Coaching Scrum or Scrum Coaching with Howard Sublett

Alex Kudinov   Welcome, everybody to another episode of Tandem Coaching Academy’s Keeping Agile Coaching Non-Denominational podcast. We are your hosts today Cherie Silas and I, Alex Kudinov, and today we have a special guest. It’s Howard Sublett and he is the CEO of Scrum Alliance. He probably doesn’t need any more introduction but Howard, I’m pretty sure our listeners know you as CEO of Scrum Alliance but where did Howard come from?

Howard Sublett   Wow. Where did I come from? Can you ask smaller questions Alex? I’m actually just a small town guy in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I’m a southern guy in the southern part of the United States. I came to this industry out of a consulting industry and, actually, got my first start at Scrum Alliance back in 2007, 2008, and 2009 when a friend of mine took me to coffee and said, “Hey, I’m working at this company and I think what you’re doing could be helpful for us and it’s called Scrum Alliance.”I’d never heard the word before. Number one, I thought it was like multi-level marketing and I was going to be selling Amway. I said, “I’m not interested in that.” He said, “No, no, no, no, no, it’s not that. It’s something really cool” and so he took me to talk to a group of people that were working in a Scrum fashion. They started talking about the way that their life used to be, and they were working on things that had no value, they weren’t sure what they were working on, and now they’re working on ways that they can pull work to themselves. They were happier in the way that they worked. Then we talked to the owners of the company who were ecstatic about being able to give product to a customer faster and more frequently, and build higher fidelity customer facing things,  and they were happier, and I’m like, “I don’t know what this magic thing is but I want to part of it.” So I I took on a role as a contractor for Scrum Alliance back in — I think it was — ’07, ’08, and ’09. I then went off into the consulting world, I went over to Eastern Europe, and did a coaching gig for about three months with a with a company that we’re all very familiar with, and then got a job offer to go help build big visible solutions out of Boston, an Agile coaching and consulting company, and was there for four or five years until we sold that company to SolutionsIQ out in Seattle. So we ended up with about 250 full time Agile coaches and trainers at SolutionsIQ, being the largest United States pure play Agile consultancy. Then it sold to Accenture, when I became one of 600,000 employees globally and then an opportunity opened the door to come back into Scrum Alliance. So that was kind of my circle. So I’ve gone from not understanding even what the Scrum thing is to helping training businesses and coaching businesses in the Agile space to actually coming full circle back into the Scrum Alliance.

Alex Kudinov   You’ve been around Scrum Alliance, in your new role, for quite some time now. How does it compare to your first gig? How does it feel to be back?

Howard Sublett   I never expected to be back, to be honest with you. I didn’t expect to get a chance to come back or actually to be invited to come back. It was an honor to get a chance to be here and to be in this role. I never thought that it would be something that could happen because I’ve always been passionate about the space, and the industry, and the mission, and what we’re trying to do in the world of work. Honestly, I have a lot of imposter syndrome in me thinking that I was never going to be good enough to help do this. So to get that opportunity was actually very humbling and very exciting to come back. It’s quite a different organization than when I was here before. We were very small and it was very bootstrap. We were all contractors, and everybody was remote, and now we’ve grown up we become a more of a real company with a physical building and employees and it’s become a lot over the years. It’s become a lot bigger than it was 15 years ago.

Alex Kudinov   So, Scrum Alliance, its alliance around Scrum and Scrum is a framework to create great products and make this better world of work. So, at some point, the world of Agile coaching exploded and I spoke to people like several years ago and, even now, people don’t really understand what the differences between Scrum Master and Agile coaching is. Scrum Alliance means really big moves into Agile coaching. You had some programs before certifying Agile coaches and you have programs now like CTC and CEC. So can you give us a little bit kind of insight what was going on and how it progressed through time?

Howard Sublett   Yeah, when I was here before, in 2008, the Scrum Alliance created the first Agile coaching certification; I think it was called Certified Scrum Coach at that time, CSC. Then I think there was another organization, not in our Agile space but another company, that its name was CSC, and then that became CEC just for Copyright information or Trademark information. We created the very first Scrum certification or the very first Agile certification in the CSM/CSPO and in 2008, created the first Agile coaching certification, it was CSC at that time. Then it seems like it just, kind of, took a back burner to everything else. The episodic trainings of of CSM and CSPO, Advanced CSMs– people were hungry for transactional learning, like “let’s get this in as fast as we can” and somehow the organization kind of let Agile coaching, or that certification line, kind of take a backseat.  It was during that time, when I wasn’t here, that I was actually hiring Agile coaches, and helping to to seek new clients, and help onboard a great Agile coach into that. It was always hard to try to find really good coaches. It was hard to find people that were credentialed. It was hard to find people that had more than a two day, entry level certification that actually had the real experience and, you know, it is very difficult to vet somebody that’s an Agile coach; it is very difficult. Even if you’re in the industry, sometimes it is very difficult to vet who really knows their stuff and who doesn’t know their stuff. Much less does a client have any idea who is good in this industry and who is not. I’ll tell you a side story here. Many years ago, somebody was applying for a job with me and they said they were, ‘a Global Enterprise Agile Transformation Coach’ or some other God-awful, big title. In the conversation with this person over their experience, I asked them to tell me some stories about the work that they’d done at a client. The stories started sounding very repetitive for me like it was a template that I’ve heard time and time and time again. I asked him to stop the story for a little bit and I said, “How long were you coaching with these teams?” “Oh….eight months.” “Cool. Stop telling me about what happened. Tell me everybody’s name. Tell me the Product Owner’s name and the Scrum Master’s name. Tell me about their families.” and this person went, “Uh… uhhh….well, Product Owner was Steve…and uh…uh…uh…” and it was a super awkward moment. I said, “You never actually coached that team, did you?” They said, “No, I didn’t.” “Have you ever worked as a Scrum Master?” “No, I haven’t.” “What’s the last job that you had?” They were a cashier in a department store but they’d read all the books. They were a featured speaker at all the big Agile conferences over the last few years but they’d actually never coached before. Never coached before.  So even in our industry, sometimes it’s really hard to just distinguish the people that are pretending to be — for good reasons, right? They really want to help — from those that really have the experience and so, it hit me that if we’re going to make a difference in transforming the world to work, somebody, some organization is going to have to take the lift to help the world understand ‘what’s the difference?’ Right now, I think on LinkedIn, there’s 400,000 people that call themselves an Agile coach. They probably mean well, Alex. They probably want to be change agents and difference makers but how is a company ever going to decide, “Do they really know their stuff or not? Are they going to help us?” and we’ve all seen transformations start and stop, start and stop. We’ve seen failure after failure. Every study that I read is somewhere between 50 and 95% of Agile transformations fail for one reason or another. I know from my experience with coaching companies, my success rate for really high caliber coaches for the client’s success are far better than those that are more junior.

Cherie Silas   That’s a scary story you tell, Howard.

Howard Sublett   It’s a true story and I left the name out to protect them.

Cherie Silas   Good job. So, over the last couple of years, I’ve been seeing something that’s pretty interesting happening in the marketplace and that’s job descriptions and postings that are specifically asking for CECs and CTCs; certified Agile coaches. You brought up this big, kind of, black spot of, people don’t know the difference. So what is the difference?

Howard Sublett   So for us, for Scrum Alliance, our coaching certifications are not a two day class. It’s far more than that. It’s the culmination of a learning journey. A decade or so of experience, and time, and learning from failure, and learning from success. Our coaching certifications are not Scrum specific. They’re like your podcast name here. They’re much more non-denominational or agnostic to frameworks. They’re peer reviewed and peer vetted. So this isn’t a test, it isn’t something that somebody can go online, and just take a test, and get some letters after their name. It’s a long process to go through to be vetted by other people with experience in the space. So, it would be a little bit like me going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and just simply grabbing somebody on the street that said that they had ever climbed it, the mountain, and they were going to be my guide, rather than actually talking to other people that had watched somebody go up, and I helped guide them. So I want to take some experienced guides with me up that mountain because, as we all know, Agile transformations are difficult, they’re crunchy at times, they can be long, they are complex, they’re human centric, and you don’t want to go on this journey with somebody that just says that they have ever done this before. You actually want to know, “Has this person had the experience and the credentials?” Do they have the background to help you on this journey?

Cherie Silas   So I’ve heard that you’ve got this big vision of increasing the number of certified Agile coaches in the world. We all know what numbers and metrics can do and so it makes me wonder, how do we increase that number, whatever that number is supposed to be, and yet still maintain this level of expertise and quality so that was serving the industry well?

Howard Sublett   Yeah, that’s always the catch 22. The number is not significant but I know for us to be able to affect any kind of critical mass in the world with the numbers of people that are calling themselves Agile coaches, we have to have a significant number, right, but we’re not willing to bend on that quality bar. So we’re trying to find other creative ways to help through mentoring programs, or through online courses, or through this, or through– whatever it is, to help get people to that level of knowledge and experience without lowering that bar. There’s a tipping point that happens. Even in the early days, when I was telling Alex, earlier, that when we were here, at Scrum Alliance, before, one of our goals to realize that we were arriving as an industry — because we wanted to help reshape the world of work — was that we would know that we’ve arrived when recruiters would start asking for a CSM. When we started, they didn’t know what that was. Now it’s like a prerequisite for every job offer and you’re right, when I look at indeed, or LinkedIn, or one of those other places, we’re starting to see many, many more that are starting to ask for the certified Agile coach, enterprise coach, team coach credentials from us. So we’re starting to make an impact in it. So the critical mass really is about that so that we can come together and solve those complex things for the world.  Honestly, it’s not just about us, like I would be just as excited if other organizations said, “You know what, we’re going to increase the bar for what it means to be an Agile coach out there in the world too.” We’re going to follow that. We’ve created, as an industry, we created a lot of fast followers in this world and it’s helped make the world a better place. There are more and more people teaching about Scrum and teaching about Agile because of the way our organization started. If more and more organizations also start doubling down on elevating what it really means to be an Agile coach, we all win; a rising tide rises all ships. That’s fine but we’re making the investment in that, trying to lead that charge so that others will follow. Not so we can own something but like somebody’s got to invest in this otherwise… I’m actually really fearful for this entire Agile movement. You know, companies invest, and invest, and invest, and invest, into transformations that may not be producing the fruits that they’re wanting it to produce. I’m fearful that if we don’t step up, if we as an industry don’t step up and actually start delivering results for them in a more powerful way, as an industry, this whole Agile movement may kind of fade. People may decide it doesn’t work, or it’s a fad, which we all know it works. So, I think our success and the movement, the rapid growth of the movement, may be an impediment for us in a way. So, we’re a little bit ahead of that.

Alex Kudinov   So it’s great to see that Scrum Alliance invests into the program and kind of pools or throws its strengths and throws its credibility behind the Agile coaching. So if I’m an employer, and I’m looking to hire CEC and CTC, should I just blindly trust the label that Scrum Alliance put on the person, CEC/CTC? What should I be looking for in these people?

Howard Sublett   Um, I think it’s a good starter conversation, just like if you were going to build a house, I assume you would want to know somebody that understands local building codes, and has an endorsement from the city to be able to build, but every builder may be slightly different. So, not only are you going to be looking for somebody with that credential, you’re probably going to be looking for somebody with that experience in your industry, your domain. Sometimes some experience in certain industries may be more beneficial for you, if you’re in a complex system of, let’s say you’re building nuclear reactors or you’re building rockets to the moon, you may look for somebody with more experience in those kind of industries, or heavy pharmaceutical tech, or something that understands that highly regulated industry. So you’d always want to interview somebody that’s going to be there.,understand what the objective is, what your main pain points are, what you’d like to try to achieve out of the coaching engagement, make sure you understand that and they understand that. I think it’s a good start to at least start with that credential first. If you can’t find anybody that’s that, figure out, how can you help somebody get there?

Alex Kudinov   So my next question, at Tandem, we have these of psychometric tests that we give to our students to assess how they think and what we did a couple months ago, we got about a dozen of CEC/CTC, actual PSTs, trying to figure out if there’s one or multiple traits that make them successful. So I’ll give you a couple things that actually falls out of that. So there is a such category there as conformity, and it varies from strong-willed to compliant, and all CEC/CTCs fall into very, very strong-willed. It’s actually a band from one to three, right? What it says is that these people are often referred to as Mavericks that do not respond to close management. They are often willing to question what not when not in agreement, in fact, you would expect them to question and to defend their point of view. The other point there is a very strong autonomy. So there’s independence category, and it varies from reliant to autonomous and when we’re talking about independence, it kind of didn’t come across as as something like, “Oh, we didn’t expect that” but what the profile says about is, they might not follow the party line, they tend to prefer to decide what to do from moment to moment without management input, they are slow to follow. If you are highly independent, someone might need to be deemed coordinator. So awareness of what is being done can be known. So how does it feel to run the organization field of very unmanageable on the one side and very independent people on the other side?

Howard Sublett   Wow, that’s some interesting stuff. In a way I think I would have…again you’re hitting me with this live so it’s kind of an interesting thing. Fiercely independent makes a lot of sense to me. I mean, most of the Agile thinkers that are out there, they tend to want to challenge the status quo, they tend to want to think outside the box, and being fiercely independent that way, probably makes a lot of sense. What was the other aspect of that? You’re muted.

Alex Kudinov   The other is conformity. So very strong willed, rather than compliant.

Howard Sublett   Maybe that applies to…was there an application in that, within what context that that means?

Alex Kudinov   That context of work. So whatever work they do and profile is pretty much kind of work agnostic.

Howard Sublett   It’s interesting, I actually don’t know how to parse that one right now. Cherie is enjoying me sitting here being quiet for once.

Cherie Silas   It’s amazing to watch! Alex, you finally asked a coaching question that just got Howard to think and listen. No, I’m messing with you. So it was really interesting to me to see and not surprising at all because it makes sense that knowing who I am, and knowing those that I work among, the reason you bring a certified Agile coach into your organization, is to challenge the status quo, to be able to ask, “Well, why are we doing this? I realized we’ve been doing it this way for the last 20 years. What was the problem you were trying to solve and does it still exist?” Right? So, to bring in an Agile coach who’s going to do, “Yes, ma’am. Yes, sir. Whatever you want.” Well, that staff augmentation. That’s not what we do. We come to disrupt and to create a different world that you asked us to create. So it made a lot of sense and when I saw the data, I was like, “Yeah, this is right on.”

Alex Kudinov   Yeah and there’s, of course, a caveat there, kind of a warning, big warning signs that, look, you are very comfortable with change, and you bring a lot of change, however, people might get tired of the change and people might have really trouble following ever-changing process. So, how do Agile coaches show up so that they are aware of that? It was just an interesting tidbit. When we look at that, it’s like, “Huh, I can see us doing that and I’m not particularly sure what kind of recommendations we can give to maybe aspiring Agile coaches, rather than just, “Beware! There is a red sign there.”

Cherie Silas   So Howard, that brings me to a really interesting question for you and that’s, what do you… what is your message to people who want to be Agile coaches? They want to be really good, they want to be respected in the industry, and they want to go along this CTC or CEC certification; how do they actually get there?

Howard Sublett   I don’t know that it’s one simple linear path, right? There are many ways to reach out, there’s, even on our website, there’s become a coach, you can finally become a coach, and you can read all about all the details. I won’t go into that. It’s…I do believe that all of those people that are out there, that call themselves Agile coaches, are trying to make the world a better place. I really believe that they want to help. I believe in the hope of humanity; that this is why we’re here, for more human centric organizations. As a coach, you have to be self aware of what you know, and what you don’t know, and what you don’t know what you don’t know, and are you really being an enabler for your organization, what they want, or are you actually enabling the transformation that you’re hoping to achieve? There’s only…really a way to know that is if you go through this kind of cathartic process of being peer reviewed and challenge yourself to see, “Do I really know my stuff?”  So honestly, Cherie, you know, this more than I do is that the vast majority of people that come to apply that think that they are all that in a bag of chips; that they’ve been doing this for so long, and they know everything about the role of an Agile coach or a real change artist within an organization. Then they come to the different aspects of the things that they need to know and they go “Holy crap, I’m…I actually have a lot of learning to do before I can even go through this process” like they realize immediately that there’s a gap. For us, if I can even plant the seed in the people’s minds that they may have that gap that they don’t know, just by starting the process, they will learn what that gap is, and they can increase their skills, which helps us out. So I would say start the journey. The journey isn’t an easy one; it’s not a fast path. There’s not an easy way to get there. I think that the — and I always forget this word, I don’t know why I’ve got a blocker on it — the nomination path, if you know somebody that’s a CEC or CTC, that’s actually within our organization, that’s probably the easiest way, through the nomination pathway. You’ll go there and let them help mentor you through that process. Otherwise, there’s a simple application process that you can go through on our website, but I would say start. You will never arrive at a destination unless you start.

Cherie Silas   Yeah, I agree and something that you said really resonated with me. Coaching is not just about how much Agile knowledge you have. There’s a lot of people with a lot of really great Agile knowledge out there. Coaching is a bit different. There’s some other skills to be added to the Agile knowledge. Agile knowledge alone enables consulting. Coaching is a bit of a different beast. So that’s one of the things that we’re really trying to bring into this world of Agile coaching. So Howard, CEOs all over the world are trying to figure out how to do this stuff and they’re trying to figure out “Why should I invest, number one, in a coach and, number two, in a certified Agile coach?” because they’re likely to be more expensive than your run-of-the-mill coach. What’s the return on investment?

Howard Sublett   What’s the opposite of that? What’s the return if you don’t invest? I mean, if the pandemic hits, and your entire business is disrupted, and you have no way to pivot because you’re a very formulaic, stoic, top down, constricted, archaic organization that takes six months to shift. How much did that cost? Organizational change isn’t quick, right? I’m not going to ever tell anybody that there’s a fast way to do this. Somebody said something to me a while back and it keeps resonating with me. If you think about the speed of change in the world, you know, back however many hundreds of years ago, if I was a blacksmith, my son would have been a blacksmith, and his son would have been a blacksmith, and we probably would have used the same tools right? Now, like the speed of change of what’s happening in the world is so exponentially fast it’s crazy how fast things are changing; before products even go out the market has shifted. The speed of change that we feel today is the slowest we will ever feel in the future. It’s not going to get slower, it’s going to get faster, and the sooner that you start that process to hiring really good people to help you adapt an organizational design, cross departmental teams that can actually deliver early, and often, rapidly to your customers and get quick feedback. The sooner you can invest that, the sooner you can be ready to keep up with your competition, or dominate your competition, or just delight your customer. Delay in this kind of a time period is a foolish waste of revenue. I mean, why would you delay? The pandemic has told us, if it’s taught us anything, is that change is going to happen. So be ready for it. I would start investing sooner rather than later. You as a leader, as well, need those skills to be able to understand you don’t actually have all the answers and that your teams that are closest to the problem and closest to the customers may have a better answer than what you do as the leader. There’s a lot of things that we need to learn that we need to unlearn as traditional leaders of organizations. We need to unlearn what business school taught us.

Alex Kudinov   So, I think we all agree that the pace of change is becoming faster and faster and it’s not going to slow down anytime soon and under same category the question is: okay, so I’m willing to go with Scrum Alliance. I like what you guys are doing. I like the path to CTC/CEC and I see what I can be learning. Okay, I got my CTC, how is the same organization going to support me in this continuous learning and help me to upgrade my toolbox as I’m going through this?

Howard Sublett   Are you talking about as a CTC?

Alex Kudinov   As a CTC and CEC. So I got my badges, right? The learning doesn’t stop, the information flow hasn’t slowed down, how’s Scrum Alliance helping me?

Howard Sublett   Yeah, this is something that we do need to grow some on by the way. I do realize there is somewhat of a gap there. As a CTC or as a CEC, the number of contact hours that you must do, the number of volunteer hours, the amount of continuing education that you must do, is far higher than any other coaching certification in the Agile space that I’m aware of. So there is built in assurance that those people are keeping up with their skill set. I do know for us as an organization, we’ve been talking about, how are the ways that we can start convening the right people and start helping to equip your toolboxes even more as a trade organization? So just some people don’t misinterpret, the CTCs and CEC’s don’t work for us; like, we’re not the employer, we’re a credentialing we’re a trade organization, we’re setting a bar for what it means, and we’re setting it as our CTC/CEC’s, all the other members of our organization, is who we’re here for. So it’s our job to provide that value to help equip you, no matter where you are on that journey, to help transform your world of work; to help make your world of work more joyful, more prosperous, more sustainable. There’s been such a silence from our organization for a period of time in this world of coaching, and we’re just in the last year and a half, digging into this, that I know that there’s so much more that we need to do and we will do.

Cherie Silas   If I can just…I’d love to just say from the perspective of someone who is a certified Agile coach, one of the benefits that I received is being among those who are. Iron sharpens iron, you know, learning a lot from others, being challenged by others, seeing those who know more than I do, and I’m learning from them, and they’re learning from me. So I think that’s been a really great part of the experience.

Howard Sublett   I do know that. I do see that on our internal discussion things and it is amazing how coaches will be able to pose complex problems leaving client names off, ‘but how do you help me? Can someone help me solve this particular thing?’ and they’re sharing, and learning, and collaborating. So you’re right, iron sharpens iron. I still think we can do more though, I would still like to be able to provide more because I know how — like I said, I only did three months, which was three months way too long — but trying to be a change agent as best as I was trying, and I probably failed miserably, Cherie, but coaching in a complex organization that may be resistant to change is not an easy thing. It can be a lonely path sometimes, and it can be extremely challenging, and it can be a very emotional thing. So it is great not to be alone, while you’re doing those things.

Cherie Silas   It is, and I’m gonna hold you to that, ‘we’re going to do something more’ and speaking of working with all these great coaches. I’ve gotten to meet and work with some of the best in the world and so I’m wondering you, Scrum Alliance, as an organization, you’ve got the best coaches in the world, and you’re parsing them out all over the place to help all these big companies. How are you utilizing them to help you, as Scrum Alliance, kind of model what you’re telling the world works?

Howard Sublett   Yeah, I mean, we have hired, over the last year and a half, I think we had four CECs working for us in our operational office there in Westminster, Colorado, just outside of Denver. Coaches that have helped us think about a new org design, coaches that have helped us think, helping to focus on our POs for every one of our cross departmental teams over how to actually create a backlog for a persona based team, working with our Scrum masters for every team. So yes, we’ve actually employed multiple coaches over the years trying to help us understand. I have a coach that works with me on a regular basis, just in a leadership capacity, to help me understand where my blind spots are, and trying to become the leader this organization really needs. I feel like I’m still a mile away from getting there but it’s a challenge to try to get there. So we do actually use coaches even for our small company of 55 people.

Alex Kudinov   So, I’m pretty sure when people think about CEOs, they think of omnipotent and all everything– the God who can do everything within the organization and that’s probably not true. You have your board, you have your very vocal community, — sometimes with pitchforks — so if you were that deity, and you could do anything you want with this coaching program that Scrum Alliance has, what would be some of the things that you would implement to make it better, in your mind?

Howard Sublett   If I would be omnipotent, and could do anything with a coaching program, I would love to sit down with the with the leaders at McKinsey, at Bain, at Boston Consulting at Accenture, and help them understand that while many of them are very well meaning and are trying to help in this world of Agility, that they need to up their game. Like I’d find ways to leverage our organization into some of the largest consultancies on the planet so that they would want to have their people credentialed in that way. Yeah, there’s a lot of things that I would love to do. I think that’s one of the problems is,  there’s a thousand ideas of a thousand things I would like to do, and we can only do so much and so much at a time. Yeah, I think I’m the typical Product Owner of organizations, you know, that I just want to do more and go faster but I always have to trust the teams and go, “Okay, that’s all we can do.” I want all of our people to have sustainable pace, and be able to have nice weekends, and I set aside– no one answers emails on the weekend…but still, I would like to go faster; I want to make a difference. I want to make an impact into the world. So I’d figure out some way to crank the knob up and apply more staff, more something, to solve the biggest problems.

Cherie Silas   Yeah. So in this role as the Chief PO, you’ve been making the world tour. You’ve gotten to meet a bunch of people all over the world, go speak at conferences, see people, hear people, what’s the experience that you’ve had, in all those travels, in all those interactions, that has made the most profound impact on you?

Howard Sublett   Are you talking about besides the fact when I went to Hyderabad that everything in Hyderabad is hot, even the scrambled eggs? Like when they say spicy, they are not kidding there. You know, you’re right. Except for the pandemic, I haven’t been traveling, but…I can’t tell you much about the places that I’ve been but I can tell you a lot about the humans that I met. I’m fascinated going places, and meeting people, and seeing how they live, and how they work. The common problems of a way to work that is far more humane exists in every single country, every single industry, and that ground swelling, or that organic nature, of people wanting a better way to work is universal. Some are doing it better than others. Some seem to be adopting things faster but there’s this yearning to actually have a better way to produce products for customers. It’s interesting for me when I get off the plane in another country, especially in a country, I don’t speak the language, which is fascinating for me. Where Agilists in those areas can’t wait for me to go meet, CEOs of very large companies in that area and they’re so proud to walk me around, and show me how they’re putting together Scrum teams in different areas, and how much of a difference that it’s making for them, and when it’s not working. We’ve all seen lots of Scrum teams that don’t work very well but they’re okay with that. Like, I think that human need to be able to build something, to deliver value, is there intrinsically for everyone, and that passion to make work more human. That’s always what drew me to this in the first place.

Alex Kudinov   I want to kind of bring it back to the Non-Denominational stuff. So that’s our motto at Tandem Coaching, and I know that when you came to Scrum Alliance, you made a lot of changes, and those were pretty big changes. I remember you and I sitting in that Santa Clara room in the training and you basically said, “Yeah, we allowed our Scrum trainer CSTs to be PSTs and then some of the PSTs came to the other side. So there’s Scrums there’s Scrum framework, we don’t have anything to divide or to fight over. Same thing going with Kanban. Kanban is admitted as a strategy to optimize Scrum flow, they work really well. So all these kind of Agile frameworks and all that, they can work together and we can do better. We are recording this just a couple of days after the International Women’s Day. It’s interesting. So I’m Russian, I come from Russia, and this was and this is, a big date in Russia. Right? It’s like a national holiday and all that. It’s only starting getting traction here in the United States. I know you did something with Scrum.org on that day. What was that and why was that big deal?

Howard Sublett   Yeah, it was International Women’s Day and Daphne Harris and Anu Smalley got together and worked on how to help– it was about bringing more female diversity into the trainer community for both organizations, Scrum.org and Scrum Alliance. So, Dave West and I had chatted about, “let’s collaborate and help make this something that both organizations, it means something to both of us.” So we hosted, both of us put them together to where that– they did that and then we wrote an article about it and scrum.org wrote an article about it. Then we posted their article, and they posted our article, and social media kind of back and forth. Which for people that are outside of the Scrum and Agile bubble that doesn’t seem big but for two organizations that, for a long time, were almost at odds with each other, which I don’t understand why but we were, to come together to try to solve something that we need to solve and is increasing more women in our space, that’s a shared goal. Dave and I are also working on something else that’s a shared goal that we’re probably going to announce in the next few weeks. I think building bridges are much stronger and better than building walls and I believed that from the beginning. We’re all in this for the same reasons. We’re all in this to help, you know, remove those handcuffs from people that are slaves of a workplace and to delight our customers more. We’re trying different methods to get there to reach different people but it’s, it’s not that it’s a religion. I mean, these aren’t…we’re here for the right reasons. So let’s figure out what we agree to and let’s work together on those.

Alex Kudinov   It’s kind of interesting, I was going to say like if the Pope can sit down with Ayatollah and have a conversation about peace, interfaith peace, I’m pretty sure two leading organizations in Scrum space can do that much easier and focus on what matters rather than, “This is our way. This is our way.” So with that said, what is your focus as the CEO and CPO for Scrum Alliance for 2021?

Howard Sublett   Interesting is that the pandemic last year– we pivoted to a virtual environment, we made a lot of quick fixes to try to help our website work for a digital world and for virtual courses but we’ve actually got to solve some of those infrastructure things. So we need to help ensure that our platform is stable enough and that we have the right things in place. So in a weird way just like Scrum is more of a silver mirror than a silver bullet — it helps show things that are maybe gaps — a pandemic helped me see, internally, things and for our website, for our platform, holes that I didn’t actually realize were there. So we were having to kind of really focus more internally on helping to double down on some of those core things and then as we’re still moving towards more of helping to ensure that we’re growing our Agile coaching population, plus other more Agile agnostic, kind of, courses.

Alex Kudinov   I’m going to steal that silver mirror rather than silver bullet from you. Never heard that before and it absolutely kind of makes the point.

Howard Sublett   Well, just to be fair, I stole that from Mike Dwyer, CST. He wrote a blog about that back in 2007 or so, about, ‘It’s not a silver bullet. It’s a silver mirror.’ So I stole it from Mike Dwyer. So give him credit on that.

Alex Kudinov   Absolutely. So shout out to Mike Dwyer and his “Silver mirror versus silver bullet.” With that said, we are pretty much out of time. Thank you very much for coming to our podcast today and giving us a little bit lay of the land what’s going on at Scrum Alliance, about Agile coaching, and your view on 2021. It’s been very enlightening and interesting. This has been Tandem Coaching Academy’s Keeping Agile Coaching Non-Denominational podcast. We had CEO of Scrum Alliance Howard Sublett with us and we were your hosts, Cherie Silas and Alex Kudinov. Bye now.