Category Archives: Scrum

My CEC and CTC Journey

This writing is way past overdue. I have been putting this off for, at least, a few years. But it is better later than never😊.

Today, I would like to share my (this is Gene) personal journey of becoming a Certified Enterprise (CEC) and Team (CTC) coach.

About the Programs

Both of them: CEC and CTC – have been developed by the Scrum Alliance volunteers.  The evolutionary path of both programs has been pretty long and full of experiments.

CEC came first. Some years ago (more than 10), what is called today as Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC), used to be called Certified Scrum Coach (CSC). At one point, the decision was made to rename CSC into CEC, for a variety of reasons, with one (big factor) being that CEC was more descriptive of a coaching focus, since at this level, a person coached not only Scrum but much deeper and broader (organization, enterprise).

But it was not just changing the acronym, it was also a complete redesign of the program.  What used to be a binary pass/fail outcome for an applicant (you submit, you wait for a while, you get a verdict), has evolved into a high-transparency, enriched with short feedback loops, multi-stage, iterative, full of learning and self-discovery, process.  Some time, after CEC has been redesigned (around 2014), there also came CTC (about a year later, or so). The main reason for creating the CTC, as a separate program/credential (NB: I was one of the co-creators but more about this below), was that (multi-) team-level coaches, had somewhere different focus than enterprise coaches: CTCs are were focused on multiple teams, CECs were focused on the whole enterprise.

Some Most Common Misconceptions about CEC and CTC
  1. “…there is no degree or accepted global accreditation that provides comfort around the skills and experience needed for the job…“. Not true. Howard Sublett, Co-CEO/Chief Product Owner of Scrum Alliance explains why this is not an accurate assumption, explaining how CEC and CTC have evolved, over years.
  2. CEC and CTC are just two certification badges that a person get, by simply attending a course and then passing an exam. Not true. Both programs are supported by a comprehensive application process that requires a wide spectrum of qualitative accomplishments: well documented coaching experience, formal and informal coaching education, mentoring experience (mentoring others and being mentored), long agile community engagement and contribution, deep knowledge of coaching tools, techniques and frameworks; as well as, qualitative “know-how”: deep agile knowledge, coaching competencies and mindset.  In a way, both CEC and CTC, remind a dissertation, written by a person who tries to capitalize of a long agile learning journey.  CEC and CTC can be graphically visualized as these little blue figures, on the left side, of this image.
  3. CEC and CTC – is a guarantee to easily secure a job with a significantly higher pay.  Not true.  Although in some countries/by some companies, a lot of emphasis is made on certifications, there is no statistical data to support that CEC or CTC holders have a ‘golden key’ to companies’ doors, while making significantly more money than non-holders.
  4. Once a person obtains CEC or CTC, their learning journey is over. Not true.  In fact, the opposite is true: the best part of the journey begins after a person earns the credential. Many people, consider getting the CEC-CTC credential as a tremendous boost to a personal ego – an ego to learn and further advance, in order to be ahead of others and continue elevating a coaching bar.
  5. Since CEC and CTC application process does not involve a multiple choice test, it is prone to errors and personal bias, by application reviewers. Not true.  Although, a personal perception factor is always present, whenever one human assesses another human, both programs, are very carefully designed to minimize/avoid subjectivity, bias and anchorage, as much as possible (multiple reviewers, calibrated score cards, recusing from review of colleagues/acquaintances etc.).  Check out the above links for details of the process.
My Personal Journey

My journey has begun in 2010, about a year after I received my CSP credential. I applied for Certified Scrum Coach (CSC) – the old version of CEC. I was so confident that I would pass it with flying colors…  Oh boy, was I wrong?  I did not succeed. Looking at back now, I realize that the reason was two-fold:

  • Back then, the process was not too supportive of me, as an applicant. Although I was sure that my reviewers were qualified people (I got to know them in person only years later), the whole process was not transparent and not conducive of iterative learning.  For me, personally, it was not a learning journey.  I had to work on my application in a complete silo, without having any idea if I was on a right track, without getting any guidance along the way. Then, I summited, and had to wait, for about 3 months, before I got the result back: not ready.
  • But to be fair, years later, after becoming CEC, when I reviewed my own, old CSC application, I thought: what a mess it was!  I would not pass myself either: style of writing, clarity of thoughts, ability to present content – they were not up to par with what I would consider today as an enterprise-level coach.  After not passing the original CS, I took the feedback from my reviewers at its face value (not without a disappointment, of course) and decided to let some time go by, before resubmitting.  I wanted to give myself a good chance to advance in my own learning and experience, at my own pace, without having the urge to re-apply fast.  Luckily, I did not feel that I needed a credential to find an employer or a client.  My other hope was that, eventually, the application process would improve, before I applied again.

Four (4), long years went by…

…Many more coaching gigs, many more read books and white papers, attended conferences, retreats and public events, tons of professional networking.  I mentored others and was mentored by more seasoned people. I coached, as a part of my paid job and if someone just needed personal help – I would coach for free, one-on-one.

As an agile coach, I also came to terms with the fact that I am an organizational and team design agent, someone who needs to strive towards changing the ‘world of work’ (also, happens to be the motto of Scrum Alliance), not just coach for the sake of coaching.

In the early part of 2014 I learned that the old CSC program had been redesigned (the effort, spearheaded by Pete Behrens and Roger Brown, who later became my greatest mentors) into the new CEC program and a beta-group of coaches-aspirants-volunteers was required to become the first “explorers” to go through the experiment. Being a huge fan of experiments and having a gut feeling that the time was right, I volunteered immediately.  As I recall it now, I was probably the only “scarred” applicant – someone who had experience with the old CSC program…

To make a long story short…it took me close to five months to go through the program. The hot summer of 2014 – it was me, spending many hours each week, reading, researching, writing and re-writing. From time to time, I would get a feedback or request for clarification from my reviewers. I would then jump on it, research it, study it and take another stab at the google document (by then, the application process was put online). I loved being a Guinea pig 😊.  The amount of additional learning and self-discovery that I made, while working on my own application was just immense. It also felt, as if I almost relived all of my professional experience as a coach (by then I already had many years of coaching behind my belt). Along the way, I collaborated with other applicants, sharing our experiences and bouncing around ideas (of course, everyone’s application was filled out independently).

In October of 2014, I got notified by Scrum Alliance that I was granted the CEC credential. This was one of the most exciting moments in my professional career! It was truly a huge milestone for me. In fact, I was the very first beta-group applicant that made it through the newly redesigned CEC program. It was a triumph.

Benefits After Achieving the Goal (becoming CEC-CTC)

Although CEC never became an automatic “golden key” door-opener for me, earning the credential certainly gave me additional self-confidence and boosted my ego.  I recall being asked by my clients and interviewers what Scrum Alliance *certified* enterprise coach meant and how it was different from “un”-certified. Those moments, were my best opportunities to talk about my professional journey and valuable assets that I bring to the table, as CEC.  Some of my more open-minded clients admitted that what they considered as a ‘coach’ up until then, was not even near what a coach is/does.

Becoming CEC has put me in small group of elite-guide-level professionals with privileged access.  I gained the privilege of joining closed discussion forums with Agile Manifesto co-signers and Scrum co-creators. Seeing them exchange and engage in hot debates, as well as being able to freely engage in any of those discussions on my own, was such a great asset.  At times, just following a thread about Scrum, Kanban, organizational dynamics, scaling, product management, technical excellence, classroom dynamics, business aspect of public training – would enrich my personal knowledge by a factor.

Helping Scrum Alliance to Further Raise the Coaching Bar

Some time, after earning my CEC, I learned that the group of volunteers-CECs was pulled together to create the new Scrum Alliance certification-credential: Certified Team Coach (CTC).  I volunteered myself and joined the group (Roger Brown was the leader).  The purpose of our effort was to delineate between the two types of a coaching focus: enterprise and (multi-)team.  After multiple years of research and discovery, it has become apparent that some coaches wish to focus on teams’ dynamics (e.g. multi-team PBR, multi-team Sprint Planning, Overall Retrospective), whereas others – on enterprise dynamics (HR policies, budgeting-finance, location strategies, vendor management, etc.).  Please note, the above are not mutually exclusive.

Rightfully, some of the quantitative (and to some degree, qualitative) expectations from CEC were higher than those of CTC.  However, just like the CEC, the CTC program was designed to be a very rigorous and challenging selection process, to identify guide-level, senior coaches.

In January of 2018, I also decided to gain my own CTC credential, since there were many instances in my career, when I had to coach at multi-team level.  It also did not feel right for me NOT to have the credential, while being involved in its creation😊.

Today, I run my own mentoring program for people that wish to pursue the CTC or CEC credential.  My focus is three-fold: advanced system thinking → improved coaching capabilities  → application success.

Other Important Milestones during My CEC Journey

One of the biggest aspirations throughout my entire coaching career was becoming a better system thinker-modeler – a person who could see and assess the whole organizational (eco-)system, not just its individual parts.  In enterprise-wide and multi-team settings this skill is a must, at least in my opinion.

Right around the time when l did not succeed with my initial CSC application, I zoomed my focus onto lean and agile product development, at scale and in multi-site settings – something that most of my clients had interest in and trouble with.  My attention was drawn to a series of books, written by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde (both later becoming my other great mentors), where they have covered many guides and experiments that I found very applicable in my work.  Since then, I have applied much of my learning (today, a.k.a. Large Scale Scrum or LeSS), while coaching individuals, teams and organizations.  I find LeSS education a significant asset to my own coaching journey (during and post- receiving the CEC and CTC credentials).  Today, I am one of a few (worldwide) Certified Large Scale Scrum Trainers (CLT) – another very unique and valuable milestone in my career that is also very complimentary to being CEC-CTC.

The above is originally posted on my blog.

More about me and my work.

10/13– LESS TALKS: System Modelling of HR-Related “Nuances”

 

 

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10/06– LESS TALKS: Growing teaminess – Canvas for self-managing teams

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Say hello to Dhaval Panchal.

Teaminess” is not a dictionary word. Perhaps it should be. Teaminess refers to a feeling of being one in effort, behavior, and communication towards achieving shared purposes. Team growth is a dynamic process that folds and unfolds on interaction with its environment. A team is influenced by and in return also influences its organization. This dynamic is continuous, and the alternative to team growth is stagnation or worse attrition. For teams that are just starting or for seasoned groups who have lost their mojo, the Team Self-Managing Canvas is a practical guide that supports positive engagement with managers unlike working agreements alone which are internally facing, teaminess requires active management of forces outside of team’s control.

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Coaching Tool/Technique: System Modelling (w/ Causal Loop Diagram – CLD)

 

System Model (high level)
System Model (zoom in)

 

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Note: System Thinking is used in LeSS training & coaching (team & enterprise).

OKR: Narrowing The Gap Between “O” and “KR”

(Draft)

OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) – they could be your best friend or your worst enemy.

Albert Einstein once wrote on a blackboard: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. [source]” This usually applies to things that people like to measure. But what does this have to do with OKRs?

OKR – is a way to measure how your initially set [strategic] objectives translate into results, at various organizational levels.  With OKRs, there also come numbers, metrics, calculations, RAGs, etc.

What would OKRs look like for a traditional organization (complex structure, many reporting layers)? – this is not the scope of this writing.  Frankly, there is a plenty written on this topic.  Though, one thing is worth mentioning is that, as “Os” roll down from top (executive level) to bottom (individuals), and as “KRs” roll back up, through multiple organizational layers (managers, teams, departments), accuracy and relevance decrease, whereas variability/variance/inaccuracy and system gaming risks increase.

But what would OKRs look like for an organization that was trying to get away from a traditional structure and wanted to become more agile (adaptive)?

First, we need to define what it means, to be ‘more agile‘?  What is the most important factor that defines organizational agility? That is right!!! – organizational design/structure (culture, norms, values etc, come much later). When an organization becomes more agile, what we typically see, is reduction in a volume of processes, artifacts and single-specialist roles – people that are responsible for single, asynchronous tasks. This is sometimes referred to as organizational ‘de-scaling’ (flattening).

By the way, and just to correct frequent misunderstanding of the word means: agile – does not mean ‘faster’, ‘cheaper’, ‘more efficient’ etc.  Of course, the ladder may come, as a secondary or even tertiary result of becoming more agile and responsive (e.g. a company, responds to market/clients needs than its competitors –> this leads to increased sales –> increased profits –> better economics) but this should not be the main set goal of agile transformation efforts.

Even at a large investment bank, with its traditional complex structure: multiple reporting levels, many applications (with application owners), many departments (with department managers), many sites (with sites coordinators) – in order to improve agility in e.g. product development, we need to de-scale organizational layers and bring closer together: real customers (or internal users) with development teams (GEMBA).  Why?
Because, in a flatter organization, where customers and executive management set objectives, and development teams are expected to produce initial (low-level) key results, there would be fewer errors and omissions, due to a lower number of translation layers.

For example, a good business objective could be to increase an annual revenue by 5 million dollars. This could translate into a requirement of having an X-number of new customer-centric features that, if delivered by a certain date, would help generating more revenue for a company (as per forecasting by its market analysts). These X-number of features could now be entered into a product backlog (owned by a single product owner and multiple teams), refined and delivered incrementally, over time, sprint by sprint. The lowest level key-result, in this case, could be meeting teams’ definition of done (DoD) and delivering a potentially shippable product increment (PSPI) at the end of every sprint. (Please note that ALL teams responsible in product development would be sharing the same objective.  By the same token, results would be measured for ALL teams – working together.) The next level key-result,  for example, could be delivering some large feature (or a percentage of an initially requested feature), by some arbitrary interim date.
The intention here would be to have as few translation layers as possible, while cascading up results from-low-to-high, to avoid errors and omissions that could be introduced during translation.  Of course, this would only be possible if an organizational design inside, around and beyond teams, was simple (de-scaled).

Word of caution:

These days, ‘agile’ is one of the mostly overloaded and misused terms.
Agile has become one of the most popular areas, where transaction takes place and business is generated (recruiting firms, consultancies, tooling companies). The are many, commercially successful, complex frameworks and tooling solutions (with the word “agile” in them) that are marketed, as “unified & comprehensive solutions”. This constitutes, what is sometimes referred to, as a ‘Triple Taxation‘  – and organizations become a victim of it.  This is also a part of a bigger, industry wide “agile” framework-tooling problem.  Essentially, these approaches, redefine the “old world” with new terminology: projects / programs / portfolios become agile  projects / programs / portfolios, PMO becomes agile PMO,  BAs become agile BAs, and so on…

With electronic tools that are in close partnership with heavy, RUP-like frameworks (e.g. JIRA + SAFe), neither one of which are focused on improving organizational design, OKRs become just another illusionary improvement.

Companies should avoid falling into the trap described above. Aligning low-level OKRs (e.g. team project) to higher-level OKRs (e.g. portfolio), by merely, “mapping” numbers that are generated at single-team level (e.g. velocity or number of items delivered per sprint) through an “agile tool”, and processing them through multiple layers of projects, programs, portfolios, epics, themes, etc – this approach is prone to *unintentional errors and intentional system gaming*, and will ultimately lead undesirable outcomes, because fundamental problems, such as an organizational structure and its internal communication channels, are not being addressed.  Such “cascading” of OKRs may look nicely on reports but because it represents a system that is flawed, it would not be valuable.

Conclusion:

OKRs could be a great communication tool and means of providing transparency and managing expectations. But OKRs are only as good as processes and dynamics they represent, with the ladder being fully dependent on an organizational (system) design.

In order for OKRs to be reliable and omissions-resistant, they need to be as simple as possible, and have very few translation layers between the highest-level “O” and lowest-level “KR”.   This is an organizational design question.

Agile Poetry In Motion

Lyrics written by: Gene GendelMusical/voice performance by: Erin Perry

LinkedIn feed

-1-

It is time to get serious about agility:
It is best to be viewed as PMO utility.
Scrum and Kanban are agile “methodologies”,
Agile Manifesto – is purists’ ideology.

-2-

Agile KPIs, metrics and RAGs,
PMs – proudly wearing “Agile Coach” name tags.
BAs – are pretending to be “Product Owners”,
Tech Leads – are deciding on a year-end bonus.

-3-

Agile’s the way to advance for promotion!
Don’t miss opportunities: strive with devotion!
Scrum Master – is merely a junior role,
An Enterprise Coach’s your ultimate goal!

-4-

Chief Architects – want a piece of this action,
Lets clearly define their main interaction:
“Dont waste their time, by expecting to code,
Power point creation – is their main working load”.

-5-

“Fixed everything” plans and forecasts to stakeholders,
Lets put all Scrum work in portfolio folders.
Make sure: estimations are very precise,
Our organization can handle all lies.

-6-

BAs – “PO Proxies” – Team Output Owners,
Borrowed resources – capacity donors.
Scrum, Scrum of Scrums and Scrum’s fractal design,
Oh God!, someone get me a bottle of wine!

-7-

Our Enterprise Scaling’s  – a serious matter!
Big, scaling solutions will make things just better.
Lets pay extra fees for every new version,
And be in denial of this brutal extortion!

-8-

Projects and programs. Trains, Streams, Epic Owners,
Shared workers, Brook’s Law and  developers-loaners.
Vertical structures get flipped on their side,
They’re now called Chapters – lets go for a ride!!!

-9-

Those Chapters too big??? – No worries, at all!
With Chapters of Chapters – we’ll all get a role!
But what if that thing got tremendously big?
No worries at all – will add Guild in a gig!

-10-

Portfolio Managers paid a big bribe –
To be guaranteed a sweet spot in a Tribe.
Of course, Tribal Lead is their main aspiration,
They’re now in charge of org. structure creation.

-11-

For staffing, rely on “sweat shops” and recruiters,
They are most ferocious industry looters.
They’ll find and “deliver” the cheapest resources,
While “riding” developers, like smelly horses.

-12-

Don’t do this alone: lets invite “expertise”!,
Expensive consultancies run this striptease!
They lead us through “theater” and masquerade,
And work extra hard for the millions they’ve made.

-13-

If you recognize what’s described in these rhymes,
If you get annoyed with these problems (sometimes),
Don’t remain silent and voice your frustration –
Earn tons of respect and your peers’ admiration.

For graphic irony and satire please visit this page.

SEPTEMBER 02-04: CERTIFIED LESS BASICS (CLB) COURSES | VIRTUAL

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AUGUST 19-21: CERTIFIED LESS BASICS (CLB) COURSES | VIRTUAL

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Three LeSS Books:

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AUGUST 15-16: CERTIFIED LESS BASICS (CLB) COURSES | VIRTUAL

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Three LeSS Books:
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AUGUST 11-13: CERTIFIED LESS BASICS (CLB) COURSES | VIRTUAL

System Modeling Exercises

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