Peter Stevens’ Scrum Breakfast Blog


Peter Stevens, Entrepreneur and Scrum Trainer

Scrum Breakfast

Blog about Scrum: Getting started, Crisis Project Management, and Transforming IT into a Lean Organization.

Agile is spreading, and management will be the last to know

Posted on August 15, 2017, 9:59 am
A few months ago, I watch a stunning video about how bacteria overcome antibiotics. It's stunning how fast the adaptation can occur! I believe agility is transforming the world of work in a similar way. I believe top management is most resistant.

It is stunning how quickly bacteria overwhelm the antibiotics. In just 12 days, E. Coli bacteria can adapt to survive in an environment that has 1000x the concentration of antibiotics which would kill the bacteria at the beginning of the process. The bacteria adapt constantly - they are agile! Antibiotics adapt very slowly - in this case, not at all. So I guess that makes them waterfall if the agile counterpart is fast enough.

How bacteria overcome antibiotics

Jurgen Apello recently assembled a list of Agile Models, Methods and Movements. As I write this, there are 150 entries in the list. At least 25, and perhaps as many as 50 of them are not about software. There are methods for Product Innovation, Building Cars, Education and Schools, Personal Time Management, Collaboration, Coaching, Marketing and more.

Some of them are about organization and management: Radical Management, Management 3.0, Beyond Budgeting, Sociocracy and Holacracy are among the more prominent. While there are some examples, see for instance the SD-Learning consortium, AFAIK none of them is mainstream at the C-level.

The field of software development corresponds to the zone of level 1 dosage of antibiotics. Today agile software development is now mainstream in development groups, even as many people and companies still struggle to do it well. 

The next level is the immediate leadership of customers, managers and stakeholders. This corresponds to level 10.  There are many adaptations, including frameworks like SAFe and LeSS, but this domain is still more traditional than agile. (I am currently working on a course for Stakeholders. Please contact me if you'd like to help with solution validation! Thanks!)

Each new Agile framework is an adaptation to a new domain. Non-software areas, like building cars and other tangible products, correspond to dosage level 100. Here agility is just starting to make inroads.

And the most resistant? The C-Level of big companies and organizations. These institutions are most insulated from all kinds of change and disruption. They are represented by the 1000x level antibiotic dosage.

I believe stakeholders of software projects will be the next group to adopt/adapt to agility. Many other domains will start applying the lessons of agility soon. Top management (and government) will be the last to know! 

Read on the blog

9 Questions to Create Alignment with your Customers and Stakeholders

Posted on June 27, 2017, 8:10 am
When was the last time you really spoke to a customer or stakeholder about their needs? Sure, everybody talks about getting out of the office, but how do you actually do it? Here's an interview template to make customer conversations much easier.

Personal Agility Stakeholder Interview Canvas as PNG
Download the Canvas as PDF from
My ultimate goal is to have an impact. I have found the best way to do that is to create alignment between myself and my stakeholders or customers.

I use this canvas to guide my conversations with my stakeholders. It has been a game changer for me! So much, that it is now a part of Personal Agility.

The goal is to understand your stakeholder, build a rapport, and get actionable information to guide the next steps. This might be about our collaboration or a product I want to create for them.

Getting Ready

I generally plan 60 minutes for the interview, but it can be done in as little as 30 minutes if you and the other person are focused. Whether speed or depth is more important to you, depends on the context and what you are trying to achieve.

Doing the interview

Start out with an explanation of why we are here:
As you know, we are working to do <whatever it is you want to do>. Beyond that, my goal is create an effective partnership between us, so that we can work together effectively with a minimum of frictions. I want to focus on doing great things for you and your customers. To that end, I would like to understand you, your goals and your perspective.
I have found the following questions and order to be most effective at understanding the stakeholder. Sometimes I will vary the exact formulation to suit the audience, but the flow is usually the same.

  1. Stakeholder - Note and if necessary confirm the person's name and contact information. (Note I save the what really matters question for last)
  2. Main Goals or Objectives - What do you want to achieve through this project or collaboration?
  3. Challenges and Impediments - What are the main challenges to achieving your goals or desired outcome?
  4. Risks, Concerns, Fears - What concerns you about achieving your goals?
  5. Frustrations - What causes you to bang your head against the wall?
  6. Definition of Awesome - If I could snap my fingers, and all your wishes came true on this project, what would that look like?
  7. Support - How can I/we support you to make this come true?
  8. What really matters? - When push comes to shove, what is most essential? ( Generally it is better to ask this question late in the interview. Sometimes you may not ask the question directly, but rather summarize yourself).
  9. What's next? - What is the next thing that you need to do for this stakeholder (follow-up)?
Coaching questions can be helpful to elicit better, more complete answers, e.g. "Is there anything else." or "Let me read this back to you; have I understood you correctly?" Sometimes it is helpful to vary how you formulate the question, so that it resonates better with your interview partner.

I ask the questions in the numbered order. Yes, the "What really matters question" comes almost last, though it is right next to the stakeholder info on the canvas. Often people need to go through the steps of the other questions before they can answer that question.

When I am trying to build a relationship, I also answer each question to my stakeholder, so they understands me as well. This is not about deciding anything, just about understanding. So I try to avoid debate, I just make sure that I have understood the other person.

This is one of several free tools that I offer as around Personal Agility. You can download the PDF with the instructions at (For the canvas, no registration is required, just download!)
Read on the blog

What is the Product Backlog in Scrum?

Posted on June 24, 2017, 5:59 pm

According to the Scrum Guide, the Product Backlog is “an ordered list of everything that might be needed in the product and is the single source of requirements for any changes to be made to the product.”

Each entry in the list is called a Product Backlog Item (“PBI”). Since User Stories are such a common practice, Backlog Items are often just called “Stories” even though User Stories are not part of Scrum and backlog items are not necessarily in User Story format. (I use story and backlog item interchangeably).

A list is just a list, so there is nothing binding about the Product Backlog. It is a list of ideas – things that you think belong in the product, but this list is subject to change at any time.
Each backlog item has the following attributes:

  • Description – a statement of the goal or purpose of the story.
  • Sequence number – its place in the queue – determined by the Product Owner
  • Value -  a statement of the business value of the story – determined by the Product Owner
  • Estimate – the development team's guess about how much work is necessary to get the story to “Done”.

Often, the acronym INVEST helps to remind us what makes a good backlog:

  • Independent – the product owner can prioritize in any order
  • Negotiable – the story does not define how the story should be implemented
  • Valuable – the story has business value (e.g. to a user, customer or stakeholder) – no artifacts purely for the benefit of the development team are allowed.
  • Estimable, Small and  Testable – each of these serve to ensure that the backlog item is small enough and concrete enough to be implemented reasonably effectively.

We can think of a Backlog Item as a reminder to hold a conversation. That conversation is between those who understand the goal (often the product Owner, a stakeholder, a subject manager expert or even an actual user) and the development team, i.e. those who will implement the story.

This conversation should be held shortly before the backlog item will be implemented so that it is easy to verify that the story was implemented correctly. Everyone still remembers the decisions that were taken and no one has had time to change their minds!

The result is the “confirmation” – a statement of how to confirm or verify that the implementation of the story met the goals set for it.

The process is often referred to as the “three C's”: Card, Conversation and Confirmation. The idea is that you write the story of the front of the card and the confirmation on the back of the card after the conversation. In a software environment, that confirmation will become more formal acceptance tests and ideally, automated acceptance tests, if the team is good!

The conversation serves to get the story ready for implementation. The Team and the Product Owner may agree to rename to the story to make the description more understandable. They may take large, complex stories and “refine them” into smaller stories with simpler acceptance criteria. The sum of the parts equals the whole, but is easier to implement, validate and accept. Important: A small story is not a task, it still meets the criteria for a Product Backlog Item: When implemented, it has business value.

Ideally, your stories should be small enough that the team will forecast at least 6 and preferably 10 stories or more, regardless of sprint length.

This process of making the stories smaller and getting them ready for implementation is called backlog refinement. This video explains the process:

For an explanation of estimating with story points, check out Explaining Story Points to Management

Read on the blog

Personal Agility Impact Canvas: How to understand what really matters to your stakeholders

Posted on June 4, 2017, 4:19 pm
Are you trying to figure out what really matters to your stakeholders? The Personal Agility Impact Canvas leads you through a 30 to 60 minute interview so you find out what is really important to your stakeholders, building their trust while you do.

You've probably heard about the Lean Canvas or the Business Model Canvas. These help you think about and understand your customers and your business. But how do you know what really matters to them? You have to talk to them to validate your assumptions. This is key to achieving better Impact (as I explain in my PAS Workshop)

Inspired by Iman Aghay's approach to problem validation, I created a canvas to lead you through the discussion with your stakeholder's, centered around Who, Why, and the Outcomes you want. Each question is a Powerful Question, to help you understand what is on your stakeholder's mind:


  • Stakeholder - Note and if necessary confirm the person's Name, Function, Contact Details
  • Goals or Objectives - What do you want to achieve through this project or collaboration?
  • What really matters? - When push comes to shove, what is most essential?


  • Challenges and Impediments - What are the main challenges to achieving your goals or desired outcome?
  • Risks, Concerns, Fears - What are your biggest concerns about achieving these goals?
  • Frustrations - What causes you to bang your head against the wall?


  • Definition of Awesome - If I could snap my fingers, and all your wishes came true on this project, what would that look like?
  • Support - How can I/we support you to make this come true?
  • What's next? - What is the next thing that you need to do for this stakeholder (follow-up)?

You can download the Personal Agility Impact Canvas, either in a blank or annotated version.

Enjoy it! I would love to hear your experience with it, and if you would like to translate it, I'll be happy to provide the sources!

PS: Special thanks to Iman, whose Ultimate Course Formula inspired me to create this canvas.
Read on the blog

Announcing the PAS Workshop: Double Your Professional Impact in 8 Weeks

Posted on April 26, 2017, 10:13 am
I have created a video about my new workshop on the Personal Agility System: Double your professional impact in 8 weeks.

The online workshop starts next week. You can learn all about it here, and you'll find a special 2 for 1 offer towards the end...

You can sign up and get full information at!
Read on the blog