Certified or not certified, that is the question.

Are years of experience more important? Or proven experience?

On my Facebook travels between agile groups, I have found an interesting discussion that got me thinking.

What are your thoughts about certification vs experience?

comment on Facebook

This is a super interesting question. My first reaction was experience, but then certification. After another minute of thinking, experience. In the end, I entered a rabbit hole, so I thought. It’s best to put this in writing and gather my thoughts.

Years of Experience

I have been a Scrum Master/Coach for a couple of years, does that mean I have experience?

In the military, service time equates to experience. In a leadership role, I am not that sure.

Part of being a Scrum Master/Coach in a growing company is that you end up doing SM interviews. You get presented to all sorts of CV’s, ranging from people that did Scrum even before Jeff Sutherland and Ken Swabber, to others with just a couple of years. So the question is always, does 18yrs as an SM equate to being an awesome SM?

Well, yeah. No. I don’t believe that. It doesn’t mean anything at all. You could have been doing waterfall project management since the ’70s, that doesn’t make you a good project manager.

Proven Experience

Person Curving Wood
Photo by Lum3n.com from Pexels

Although years of experience mean nothing. Proven experience means everything. Let me explain.

You have someone in your interview process and you are talking about estimation. One SM has 10 years of experience, the other has 2. This is the question.

How do you estimate the work you have to do and communicate deadlines?

We do Story Points. The teams use the Fibonacci sequence and we have standardized across all teams that 8 SP’s is the max for a developer per sprint. Then we sum up the epic, divide by 8 and that gives us the amount of sprints.

10 years Scrum Master

We use Story Points. The PO explains the item and if it is clear the team votes on the effort using the Fibonacci sequence, we have some reference stories from prev. sprints that we use as a guideline. After all, that is estimated we use yesterday’s weather to try and predict how many sprints it will take. We keep on and adapting our estimation depending on the new sprint velocity and if there are any required changes. As a team, we always give a confidence level to our “amount of sprints” estimation.

2 years Scrum Master


Person Holding Diploma
Photo by Ekrulila from Pexels

Is certification important? I have to say yes, but not for the reasons that you may think. I consider certification important for you and me, not for our CV.

For me, certification is a standard. It allows me to understand if the knowledge I acquired is correct or not against what the community thinks. It makes it more objective instead of subjective, meaning, if I get a PSM II, I am confident that according to the scrum.org standards, my knowledge is at that level. If I fail the PSM II, like I did my first time around, I know that my knowledge was not enough. And that was correct. I made a goal to study more and learn more about agile leadership and being an SM.

In the end, the certification helped me understand where my limitations were. Saying this, certification is not everything. Like Jeff Sutherland said to a couple of colleagues of mine during their SM training.

Being certified is like taking your license. It means you can drive, doesn’t mean you are good at it.

5 things that will make you a better leader

There are 5 things that if you start doing today your path to leadership will be much better.

Leadership is not bossing someone around, it is deeper than that. Leaders go first and eat last. Leaders open the path ahead instead of pushing them towards the unknown. Leaders are leaders because their peers follow them, not because someone put them there.

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Orange and and Brown Chess Pieces

Ordering someone to do something is easy. Leading them to the right path is hard. But don’t worry. There are 5 things that if you start doing today your path to leadership will be much better.

Value other opinions

A leader knows he/she cannot do it all alone and he/she does not have the answer to every question. A good leader regularly seeks guidance from the team, because he/she knows that they are the experts.

Being a leader is not about pushing your ideas. You should be open to being wrong, and to be honest, you should crave to be wrong. Otherwise, how would you learn new things?

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do…

Steve Jobs

Develop leadership in others

Man Kneeling on Baseball Field Beside Man
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

A good leader makes his/hers job not needed. At least, I like to think like that. My goal as a coach is to make my team not need me anymore and train others to take my place. If I can do that, I consider it successful.

As leaders, we need to provide to others the opportunities to grow. Coach them. Give them the tools. And after some time, let them lead the way.

Focus on WE instead of I

There is no I in team, right?

That is an old saying and very true. Good leaders are part of the team, not above, below or to the side of it.

Every decision you make as a leader should focus on the growth of the team, not advancing your own agenda.

Act with humility

Leadership is not a title. A good leader doesn’t think he/she is better than everyone else, instead, he/she is a team player. A good leader doesn’t show he/she is in charge of the team decision, instead, he/she coaches the team into making those decisions.

Be a servant to the team

Selective Focus Photography of Four Pawn Chess Pieces
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

A good leader is a servant leader.

The focus is on the team becoming better, not by bossing them around, but by coaching them. You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Lead by example, not by force.


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Why you need to stop obsessing about working hours

It feels a bit strange that in 2019 we are still talking about working hours and how different they are from hours worked

It feels a bit strange that in 2019 we are still talking about working hours and how different they are from hours worked. How many hours someone spends in the office. How many coffee or cigarettes breaks they take (Don’t do cigarettes. It’s bad for your health). Or worse, how much time they spend chatting next to the water cooler, or coffee machine.

Working SMART instead of working HARD

During the height of the industrial revolution, having a factory job was the thing. We would probably be working as part of an assembly line. Each one of us would be specialized in doing the same repetitive task over and over. The longer we were there, the more we would produce.

Photo by ELEVATE from Pexels

A long time ago we tried to do something similar in I.T. We estimated our projects in man/hours. We used to estimate the output in lines of code. Heck, we even created the role of Line Manager to help all of this go smoothly. Does this role sound familiar? That is because the Line Manager comes from Assembly Line Manager. We were always bad at coming up with names.

I.T. work is a creative one. Algorithms are not created by spending hours in front of the computer, they are created in your head. Problems are not solved by injecting new lines of code, they are solved by thinking, and sometimes, to properly think, you need to move away from your desk. Move to a new place to stimulate the brain, and then work on the problem.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Luckily, for some of us at least, over time, we came to realize that outcome is different from output. We understand now that having fewer lines of code is better than more. Why? because it is easier to maintain, review and test.

Hours spent on site are not a synonym for good work. Most of the time the relationship is the complete opposite. If you have a colleague always sitting at their desk without a break, there may be 2 underlying problems and you should try and help him/her.

  • He/she is not good enough (yet) to perform the task in that time-frame. This means you should seek to train or mentor their technical skills.
  • He/she has really bad time-management. This one is harder but it can also be trained.

High performers will be able to work without looking at a computer. Their mind is always debugging and creating new algorithms. They try and find inspiration outside of their own box. Talking with a colleague over coffee. Going outside to look at the street. The most important part of the work happens in the head, not on the keyboard.

It is not rocket science to be a good manager. The job is not to control what your team does. How many breaks they will take. Or at what time they arrive at the office (especially if you don’t know what time they will leave).
Instead maybe bring coffee to the team. Create a good working environment, not a hostile one, and you will see how much more your team will produce.

Lead the way and bring them with you on this journey. Pull them in, don’t push them out.

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

You can disagree with me, and that is fair. You can do the complete opposite. But remember, in the end, they are the ones creating the value, not you. If they are not happy, they will find another place. And in today’s market, that’s not a hard task.


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Want to get more time? Do that hard task now.

Unlike some #productivity gurus, I am a firm believer that we should do what we don’t like before. Get it out of the way, and then we can properly #focus and enjoy the things we like to do.

No one likes doing those pesky hard tasks, I know it, you know it, it is what it is.

We often procrastinate and push them forward with the hopes that they will be forgotten. That they will disappear into a sea of confusion with other hard or harder tasks.

The problem is they never disappear, or at least the majority of them. But why should we do them now now?

As mentioned yesterday, one of the biggest time wasters is task switching. But will you task switch if you leave it for later?

Unfortunately, yes. Because you know, that hard task will be in the back of your mind. You know that while you are doing the other stuff, this one will creep into your thoughts, just to make sure you don’t forget it.

Unlike some productivity gurus, I am a firm believer that we should do what we don’t like before. Get it out of the way, and then we can properly focus and enjoy the things we like to do.


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An inexpensive way to gain more time

We humans believe that we are great at multitasking, even though it has been proven time and time again that we are really really bad.

Intrinsically we know this. We even get angry when someone interrupts us …

We humans believe that we are great at multitasking, even though it has been proven time and time again that we are really really bad.

Intrinsically we know this. We even get angry when someone interrupts us in the middle of a thought or a task.

I am fascinated by this and found some cool science that backs it up and some very scientific names that are extremely hard to say. So buckle up.

So why do we lose time when moving from task to task?

This is called the psychological refractory period.
In summary, it refers to the time we need to finish the process of the first stimulus before being able to react to the second one. Remember, our brains are processing machines.

This happens every time we need to start a new task.

How much time will I lose?

Well, this is the hard part. Because every brain is different, your mileage may vary. But one thing we can say for sure is that task switching will make you lose time.

Some argue that it can cost you as much as 40% when changing from one task to another.

But I am good at task switching, I don’t lose time.

That’s really good to know, unfortunately, that doesn’t work for all of us. Only around 2% of the world’s population can properly multitask.

If you are one of them, like the yellow chair in the image above, good for you 👍. But chances are that you are not. Chances are, you are one of the green ones.

How can we get more time?

Before starting your work, plan it. It may look like you are wasting time planning what you are going to do, but think about this scenario:

  • Spend 10% of your day planning what you are going to do (48 minutes in an 8 hour day)
  • Batch all similar tasks together and create groups that will minimize context switching
  • Keep distractions to a minimum. Yes, Facebook, Instagram and all those notifications that you are checking are TASKS. You are context switching. Save that for your lunchtime or a special window of 15/30 minutes in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
  • Use a board or check list to keep your focus


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Who owns your backlog?

If you do Scrum, the answer should be obvious. Product Owner. But what if you don’t o Scrum?

If you do Scrum, the answer should be obvious. Product Owner.
But what if you don’t o Scrum?
Scrum is not the only framework in the world that will give you benefits, and for sure, is not the only way to gain agility.

This is a question that often gets forgotten, especially in the worlds of other frameworks like for example Kanban.
There is no official guide for Kanban that specifies the owner of the backlog, what we have is an adaptation of the scrum roles.

Why is it important?

Prioritization and accountability.

What is the problem?

If there is no one owner, there is no one accountable for the prioritization of the backlog, cleaning the backlog. Prioritization is focus. Without focus, well, we just waste time.

If everyone is the owner, no one is the owner. As simple as that. We see this with everything we do. Actions without an owner are never done. A backlog without an owner is never healthy.

If you have more than one owner, who trumps who? You may say that they have to work together and figure out their priorities, but what if one of them comes directly to your team and says.

“We need to change direction because of this and these business reasons”

backlog co-owner

Can he make that call? What about the other owners?
More than one owner just creates confusion and a waste of time.

How can we solve it?

If you don’t have it already, hire someone. Their job will be very simple.

  • Prioritization of the backlog – be free to make any decisions in this regard.
  • Accountable for the value produced – you have the power to prioritize, you also have the responsibility from what comes out.
  • Liaison with any Stakeholders – get everyone on the same page regarding what needs to happen, but remember, the final word is for this person, not any stakeholder.
  • Available – always available to answer questions, both from the team as from the stakeholder. Teams have priority because they need feedback to deliver value.

Sounds simple, right? Common sense. So why don’t we do it? Or worse, in our minds we do it, but we don’t make it clear.

Make sure everyone knows who is the owner of your backlog, and you will be amazed at the waste of time that just disappears.


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