalued purpose of Scrum. Having created some blog notes about it, I used the 21st anniversary of Scrum (2016) to make it my core speaking topic, as “The Future Present of Scrum (Are we Done yet?)”.

2017 – re-vers-ify

In 2016 I continued my journey of Scrum as an independent Scrum Caretaker. The opportunity to work with diverse organisations and teams helped me consolidate over a decade of ideas, observations and beliefs of Scrum. I realized that all ideas I had been working on before and -certainly- after 2012 were connected. I created a narrative called “re-vers-ify”, or “re-imagining your Scrum to re-vers-ify your organization”.

Too often still the organisational waste, abuse and impediments, ruthlessly highlighted by Scrum, are ignored. Meanwhile organizations grasp for rhythm, focus and simplicity. Re-vers-ify shows a positive path forward, without falsely predicting the end result.

It became my speaking topic for 2017. I presented it as the opening keynote at the first ever Scrum Day Ukraine event in Kyiv on 11 March 2017.

Since 2003 countless people have told me I limit myself by ‘just’ doing Scrum. After 14 years, still, every day is like my first day of Scrum. Every day again Scrum turns out not a limitation but a gateway to options and possibilities to help people, teams and organizations.

As if there was a plan

1997, age 17. A flash. A poem. My parents -as always- respond with disheartening cynicism. My language teacher responds by sharing a poem he wrote at my age. His tone was spleen and Weltschmerz, where mine was (his words) ‘contemporary cynicism’. Sign o’ the times? My teacher points out that writing takes hard work, not just flashes. I never truly realised that until in 2013, age 43, I created my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide”. Who would have guessed that in 2017 my book would be available in 3 languages?

An earlier pivotal moment was professionally moving to the Netherlands by the end of 2010. It was the start of a fascinating time supporting many people and organisations in growing their agility through Scrum.

2012. Dots got connected. The sudden realization that it took time to become what I didn’t know I could be. As a happy outsider. To be happy as an outsider too. Good at searching, not at finding; at travelling, not at arriving. Those small contradictions of life, a force rather than a noose. Being a total introvert, a hermit; yet, travelling the world for people and their way of Scrum. A vocation. Some unspeakable need to… ?

That same outsider in me sees the changes in my professional sphere since abandoning my spot of perceived importance in 2016. It affects me to the extent that it affects interactions and collaboration. A sense of bemusement hits me every time I realize how people stopped caring, ceased sharing ideas. A sense of bemusement when individuals compete with no other aim than personal fame or fortune, denying even the mere possibility of any greater, shared good. Displaying a cynicism that rules not my world. Not my vocation. Scrum gave me much. I will keep sharing back.

I observe the effects of the growth, even dominance, of Scrum. Scrum became a commercial model for money making purposes. Or Scrum is just a job, a career. Or the much hoped-for doorway to that personal fame or fortune. The use of Scrum to create better products while humanising the workplace, with people at the heart of it all, is a vocation that not many share.

If cynicism ruled my world, I should have started my own elaborate licensing scheme by now. Go down the worn-out path that many tread, at best paved with good intentions, but blind for the toxic side-effects. I should have re-issued, re-packaged, re-evaluated existing ideas, concepts and theories, added an extra rule and a tacky badge. Run it past the magical, buzzword-combining hype-creator. Act like I am the King of the sea. And the land. And the air. Denying even the mere possibility of any greater, shared good. Just imagine.

New! Unique! Exclusive! Copyrighted! Trademarked! Licensed!

Rather… the pathfinder way. As in our personal lives. If cynicism ruled our world, the doors of serendipity would inevitably remain closed. We would not be open to explore and discover, but be fretting our days away. Now we find ourselves bothered with, but not jammed, over missed absences and unwanted presences. We ended stressing ourselves to death with 2 day jobs (and survived the loss of income). We bought a house we didn’t know we needed (although better reasons are imaginable why we bought it). We live the art of the possible life. Not all is regardless some less expected ways of life, some is because of it. Mind: easy it is not.

We live, bounce, struggle, fight, survive, suffer, prosper, thrive, enjoy, recover, stumble more. At times we look back. With amazement. We see the events and what connects them. The achievements once unimaginable. The signs marking beginnings and endings. Growing a beard. We see the choices we made. And we smile. It looks as if there was a plan. But we walk backwards. We reel the string laid in this labyrinth. We grow younger every year. We have much to figure out.

Anger can fuel you. Dissent can too. Don’t let it turn into an endstate, a dead-stop of cynicism as your final destination. Invoke fusion to happen, beyond right, beyond wrong. Open seas rise in front of you all the time. You can set sail. Or stay at home.

Warm regards
A failing clown. No joker.

What are you defining as „Done“?

Agility is why most organizations adopt Scrum.

The actual agility an organization achieves is rooted in how sophisticated Scrum is being employed. Beyond the mere adoption of Scrum, enterprise agility is much accelerated if the organization re-emerges its structures around Scrum. With re-vers-ify I remind people that structures need to be re-imagined, rather than predicted or copied, often upon re-imagining Scrum.

Through Scrum, teams and organizations create, deliver, maintain and evolve great products and services. Through Scrum, teams and organizations create the opportunity of potentially releasing a version of product no later than by the end of each Sprint, where a Sprint takes no more than 4 weeks, and often less. This provides an organization with foundational agility, the potential to thrive on its market, while creating a motivating working environment.

The state of an Increment of product by the end of a Sprint is named “Done” in Scrum.

In order for everyone to understand what “Done” means, teams have a definition of Done in place. The definition of Done holds the shared understanding of what it means for work to be complete, and ensures transparency over the completeness of the work.

At several points in time this provides crucial clarity:

  • When forecasting work deemed feasible for a Sprint.
  • When assessing whether work on Product Backlog items and the product Increment is complete.
  • Progress of development throughout a Sprint.
  • When considering the opportunistic value of the product functionality offered in the Increment (not having to turn the inspection into a quality interrogation).

Without a definition of Done, Scrum cannot be applied effectively.

Ideally, a professional organization defines quality requirements to be incorporated into a product. Regardless, Scrum professionals adhere to an appropriate definition of Done. Always. No undone work is part of the Increment. No undone work is put into production. Ever. Meanwhile committed professional teams keep looking for ways to improve product quality as reflected in the definition of Done.

Many teams across the world seem to be unable to create actually releasable Increments of product. Code is entered, and potentially tested, within a team. But the actual Increment remains scattered and hidden in long-lived branches. Or the work delivered at the end of a Sprint still needs to be integrated with fellow product teams. Or -even worse- it is to be shipped to different departments for that purpose. In those cases Scrum reveals important information over critical organisational impediments that prevent the teams from creating actually releasable versions of product. There is a substantial amount of “Undone Time”, the time it takes to go from an undone piece of work to a Done Increment. This time impedes the agility that the organisation desperately needs. It kills the option of opportunistic releases.

The purpose of a Sprint in Scrum is not to just result in a piece of work that can be shipped to another team, functional group or department. An Increment is expected to be in a useable condition, ready for production. When released, nothing breaks. No unpredictable amounts of open work accumulate in the system, waiting to be handled at some unknown point in time, meanwhile corrupting everybody’s understanding of the progress and quality. The actual release decision depends on how useful the product is, a decision that lies with the Product Owner, the sole representative of users and stakeholders to the Development Team(s).

At least an Increment is integrated across teams and systems to have it in a production-deployable state. Most often teams define as “Done” all the development activities (of which in general a lot of testing) to be performed to consider an Increment as “Releasable”.

Imagine however any non-software industry. Can you imagine ‘quality’ being expressed in terms of the machines, tools and practices to be used? Is this not ‘how’ to create quality, but not a definition of quality?

Quality is defined through the characteristics of a product.

Quality is in the qualities that a product should exhibit. A “Done” product in Scrum is not just a product on which rigorously proper development standards were applied, and therefore can be released. A “Done” product is a product that exhibits your organization’s definition of product qualities.

Valuable Increments are at the heart of Scrum, as I already indicated in my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” (2013).

Shifting the balance toward creating Valuable Increments is truly enacting Scrum, and living by the highest Agile principle:

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software (bold-indication by me).

A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value (bold-indication by me).

So, do you have a definition of Done? If so, what are you defining as “Done”? Is it ‘Releasable’, or ‘Valuable’? Is every Increment you create valuable? Why not? Does your Scrum Master know? Your management? And what are you doing about it?


Introducing re-vers-ify to the PMI Poland

wywiad z ekspertem od Scruma, Guntherem Verheyenem, który opowie o podejściu organizacji do wprowadzania zwinnych metod pracy

I was invited for the 4th Annual PMI event in Wroclaw (Poland) on 19 May 2017 to do the opening keynote. I introduced the narrative of “re-vers-ify” (re-imagining your Scrum to re-vers-ify your organisation).

During the day I was interviewed by Paulina Szczepaniak about “re-vers-ify” for the international PMI magazine.

If you want to read more about re-vers-ify, download the full magazine at the Strefa PMI website, or here on my blog. Find my article on page 32.

A daily Scrum Master BONUS podcast on re-vers-ify

The conversations I had with Vasco Duarte about Scrum, Scrum Masters and Scrum Master challenges were broadcasted in the week of 17-21 April 2017.

As an extension Vasco asked me to clarify the ideas I had expressed as “re.vers.ify“. Our conversation has been broadcasted on 21 May 2017 and is NOW AVAILABLE at the Scrum Master Toolbox website.

In “re.vers.ify“ I have consolidated over a decade of experience, ideas, beliefs and observations of Scrum and organisational transformation through Scrum (or the lack thereof). Re.vers.ify is an act, an act of simplicity, rhythm and focus. Re.vers.ify is a way for people to re.imagine their Scrum, and deliberately re-emerge the structures of their organisation. Re.vers.ify helps people and organisations shape the third Scrum wave.