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Surprise. I am no wizard. Agile nor Scrum.

I regularly get inquiries from people reaching out for instructions, assistance, or other forms of guidance to learn about Scrum, pass exams, become a trainer, or advance their career towards “Agile coach”.
Surprise. I am no wizard. I do not have the magical powers that would be required.

I really don’t want to go into people’s motivation to approach me with those desires (‘free’ seems to be a recurring theme), but I can share my personal and professional stance and considerations.

(1) Honestly, I don’t know what an “Agile Coach” is or does. Not even attending a “Coaching Stance” class by the Agile Coaching Institute in 2012 has helped me in that regard. The same goes for having worked with many people holding the title. I have never called myself that and I have never used the label in my profile, CV, or service offerings, let alone that I would have the powers to turn somebody into it.

Looking back on the 16+ years that have passed since I started applying the powerful combination of Scrum and eXtreme Programming in 2003, I realize I only ‘had’ to start thinking about and explaining what ‘Agile’ might mean, or what an “Agile Coach” is, since 2010-2011 (7 years later). I don’t think it is a coincidence that this is when I started engaging with large companies and the wave of ‘scale’ sweeping my world, the time when ‘Agile’ became a corporate thing. I still can’t clearly explain what an “Agile Coach” is or does.

(2) I have always been and am still all about Scrum. It makes transparent what I stand for, it makes tangible and actionable the services I offer and bring, and it includes plenty of room and openness for contextual customizations. As Scrum is an open framework, an organization can standardize on Scrum and substantially increase their agility without industrializing their Scrum to death.

The continuous balancing act of a Scrum Master, including the coaching aspect

(3) I don’t create them for that reason, but I am humbled when people say my writings (books, articles, papers) or my classes were useful in achieving a certification, in becoming a trainer, or in passing some other milestone. I am comforted knowing that those individuals did the actual work. They might have gotten some insights and language from me, but that’s about it. I did not hold their pen or control their brain. It is likely that they struggled, fell, got back up, failed, tried again. Maybe along the road they took a break, read more, gained more experience with Scrum, and demonstrated other forms of patience, persistence, and belief.

The many requests from people that seem to believe that I can ‘make’ them a trainer or ‘make’ them achieve a certification leave me flabbergasted. Surprise. I CANNOT. And even if I could, I wouldn’t. It would not be helpful for the requestor’s autonomy and development.
I don’t know whether it has anything to do with the current covid-crisis sweeping the planet, but I worry seriously how this seems an obsession for quite some people.

On a personal note, I want to share that my journey of Scrum started in 2003. And I spent 7 years (seven!) of just applying Scrum, and enjoying how it helped deliver great results, make users and consumers happy, and observe highly engaged teams enjoying their work. During that time, I had no idea about certifications, grades, or career moves, and I can honestly say that I couldn’t care less. It was only by accident in 2010-2011 that I became what I didn’t know I wanted to be. Looking back it still feels odd. Although it may look as if there was a plan, there wasn’t.

Even after more than 16 years of this stuff, I am no expert. Nor am I tired of Scrum. Not even close. I am an eternal novice. There is so much to learn. There are so many ways to consider and explain Scrum, even having published two books and considering two more books as we speak.

I welcome everybody to join my classes or workshops to find out how I express Scrum, or attend the many events and webinars I participate in, check out my YouTube channel, hire me for some consulting and coaching. I will do my best to help you understand Scrum, its purpose and design, how to get the most out of it, and learn to think for yourself in terms of Scrum. Regardless of how much I care however, I cannot ‘make’ anyone a trainer, a Scrum Master, Product Owner, or “Agile Coach”. I cannot ‘make’ anyone pass some certification assessment or exam. That is not in my powers (if even that would be helpful). I am no wizard. I have no magic, some empathy at most.

And, like it or not, the primary source of learning about Scrum is from practice, from doing Scrum. It is the way to learn Scrum, beyond learning about Scrum. There is a huge difference.

Yours truly
Gunther
independent Scrum Caretaker

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Surprise. I am no Scrum wizard.

I don’t create them for that reason, but I am humbled when people say my works (books, articles, papers) were useful in passing certification assessments or in becoming a trainer. I am truly humbled because I know that those individuals did the actual work. They might have gotten some insights and language from my works, but that’s about it. It is more likely that they struggled, fell, got back up, failed, tried again. Maybe along the road they took a break, read more, gained more experience with Scrum, and demonstrated other forms of patience, persistence, and belief.

The many requests from people that seem to believe that I can ‘make’ them a trainer or ‘make’ them achieve a certification leave me flabbergasted.

(Surprise: I CANNOT. And even if I could, I wouldn’t)

I don’t know whether it has anything to do with the current crisis sweeping the planet, but I worry seriously how this seems an obsession for quite some people.

On a personal note, I want to share that my journey of Scrum started in 2003. And I spent 7 years (seven!) of just applying Scrum, and enjoying how it helped deliver great results, make users and consumers happy, and see highly engaged teams enjoying their work. I had no idea about certifications, grades, or career moves. It was only by accident in 2010-2011 that I became what I didn’t know I wanted to be. Looking back it still feels odd. Although it may look as if there was a plan, there wasn’t.

Even after more than 16 years of this stuff, I am no expert. Nor am I tired of it. Not even close. There is so much to learn. I am an eternal novice. There are so many ways to consider and explain Scrum.

I welcome everybody to join my classes or workshops to find out how I express Scrum, or attend the many webinars I participate in, check out my YouTube channel, hire me for some consulting and coaching. I will do my best to help you understand Scrum, its purpose and design, and learn to think for yourself in terms of Scrum. Regardless of how much I care however, I cannot ‘make’ anyone a trainer or ‘make’ anyone pass some certification assessment. That is not in my powers (if even that would be helpful). I am no wizard. I have no magic, empathy at most.

Yours truly
Gunther
independent Scrum Caretaker

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Ways to play Scrum

Scrum.org-Logo-CirclesIn our Professional Scrum classes we also talk about the topics of User Stories, Planning Poker and (Daily) Stand-up meetings. Some attendants have never heard of it. Some have never practiced it. Some are convinced, or have been instructed, that Scrum says these are mandatory to do.

I have grown my own little pattern to work with a class whenever we run into one of these topics during my classes.

  1. I start by asking what Scrum actually says on the practice. In general, people don’t know or are not sure, and conclude that Scrum says nothing about it.
  2. I ask where the practice then does come from, if it’s not Scrum. Few people know that it is eXtreme Programming.
  3. I end up by saying that, despite the XP origins, we do support them in many cases as they represent good ways to play Scrum, they are good practices to chose from. And that this is the reason why we cover them in the course; to inspire people with different options to play Scrum.

But, they are not mandatory from the Scrum framework described in the Scrum Guide:

  • Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace C16614_fUser Stories, written on story cards, are the practice in Extreme Programming to hold and describe requirements from a user perspective. Bill Wake, author of ‘eXtreme Programming Explored’, suggested the ‘INVEST’ acronym as a simple way to remember and assess whether or not a User Story is well formed.
    A Scrum Product Backlog though serves to provide transparency to all work that a Scrum Team needs to do, which might be more than only functional requirements. The obligation, from Scrum, to use the User Story-format would endanger forgetting other important work to be undertaken, or it might force teams spending more time and energy on using the ‘right’ format, thus creating waste. However, for functional items on the Product Backlog, User Stories may be very good.
  • Planning Poker was invented by James Grenning during an eXtreme Programming project where he suffered from having to spend much, much time on producing estimates.
    In Scrum, estimates are to be created by the Development Team and, although not mandatory, Planning Poker is a good technique to do that. It leads to more honest estimates from a complete team. But don’t forget that the intention is to invoke an honest conversation over the estimates. Because that results in a good understanding of the work attached to implementing the discussed item.
  • Daily Stand-up are described in Extreme Programming, which recommended participants stand up to encourage keeping the meeting short.
    Scrum describes this meeting as the Daily Scrum, but doesn’t oblige to do it standing up. However, it is a good idea to do, especially to keep the time-box of 15 minutes.

That is often a relief to students, knowing that it is not mandatory. And I am glad I can help people. I am glad they see more opportunities to discover their own best way to play Scrum respecting the intentions and design of Scrum. They see better how Scrum can help teams and organizations emerge their own process. These ways to play Scrum in teams’ specific contexts turn the selected good practice into best practices.

Scrum, after all, can be called a ‘process’, but it’s a servant process, not a commanding process.

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Writing Scrum Writings

On top of managing the agile offering of Capgemini (Dutch description here) as a Product Owner and mentoring our Scrum coaches and Scrum trainers I also give Professional Scrum trainings.

Scrum.org-Logo_with_taglineAfter my classes I send out a thank you to the participants in which I include some guidelines to prepare for the online assessment they get access to. I also point people to some background readings. Over time I have created a small library of blog notes I’ve written from which I can select some to refer attendants to for additional information on top of the courseware:

I always pick some of following topics to add:

Fyi. have a look at the most beautiful location I have ever trained in.