Peter Stevens’ Scrum Breakfast Blog

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Peter Stevens, Entrepreneur and Scrum Trainer

Scrum Breakfast

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

10 Things to tell Management about Scrum and Agile

Posted on October 7, 2017, 5:38 pm
I was recently asked, "what does management need to know about Scrum?" Here is my answer, in 10 bullet points:
  1. Market forces are driving shifts in how leadership leads
  2. Scrum is a simple, team-based, “Agile” framework for solving complex problems
  3. You can probably get twice the value in half the time through Scrum
  4. Changing for better performance seems obvious but requires a huge shift in your culture 
  5. Only apply Scrum if you are prepared to make the necessary changes to get better performance
  6. Agile is a mindset not a toolset, nor a religion
  7. The transition to Agile is an investment
  8. Shared goals and the ability to agree on priorities are key success factors
  9. Start with a concrete project and follow quickly with your leadership team
  10. You can do all the stuff you did before, like budgeting and scheduling, just differently (and probably better).

Edit: updated to reflect that Agile is neither a toolset nor a religion.
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How to become a Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Trainer

Posted on September 26, 2017, 10:39 am
What does it take to become a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST)? The bar is known to be very high. In this one hour webinar I held for the Discuss Agile group, I talk about the challenges of becoming a CST, tell my story, present the requirements for becoming a CST and discuss the challenges of finding a good mentor.

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The 6 Powerful Questions of The Personal Agility System

Posted on September 22, 2017, 12:49 pm
The Personal Agility System is the simple framework I have been working on, to help people do more of what matters.

What really matters? That's a great question! Does the answer just roll off your tongue? For many people it doesn't. But if you don't know what matters, what difference does it make what you do? How can you be satisfied with your life and your impact on the people important to you?

At its heart, Personal Agility is a coaching framework to help you figure out and focus on the things that really matter to you. Personal Agility is based not on performing tasks but on asking yourself Powerful Questions.  A powerful question invites you to think and reflect. You know what is the right thing to do.

These core questions help you figure out and focus on what really matters. There are a total of six questions, five to ask yourself routinely and one to help you get unstuck:
  1. What really matters? -- This provides context for answering the other questions.
  2. What did I get done this week? -- Celebrate it and feel good about yourself (even if what you did was different that what you had planned last week)!
  3. What could I do this week? -- Keep you to-do’s in a place you will see them again.
  4. Of those things, which are important and which are urgent? - Triage against what really matters.
  5. Of the urgent and important things, what do I want to do this week? -- Take only as much as you think you actually get done. 
  6. Who can help? -- The question and the answer can both help you get unstuck. That person might be helpful too!


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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! 


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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
https://MyPersonalAgility.org/freetools
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 https://MyPersonalAgility.org/freetools. (For the canvas, no registration is required, just download!)
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