All posts by Jim Heidema

Leaving your title at the Scrum team room door and pick up new skills!

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Each member of an organization has a title or designation that may reflect their responsibilities or profession.  These titles may include BA, Tester, Developer, QA, PM, and others.  It is normal to be proud of our accomplishments, achievements and titles.  Unfortunately in a Scrum team these titles can limit the individual and adversely effect the team.  These same titles can label the individual as that role (example – as a tester) and only that role.  Within a Scrum team we certainly need the skills, knowledge and abilities that come with that title/role, but we do not want to limit that person to being viewed as only that role.  Each of us is the sum total of our experience, education, values, upbringing and history.  All of this is of value to the team.  We should encourage every member to fully participate on the team, to willingly share their expertise, to contribute to non-traditional tasks and to feel they are valued as a complete person rather than a specifically titled individual.   So if the goal is to leave your title behind, then it is implied you can also pick up other skills.
So how can this be accomplished.  One way is a Skills Matrix.   This is a chart that can be posted in the room to identify the skills needed and the people on the team.   On the left column you list all the team members.  Along the top you list all the various skills you need on the team.  Then each person reviews their row, looking at each skill, and then identifies how many quadrants of each circle they can fill in, based on the range below the chart.  The range is from no skills through to teach all skills in a given column.  After filling the columns and rows, now the work begins.  By using pair programming (an extreme programming method) and other methods like self-study and taking additional courses, the team member can begin to learn other skills.  The objective is to have at least two persons on each team who possess each of the skills at the level of performing all the tasks of a specific skill.  The goal is not to have every one do everything but to have a least enough people with specific skills to cover sicknesses and vacations so that required tasks are performed.  This is a method to capture the full extend of each person’s current knowledge, skills and abilities and expand on it.
Skills Matrix
Since they are hard to see, here are the labels for the number of quadrants:
0: no skill
1: basic knowledge
2: perform basic tasks
3: perform all tasks (expert)
4: teach all tasks

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Agile method for the Financial Services industry

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There are two things every leader needs to know to be successful: first, a leader must clearly articulate what they expect, and second, they need to inspect what they expect on a daily basis. The big challenge though is how do you stay on top of changing priorities? And how do you avoid micro management and driving your team crazy?  This is why OpenAgile, in my opinion, will be very quickly embraced by management teams around the world. It has all the necessary tools to ensure success.
For the past 6 months, I have been working with a financial services team in Slovakia to introduce them to Agile methods. I started with Scrum, a methodology and framework that has been used in the Information Technology sector for the past 5-10 years.
The Slovak team started using Scrum with one team of 6 managers. They grew to have 4 teams actively managing their activities and projects using Agile Scrum, and another 2 teams are planning to launch soon. The feedback from the team members has been positive and the team leader is very impressed with the methodology, the activity levels, and the results. This organization/structure is doing very well in the very competitive marketplace that is Slovakia. I interact with the teams on a regular basis and often travel to Slovakia from Canada on business, so I have the opportunity to work closely with the structure, leader, and the teams.
The only challenge with Scrum is that it is somewhat restrictive regarding the types of work that is recorded and reported upon. Scrum does not accommodate repetitive or calendared activities. Fortunately, Berteig Consulting has developed OpenAgile as a new Agile method that allows for the tracking and reporting of all the Scrum work activities plus these new categories. I find OpenAgile more inclusive and representative of the Financial Services work environment.  
I’m now in the process of transitioning the Slovak teams from Scrum to OpenAgile. I believe OpenAgile will be a much better methodology for this team, and for all non-IT organizations, as it creates an environment for teams to achieve even greater success.
The OpenAgile method teaches the team members to self-manage. And rather than replacing the role of the team leader, that person is empowered to truly lead because they are free to focus on creating an environment where the team can thrive. OpenAgile helps the team to clearly identify the key strategic and tactical goals, and it allows the team to systematically inspects what everyone expects to be done.

There is actually a third thing every leader needs to know. It’s called OpenAgile.  And you can learn more about OpenAgile at or by contacting Berteig Consulting

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Professionalism and Agility

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Recently, I have been reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Fascinating reading. In this book, Mr. Gladwell chronicles some of the backgrounds of top professionals in artistic, sport and business endeavors. He tried to determine why these individuals/groups have accomplished so much in their lives and why they are in the top of their profession. Tiger Woods, Bill Gates and the Beatles are a few of the many professionals he examines. There should be no doubt in your mind that Tiger Woods is the top golfer, Bill Gates is a very successful entrepreneur, and the Beatles are a prolific band.

Please forgive me Mr. Galdwell if I summarize and distill your findings into a few short sentences. The answer is 10,000 hours. Each of these individuals or groups put 10,000 hours into their chosen profession before they arrived at the top. They viewed their professions differently, were passionate about what they did and behaved differently when learning their profession. I am not suggesting you need to work for 10,000 hours before you are successful. I am suggesting if you adopt the same methods they do, you will increase your chance of success.

As I observed these top professionals, I began to see similarities in a number of areas. They seem to share a comfort in their ability to grow and develop. I am not sure they set out to be the top but they certainly thought they would overcome what life threw at them and they trusted their own capacity to excel. I have found that giving yourself a steady message of what is possible helps you deal better with life and to overcome all the negatives around us. As an example, I seldom read the newspaper or watch the news, for this barrage of negative messages affects my outlook of what is possible. It seems to me that these top professionals insulate themselves from negative messages as well.

Next, they have incredible self discipline skills. They practice their profession with passion. They don’t believe in luck as much as they believe in hard work. This is where the 10,000 hours come into their development. They are constantly practicing to improve and master their profession. The top professionals did not achieve their position through luck, they attained the position through hard work.

To summarize, their methods are to be positive about your ability to cope with the future, give yourself positive messages, be disciplined about mastering your profession and be prepared to work hard to achieve the position of the professional.

There is a quote I like that was told to me by a businessperson from Jamaica. When asked his view of life, he said “I refuse to be held hostage by circumstances!” The top professionals choose their future and are agile as they cope with what life offers.

It seems to me another reason why these individuals are so successful is that they were very agile in their approach to life. They created their future rather than follow others. Through their own personal agility they made the right decisions to gain a top position in their chosen profession.

So the question I have been wrestling with is this: If they can be the top, then why not me? What is holding me back? Well, if you have ever spent time with me, or read any of my books, you would know the answer. The only thing holding me back is me. Can I get better? Yes, I can. Can I work harder? Yes, I can. Can I be more successful? Yes, I can. Can I be more agile in my approach to life and its challenges? Absolutely yes!

So how about you? In these troubled economic times, we have an opportunity to re-invent ourselves. The best way to survive and thrive from our current situation is to build the future we desire. Rather than expending a lot of energy worrying about your current situation, you should be taking that energy and using it to take charge of your future and build a new reality. Approach whatever life throws at you with agility. I believe success is a choice. Make good choices and everything is possible.

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Why I Joined Berteig Consulting

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Most business persons and businesses understand the concept of strategic alliances.  The reason to form alliances are many and varied and include such reasons like; monetary, distribution, market access, shared technology and others.  My reason for joining Berteig Consulting is a little unusual.  First reason is that I am an international consultant, trainer and coach.  My international work requires 100-150 days of travel outside North America every year.  I have been doing this for 10 years and it does not hold the same appeal it did in the beginning of the travel.   Don’t misunderstand me, I still like the travel but I pay a price physically.  So joining a reputable and successful Canadian company was appealing to me.

My second reason for the alliance is that I am very impressed with the knowledge, skills, abilities and professionalism that exists in the Berteig Consulting team. Their values were consistent with mine.  During the summer of 2008, Mishkin Berteig (the co-founder of the Berteig Consulting) and I began to investigate how we could work together.

Needless to say we hit it off.  There is mutual respect.  So I made the move to become a CSM and begin to train, coach and consult within his company.  Mishkin and I have already decided to co-write a book about Agile. I have currently written 5 books which are published in 10 languages, one of which is a best seller.  Mishkin and I hope to publish in late 2009. I will continue my international work to some degree, but my strategic relationship with Berteig Consuting will become more important in the coming months and years.

I look forward to adding value to Berteig Consulting, the team members and all of our clients.   I will do what needs to be done to insure the existing and future customers receive the best advice, coaching and training available in the Agile marketplace.   I care about the people at Berteig Consulting and will make sure they receive value from me.  There is a quote I respect … People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!   We at Berteig Consulting care about the quality of our interactions with our customers and the results of our efforts.

James M. Heidema, CSM, CLU, CIAM
Berteig Consulting team member
James Heidema’s Profile

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Book Commentary

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AGILE Project Management with Scrum -A book by Ken Schwaber

Prior to the Certified ScrumMaster seminar I attended in August 2008, I read the book by Ken Schwaber called Agile Project Management with Scrum based on a recommendation from Mishkin Berteig.    After attending the seminar and becoming certified as a ScrumMaster I re-read the book.   The second reading was much more valuable than the first for I had a much better understanding of Scrum.   Here are my comments on this book.

What have I learned?

1.    The adoption of Scrum methodology is more about changing roles and behaviours than it is about embracing a new process.

It was obvious to me and to Ken that one of the greatest challenges facing those individuals when moving from a their current environment to a scrum environment was that they would need to change their behaviours.    In the former environment the team member would be directed and inspected based on what their project manager told them to do.  The PM is the boss and the team members are somewhat powerless.  In Scrum the team members take responsibility for their commitments and communicate their accomplishments on a daily basis.  The hardest change occurs when the project manager is asked to become a ScrumMaster.  The project Manager is familiar with assigning tasks and personally inspecting results. In the scrum environment they are the servants of the team, removing obstacles and facilitating the process.   As Ken states in this book some project managers have great difficulty transitioning into the ScrumMaster role.  They are unwilling to give up the power and position as a project master.   It is hard to move from the leader of the pack to become the sheep dog herding the sheep!

2.    Scrum is unforgiving for if you do not apply the fundamental principles it is likely your efforts to adopt Scrum will fail.

As I reviewed the numerous case studies Ken chronicled is was apparent that when organizations, Team members, Product Owners and ScrumMasters followed the terms, conditions and guidelines of the Scrum methodology, they tended to deliver on their commitments.   When they misunderstood, misused or deleted some portion of the methodology they tended not to accomplish their objectives.   The methodology is well thought out and works in many situations when used appropriately.

3.    Scrum enhances individual and team expertise.

I agree and totally support Ken’s opinion about the value of Scrum.   I have no doubt the individual team member is empowered and has a greater sense of achievement.    Obviously based on his case studies, Ken builds a strong case that Scrum allows the team to deliver quicker.  The process is more change adaptive, responsive to customer needs, timely and economical than traditional methods.   Greater energy and capacity is released in the team and individual team members.

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