Friday, June 16, 2023

...Over Contract Negotiation

 When you teach collaboration, openness, psychological safety, respect, commitment, and then get a lawyer to respond to your request to talk about a clear mismatch on expectations, something is wrong. 

And Brett Palmer, as a Certified Scrum Trainer, represents the Scrum Alliance as an ambassador? He teaches the Certified Scrum Master workshop to people every month.

I did what I could - I filed an ethics complaint, with evidence from all of my team members. But the Scrum Alliance can't do anything unless court has decided in my favor. I contacted a lawyer and he said that would probably cost me $100,000. "And you still have no guarantee to collect on damages or loss. Pursuing that may cost an additional $100,000."

There's the "Agile community" and then there's cut-throat business. I used to believe the Agile community didn't have cut-throat people in it. I was warned about Brett Palmer 

Brett Palmer

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Massive, Wasted Investment in Brett Palmer, CST

The investment in Brett Palmer, Certified Scrum Trainer was significant. And lost. Well, lost to me - the investor. Others profited off of my investment. Handsomely. But that's a later story.

The classes highlighted are actually from Brett's application to the Scrum Alliance Trainer Approval Committee (TAC). These critical, key co-trainings below where arranged, paid-time-off and sometimes actually paid classes and/or forfeited revenue to another co-trainer. The personal connections, relationships, trust, time and bottom line cost are incredibly high to become a CST. This is an example of that.

This is the highest hurdle to clear for someone, like a Certified Scrum Professional (CSP-SM) who wants to become a CST because they need: willing co-trainers, time on each co-trainers schedule, a flexible job that lets them take the equivalent of six weeks of work off, and months of pay to cover that and travel expenses. Brett had the benefit of my classes to practice with (and my willingness to take the customer hit for lower quality training by him). If you don't have a local trainer who will do that, you'll be traveling every single class. Even with all that practice, Brett still failed to pass the TAC the first time. This happened to be a paid trip to Dublin, Ireland for over a week. At least he got to spend some time with Kate Megaw, of BrainTrust, who would later employ Brett as one of their busiest contract trainers just days after Brett quit the full-time job at my company.

All this co-training is a once-in-a-lifetime deal if you can have someone else pay for all of that, then you walk away and take all the profit for yourself.

It's like getting into Formula 1 racing, so you build a top-level car. Then someone takes the car and goes off to race and keep all the winnings. All the investment is lost.

Or perhaps going through all the production cost to make a movie, then someone takes the reel and goes to a theater and says, "If you'll play this movie, I'll split the profits with you."

Worse yet, there are other trainers and REPs with the Scrum Alliance who will take this stolen investment in and profit off the breach of contract! We will cover that more later.

Brett Palmer

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 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."

Brett Palmer

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."'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.