Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Brett Palmer's Journey to Become a Certified Scrum Trainer

March 21, 2017 - I send a job offer to Brett Palmer as full-time agile coach.

March 23,2017 - Brett declines the full-time offer, and requests a contract opportunity.

March 25, 2017 - I reply that any 1099 work will not include my investment and support for the CST. I wrote:

I'm going to think some more about what this means on the CST process, though, given the cost and investment and the network I bring for that. I'm not there yet if it's not full-time (which is what the Scrum Alliance was trying to help and address with the ECST program).  
The CST is such a lure towards money that most would rather train full time rather than train and coach. Even if training & coaching, it's hard to find where to draw the line on train vs long term investment in the company, community, etc.  
For example, train four times a month and coach the rest? Train twice, coach most and spend some time visiting clients, on free coaching calls, supporting a and running an other low-margin classes? 
I feel strongly the latter is best for individuals, teams and companies in our area long term. Results will take time, but I don't see any other way. 
I can't, in good conscience, expect an independent to give up a good income from training just for what I think is "best for the company and community." It doesn't make short term economic sense. That's why I made stock options/ownership part of the offer.

April 6, 2017 - Brett accepts the initial full-time offer, stating among other things:

Your offer is really quite generous, and says a lot of your confidence in me...I will do everything possible in my capacity to help grow the R9 brand...my loyalty now is R9.

May 13, 2017 - Arranged co-train for Brett with CST #1. Two days off and direct cost of $15,552.00.

June 7, 2017 - Arranged co-train for Brett with CST #2. Three days off and travel costs.

July 16, 2017 - Arranged co-train for Brett with CST #3. Four days off and travel costs.

July 23, 2017 - Second co-train for Brett with CST #2. Three days off and travel costs.

July 30, 2017 - Second co-train for Brett with CST #3. Three days off and travel costs.

August 1, 2017 - Arranged co-train for Brett with CST #4. Five days off and travel costs.

August 21, 2017 - Arranged co-train for Brett with CST #5. Two days off and direct costs of $11,004.

Summer and Fall, 2017 - Brett had over 7 weeks of training, all of which helped to present him as the best candidate possible. This includes CSD, multiple CAL, Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), Lean Kanban University and ORSC certifications. Brett had over 40 days of co-training, all paid for as an FTE. Brett is not billable for majority of the time.

October 24, 2017 - November 1, 2017 - Brett's trip to Dublin, Ireland for the Scrum Gathering. He does not pass the Trainer Approval Committee (TAC).

December, 2017 - Brett submits an expense report totaling over $30,000.

April 13 - 19, 2018 - Brett travels to Minneapolis Scrum Gathering, passes the TAC.

April 22, 2018 - Brett Palmer quits Rocket Nine Solutions.

Brett is now independent, doing business as "Brett Palmer & Associates" with two classes a week, including Orange County. He has a "code of conduct" that "anyone who violates this code of conduct may be sanctioned."

Saturday, May 02, 2020

The Biggest Lesson of the Last Five Years

Five years ago I was deep in a agile transformation at what would become Dell Technologies, kicking off another transformation that would be, in my opinion, one of the most successful, mature growth paths I've seen teams on, and beginning to dig into the paradigm shift of LeSS.

But those would pale in comparison to the larger, more painful lessons I would learn.

I would be lied to and betrayed by someone I knew in the agile community for years, someone I helped mentor. This cost me directly over $100,000, and a lost opportunity costs of another $100,000 - $200,000, as well as a business strategy delay of two years. I wish I could say I was strong enough to not have emotional costs as well.

This terrible experience lead me to change long-held beliefs. Based on it, I no longer believe in:
 - Theory Y. This person had self-interest over team or company and planned and executed on it over a long time. As soon as he had his Certified Scrum Trainer credential, he quit within within weeks.
 - The Retrospective Prime Directive. To still believe this would mean that he "did his very best" over the course of over a year being invested in, given numerous certifications (CAL, CSD, LKU and more), over $30,000 of direct expenses including travel to the Dublin Scrum Gathering and several other cities across the US, and then give notice right after becoming a CST...THAT is very best? If so, I would hate to see his worst, or even his average. Now, it might be that it was his "best" performance, pretending to be a team-player, loyal employee and that he would pay back this trust and investment, but I don't think that's what is meant.
 - Self-organization and self-management. Although I still believe in these, it is now only within the boundaries of ethical people of sound mind. Do you really believe self-management works towards society's best with criminals? Or with people that are mentally unstable? It just amplifies the bad.
 - Teal and Green Organizations. If someone is manipulative, nefarious, scheming, then they use those to bend others to their will, either through persuasion, guilt, pressure, lying or other negative approaches for their own benefit and the detriment of their team and organization. It would only be, sadly, through traditional controlling tools of signed contracts, layers on retainer, and other threatening tools with repercussions that would stop a selfish person from taking everything they can.
 - Community that sticks up for each other. One of my first surprises what that another small agile training company began using this new CST right after he left my company. "An obvious oversight, for sure. I'll call to let them know about the situation, and they'll correct it right away, letting him know its not right." Nope. Their President will say that she won't "get involved." Ummmm...you're already involved because you're profiting off of someone that I've spent all the time and money to become a CST, apparently for your classes in Birmingham, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Nice.

I'll share the other, less painful, lessons learned later this week, including losing several hundred thousand dollars. Yes, less painful. Losing that much money wasn't as painful as what my ex-employee, and his new primary training company, did to me.


Saturday, May 02, 2015

We are Creating Agile Orphans

This is a draft, but I wanted to share it with others before the Scrum Gathering. 

It is my premise that the invisible hand of self-interest is undermining our work in the marketplace.

While that statement may be true in a Capitalistic economy in general (Enron, Pharmaceutical sales, Big Tobacco, oil spills), it should not be acceptable in the agile community.

We are values driven.

The full value stream for agile adoptions is not just CSM training. It is the successful transformation of the companies in our world.

Those who only train and/or staff, leave agile orphans - those who don’t know enough, have no support, no community and no covering.

We are obligated to act on the full value stream if we want to change the world of work.

As a profession, our entry level number of Certified ScrumMasters moving to the next level of growth and maturity (the CSP) drops over 99%.... 99%!

Those making it to becoming a coach (CSC) - 0.02%

Yet we incentivize this. Trainers, for the most part, make money per student. So, more students = more money. We don't limit the number of classes. We don't even limit the class size, though most agree that 20 is the limit, and the most credible study of class size found the ideal to be 13 - 17. Even if not, we are smart enough to know that self-interest doesn’t give good, long-term results. And shouldn’t we, as management consultants, know and expect that?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Scrum - Three Strikes and You're Out!

My rule for adopting Scrum at your organization is three strikes and you're out.

That is, if you say you're doing Scrum, but not following one of the core assumptions, you can get by, and you'll probably get very good results that help gain support to address and fix the comprimises.

If you're breaking two core rules of Scrum, that's definitely not good, but perhaps you can still get some value for the compromises that you are making. And with some value and time, maybe you'll get support to address these shortcomings.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Career Kaizen #7 - The Scrum Values

This week we'll explore the Scrum values a bit.

Monday - Courage

I share a story in my classes about courage. Some years ago, I and my family were visiting Yellowstone National Park. There are bears in Yellowstone, and when we first saw them, I was a bit nervous. I checked to make sure the car doors were securely locked and all windows were up. We were safe. But, just a few weeks later, an old couple came across a bear while on a hike in Yellowstone. It was a mother bear, and in between the couple and the bear was the cub. From 100 yards away, the bear charged. Now, some say that courage is the absence of fear, but I think you should be fearful of a charging bear. It's the appropriate response. I heard another definition of courage from Erwin McManus that resonated much more deeply - "courage is the absence of self for the sake of others". In that moment when the bear was charging, the man turned to his wife and said "Run!", but he stayed put. The husband was killed by the bear, but the wife had enough time to hide behind a log and play dead. The bear still found her. Actually picked her up by her backpack, but then dropped her, and walked off. The husband, in my opinion, was the perfect example of courage - absence of self for the sake of others.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

The One Thing I'd Add to the Agile Manifesto

In class yesterday, someone asked if the Agile Manifesto was still considered enough. This was an unusually advanced group of Scrum Product Owners, so we spent some time on it.

My first answer was "No," and that I haven't seen anything needed to do excellent work that wasn't a part of it.

But then, I made the mistake of continuing to think about it over lunch. Thinking...such a bad idea. :-)

I recalled how I had written my Work Manifesto many years earlier. Why?

I thought of how my Scrum Master classes often watches Daniel Pink's TED talk on what motivates employees. Why? Partly to say that Scrum takes care of two of the three things Pink says are needed, but that not this one thing.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Career Kaizen #6 - 5 Agile Sayings to Empower Your Team's Success

This week we'll walk through some common sayings in agile and explore their meaning a bit.

Monday - The Wisdom of And

Even if you are an expert, you'll benefit from hearing
and getting input from others.
When I worked at BigVisible, one of their coach's conference themes was "The Wisdom of And." This is drawn from Jim Collins work when he talks about the wisdom of "and" and the tyranny of the "or". The point is that there are often more choices available to just either/or choices, sometimes called "sucker's choices" or "false polarity," if neither option in its entirety or alone gives everyone what they're wanting. For example, "Well, we can either go over budget to build X, or we can lose all our best customers to the competition." That's a fool's choice. There's something in the middle.

If a group is sitting around a table, the best option doesn't lie with one person. It more likely lies somewhere in the middle of the table. Even if you are an expert, you'll benefit from hearing and getting input from others.

To get more input from a quiet group, ask questions such as "Anything else on this to consider?" "Are there other options?" "Any unanswered questions?" "What are we overlooking?" "What assumptions does this depend on?" "Is there another approach?" "How could this fail?" "Let's get at least two options on the board for this issue."

And you can control difficult people by replying to their solution with, "I'm sure that's a great option, I just want to hear what others have to say." or "Yes, and I'd like to just gather additional information and input."

Homework: Practice replying to positions and opinions with "Yes, and…" instead of "Yes, but…"


Tuesday - Art of the Possible

We often think things are impossible, but in actuality are possible and likely take a lot of hard work and a long time.

For example, for many of you, running a marathon might seem impossible. It might be if it were this weekend, but if it were six months away, and you started getting up in the morning and lacing up the shoes...given enough time and effort, you could do it. And if you did, what a sesnse of accomplishment that would be. It's a big deal. That's why people put the sticker on the back of their cars with 26.2. They don't put stickers that say "I walked around the block today." That's no big deal.

Most anything important, that's of value, takes some investment of time and effort. And that journey is actually part of what changes you, grows your character, and gives you a story worth telling, a story that others want to hear.

Homework: Watch the amazing transformation of a man who commits to running the Boston marathon:



Wednesday - No one of us is as smart as all of us.

Scrum depends on team. If the team isn't all in, if they're not involved in estimating the work, collaborating with the Product Owner on what, why and options in the requirements, and if they're not committing to the work, then we are missing a lot of the magic. When it comes to ideas, options on approaches, the architecture and more, no one person has all the answers. No one person is as smart as everyone else put together. One person might have more knowledge in a particular area, but others can learn that, too.  I've been amazed at how many times the new person on the team has had the best idea.

The same is true for us. On our own personal journey, on our own goals or challenges, we'll always benefit from hearing ideas from others, getting feedback, hearing their stories. We're built for community. Help yourself by getting connected in the local or online agile communities or coaching circles.

Homework: Do a quick search for local meetings or meet-ups for agile, Scrum, project or product managers, lean start-up or business sector you're in, and do the same for groups on LinkedIn, Yahoo, Facebook and other social sites. See anything interesting?


Thursday - Create your own Reality

We need to empower our teams, our team members, and
ourselves that we can create the reality we want
When I worked at Rally, this was one of their core values and sayings. And they lived it. If you felt that you needed something to do your job, if you wanted to grow into another role, they supported you in creating that reality.

I see my wife doing something similar with our two younger kids. When they say, "I'm thirsty," she replies, "So what are you going to do about that?" When they say they can't get ready because they don't have their shoes, she answers with "You can solve that problem."

We need to empower our teams, team members and ourselves that we can create the reality we want, we can solve our problems. I'm often met with the opposite in companies, a response of "Management won't let us do ____," but when I ask if they have actually asked for it, it's usually "No, but they know this is a problem." A particular training exercise I do highlights this. I do the ball point game, and the vast majority of the time, the participants don't move around to where the spacing works best for them. They just accept the circumstances or constraints without even asking me.

Homework - Think of the team, a team member, or yourself, and ask "What if..." and see what comes.


Video Fridays - What's the simplest thing that will work?


Breaking down life into what moves it forward today, not what's the best, comprehensive solution. A little like the debt snowball or weighted short job first.

To look at the entirety of the mountain to be climbed may seem overwhelming, but there is truth both in the saying that the journey of a 1,000 miles begins with one step and that the joy is in the journey.

About the big challenge or goal in front of you, what's one part of it that you can do today? Even better, what's something on it that you can do before noon? You might say that that one thing isn't the most important or highest priority. True, but also perhaps not true. It is a priority in the sense that you getting a "less important" task done actually gets the motivation and confidence going to tackle, and succeed, at the big thing.

Often our risk aversion, all the unknowns, take us out of the game of tackling big and challenging goals. But the very fact that the goals are big and scary are what make them worth doing, noble even. And through that challenge of tackling what is too much for us, we are transformed from someone who could not, before, into someone who can, afterwards.

Homework: Watch the amazing transformation of a man with a broken neck learning to walk again.




Weekend Warrior
Check out the story at the beginning of Habit. Read up on Jim Collins "Big Hairy Audacious Goals" and Dave Ramsey's Debt Snowball.