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?

We value humanity and the human condition.

And we have, although are losing, the place of influence and leadership.

As the current holders of that leadership, we are beholden to do something about it.

And, we need to be models of what we teach and coach. To do otherwise would be unacceptable hypocrisy.

My wrestling match with this topic began on March 29, 2010 sitting in Orange County’s John Wayne Airport (which has valet parking, in case you need that). Someone had offered to “help” with the local agile user group that I had started in October, a year and a half earlier (at an upscale mall, which also has valet parking, in case you need that).

We always assume, we always think what we think is right, none of us knows what he or she doesn’t know. But the differences of the approach of this person confused me - making the attendees register, the effort in changing over to a tool to do that, not letting me have full access to that tool. That was my first exposure to actions and motivations in self-interest, though I didn’t recognize it at the time (I make terrible assumptions on the innate goodness of people founded solely on medieval fables and tales of Irish monks).

Part of the problem is that I had been imprinted on by the goodness of my first encounters with people in the agile community - Phil Scott, Diana Larsen and the CRN crew, and Lyssa Adkins.

Although there’s long since been significant erosion of this initial monument to goodness, the welcoming, inviting, openness, helpfulness, appreciation and other amazing attributes of that initial group spoiled me into thinking that EVERYONE in the agile community was like this. Needless to say, I was wrong (else I wouldn’t be writing this and you could be doing something else instead of reading this, like having someone valet park your car).

It’s one thing to recognize a difference, or an issue. Still another to actually plant a flag into the ground and say “There are differences, and there is a right and there is a wrong.” We don’t have to wait for the government to come in and make rules as they do with pharmaceutical sales, making it black and white what is right and wrong. But it is a completely different thing to then go and do something about it.

Well, I’m doing something about it.

In late 2013, a subsidiary of PMStudy, out of VC-backed VMEdu, created a program called ScrumStudy. They created certifications that sounded a lot like Certified ScrumMaster (Scrum Master Certified), put together a 300+ book of Scrum and trademarked it the SBOK (as in Scrum Body of Knowledge), and promoted themselves as the good guys who had a Scrum standard and gave it away, didn’t lock out trainers. I wrote about it on my blog, in case you want more gory details.

Most agree this is wrong. But why? Sure, the trademark issue is the actual lawsuit filed against them, but most of the complaints that I heard were about the overdone standards book, and certain lack of quality in trainers, as well as the deception of what a student thinks he is getting. But don’t we have the same type of problems?

It seems generally accepted that ScrumStudy is doing something bad, at least enough to warrant a lawsuit. But does it have to be egregiously wrong to be wrong?

Not all trainers were qualified the same way. Currently, it is expected that one co-train, and have recommendations by, at least five trainers. As far as I understand, those that did not co-train, still have not. If the co-training was meant to validate them, and we did not, shouldn’t we still validate them? Another option to validate trainers was to request student reviews and make those public, just like Google Reviews or Yelp, but this was resisted by a number of the trainers.

The problem is, in essence, that we are, or are allowing, people to pursue money over value for our customers. Don’t we want to provide the best service to customers that we can? Don’t we want to help them make the best choices that they can?

Money aside, is it wrong to teach principles and values that we don’t live? We teach sustainable pace, yet there are trainers teaching 18 days out of the month, including international travel. If you subtract the weekends (10), that leaves 2 non-training days. Those are gone with international travel - 0. Now subtract a travel day for the travel between four states and four major cities of the large foreign country, and you have - 8, or a 40% overrun on work load. Even aside from the absurd display of behavior counter to what we teach, what quality are you giving your paying students who get you on the 6 day of straight back-to-back-to-back classes?

When I raised this to other trainers, they said that everyone has different motivations and tolerances. Fair enough. But are all motivations good and beneficial, yielding great results? How would we measure it? We don’t.

Here’s my standard - what would you do if you were a full-time employee and the money was the same whether you did 18 days of training or eight? Well, the standard I’ve seen is three to four classes a month. So, in this case, the load would be one third of what this trainer was doing.

Just a thought - what if we listed all how many classes the trainer had done the last two weeks? I remember, growing up, people would say to check the day of the week that a car was built, knowing that they were getting less quality with cars built on Fridays. In the same way as trainers, coaches, especially consultants, can be overworking when at a client five days a week, and traveling on top of that.

Is it wrong, as coaches, trainers and consultants to live contrary to recommended practices? Besides our own beloved Scrum and agile values, what about what’s taught in the larger community? For instance, Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, talks about the importance of purpose in the work that we do. But shouldn’t we aspire to even higher, noble goals? If these are noble goals, isn’t it wrong to not strive towards them?

Shouldn’t we, as servant leaders, put our community first?

Shouldn’t we think long term over short term?

If we value sustainable pace, do we work at a sustainable pace?

If we value quality, do we deliver the highest quality work?

If we teach the important of coaching do we coach? Do we at least make sure our students are connected with coaches, even if that doesn’t benefit us directly?

If we teach about transparency and openness, are we open about all of our class feedback scores, how often we cancel classes? Do we ask for and support the Scrum Alliance in this transparency?

If we value respect, do we recognize those in our community whom we respect? Can the world see who we point to as a model of what we respect? Do we do anything about those in our community who have not earned, but lost, our respect?

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?

In the end, we teach a version of truth. We wouldn’t teach wrong, bad or broken ideas. In fact, a large part of what we do is trying to go out there and dislodge the broken ideas that aren’t working. So, if being ethical and not self-serving is proven to work, shouldn’t we also embrace that? Aren’t those generally accepted recommended business practices, just like user stories or relative sizing?

We value humanity and the human condition.

We model overworking, travel, lack of quality.

And we have, although are losing, the place of influence and leadership.

Someone wrote last asking if I would co-train with them to help them get their CST. 

This person has done nothing in the agile community. 

Not gone to agile events to get connected in the agile community.

Not spoken at events to share knowledge.

Not helped organize events that would connect others.

Not helped review talks to ensure quality speakers for events.

Not pursued the higher-level of learning with a CSC. 

Since those things are about serving others, and this person hasn’t done any of them, I’m left to assume that the CST is about serving themselves. Since self-interest is dangerous, what if we helped protect the potential trainer and their customers by taking away the profit-first motive. 

Would they still want to be a trainer if they could only train one class of 20 a quarter?

My filter:
They’ve done most of the above. 
They’re willing to take a limit on attendees, or mix of CSD/CSM/CSPO, or have a CSC. 
They’re willing to have student reviews offered and publicized by the Scrum Alliance, just like any other service provider.
They co-train with others that do not directly benefit them. 
They do one act of service. 

A CST said “All’s fair in love and Scrum.”

Is it really?

Is it okay for people to do things that not only skirt the rules, finding loopholes?

Shouldn't it matter if one company wins out who uses their profit to pay for a local Scrum conference, give away books, or help other needy people in the world? I think we are avoiding a values debate that would show us not only what the right thing is, but that it’s better for image, marketing, impact, and financially. In the end, your vision/value/ROI to…the community & world is the only justification that you’re better.

If you think you're better, add transparency for all customer feedback. Add the history of class cancellations.

Obligated to work differently
 - Visibility
 - Local
 - Better the community
 - Work Manifesto
 - Additional growth depends on verification of doing good
 - AMP
 - Avoidance of non-value add (marketing, sales)

Problems if focus is money first
 - Most ROI (training) means
    - no coaching
    - travelling 
    - simpler classes to allow easier travelling 
    - spamming and other poor reflection. 
    - no refactoring the class (just like poor coders)
    - working for marketing companies, even more removed & you not personally connected, to allow less additional work
    - not offering other helpful classes because they’d aren’t as popular

We are obligated
     - As leaders
     - Servant Leaders
     - Openness
     - Transparency
     - Equality & Respect
     - As coaches and mentors

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