Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions tackles project management in an approachable way that I found to be highly enlightening. How has your experience in project management helped you write this book?
I am thankful for all of the disruptors, innovators, and visionaries who contributed to the colorful heritage of agile and Scrum. In particular, I thank Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka. Scrum was modeled after their groundbreaking paper, “The New New Product Development Game,” published in the Harvard Business Review in 1986. My book was informed by their article and 115 additional sources—listed in the bibliography—along with my first-hand experience launching Scrum in organizations.
I’m the Founder and CEO of Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions, an Inc. Verified Business, which helps our clients achieve their business needs through world-class project leadership. I had the privilege to work with a client in a division of a global entertainment business on their successful journey for improved responsiveness to changing business needs, faster delivery speed, higher satisfaction, and continuous improvement—which made them even more competitive and fueled their growth. That fantastic agile transformation experience and result was the inspiration for my book. I thank that client.
I also helped diverse organizations achieve their business needs through project management related services prior to Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions. I’m a former vice president of a provider of diverse consumer products and services over the Internet including social networking and internet access. Before that, I worked in organizations with businesses ranging from advanced technology products and services to business services, retail, e-commerce, manufacturing, and entertainment. I have experience with consumer, business, reseller, government, and international customer markets, as well as international experience spanning 20 countries.
In addition to hands-on experience, a deep understanding of project management (project, program, portfolio, and PMO management—inclusive of agile, traditional, and hybrid frameworks), engagements with professional associations, involvement with global standards, knowledge of leading practices, and professional credentials also shaped what and how information was presented in the book. Some examples follow. I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a focus in Human Factors. I hold six certifications: Certified Scrum Professional (CSP), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Project Management Professional (PMP), IT Service Management Foundation (ITIL), and Lean Six Sigma Green Belt (LSSGB). And I’m proud to be a member of the Scrum Alliance, Project Management Institute (PMI), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), IEEE Computer Society, IEEE Consumer Electronics Society, IEEE Broadcast Technology Society, IEEE Internet of Things Community, and the IEEE Consultants Network.
I owe a tremendous debt to the technical editors: Chris Hare and Colin Giffen. Each offered insights that greatly improved Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions. I thank them for helping to make this book more clear, consistent, and valuable.
Agile Scrum is often used in technology projects, but do you think Agile Scrum can have a wider application?
Shifting customer needs are common in today’s marketplace. Businesses must be adaptive and responsive to change while delivering an exceptional customer experience to be competitive. Traditional development and delivery frameworks are often ineffective. In contrast, Scrum is a value-driven agile approach which incorporates adjustments based on regular and repeated customer and stakeholder feedback. And Scrum’s built-in rapid response to change leads to substantial benefits such as fast time-to-market, higher satisfaction, and continuous improvement—which supports innovation and drives competitive advantage.
Agile and Scrum were once the sole domain of software development. However, the benefits and results have not gone unnoticed by others. Practices are being adopted by additional departments and industries. The State of Scrum Report: 2017 Edition revealed that 21% of Scrum projects are run by departments outside of Technology such as Marketing, Finance, and Sales. And a New York Timesarticle in 2016—”The New Workplace is Agile, and Nonstop. Can You Keep Up?”—noted agile’s use in diverse industries. Examples ranged from a museum in Sydney, Australia, to an automobile dealership in Maine. Agile/Scrum is being used broadly.
What is one common misconception you find people have about the Agile Scrum methodology?
There are different frameworks supporting the development and delivery of products and services, and most methodologies fall into one of two broad categories: traditional or agile. Traditional practices (sometimes called waterfall) engage sequential development, while agile involves iterative and incremental deliverables. Organizations are increasingly embracing Scrum—the most popular agile framework—to manage projects, and best meet their business needs of rapid response to change, fast delivery speed, and more.
There’s a widely-held view that agile is new. But agile was used decades before it became well-known. A few examples follow. Software was developed in half-day iterations in 1958 for Project Mercury, the United States’ first human spaceflight program. Harlan Mills of IBM promoted in 1968 that “software development should be done incrementally, in stages with continuous user participation and replanning.” In 1980, Tom Gilb introduced the Evolutionary Delivery Model, an incremental alternative to traditional development.
While agile (which includes Scrum) is not new, many innovators and visionaries have advanced principles and practices over time. For those who would like to learn more, there’s a one-minute video—”Agile Has a Long and Colorful Heritage”—at https://vimeo.com/259429846.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have two works in the pipeline. Currently, however, there is no detail on content or publication dates for future books.
Shifting customer needs are common in today’s marketplace. Businesses must be adaptive and responsive to change while delivering an exceptional customer experience to be competitive.
There are a variety of frameworks supporting the development of products and services, and most methodologies fall into one of two broad categories: traditional or agile. Traditional practices such as waterfall engage sequential development, while agile involves iterative and incremental deliverables. Organizations are increasingly embracing agile to manage projects, and best meet their business needs of rapid response to change, fast delivery speed, and more.
Agile Scrum is for those interested or involved in innovation, project management, product development, software development or technology management. It’s for those who have not yet used Scrum. It’s also for people already using Scrum, in roles such as Product Owners, Scrum Masters, Development Team members (business analysts, solution and system architects, designers, developers, testers, etc.), customers, end users, agile coaches, executives, managers, and other stakeholders. For those already using Scrum, this guide can serve as a reference on practices for consideration and potential adaptation.
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Spinner is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a horror, supernatural, and urban fantasy as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I never plan to genre-cross when I write, but it happens organically. My mind doesn’t see niches or genres because I don’t like labels (which publishers do like because they feel niches are easier to market to.) I usually start with an idea or a character and build from there. For Spinner, the idea was a boy in a wheelchair who could heal everyone but himself. From there I populated the story with characters I hope readers will care about, and considered the possible threats to such a uniquely gifted boy from those seeking to exploit him. I love horror stories, so adding in an element of the supernatural came easily. I tried to send my characters on a journey that crosses genres and can be enjoyed even by those who don’t like horror. The disabilities of the characters are based on real kids I taught as a special educator, and I wanted to celebrate the reality that for all of us, our abilities outweigh our disabilities.
Alex is a spinner, capable of taking on others emotions, physical ailments, and pains. What was the inspiration for Alex’s abilities?
I have always been very emphatic, and knew early on I could never be a doctor or someone who deals with suffering on a daily basis because I’d feel the pain of the other person way too much. However, all walks of life have suffering, and I’ve experienced it in many people, especially kids I’ve taught or worked with as a juvenile hall volunteer. I so badly wanted to take their pain away that the character of Alex was born in my mind – someone who could not just listen empathetically, but actually remove the pain from the other person and then expel it from himself. It took many years to bring the character, and his story, to fruition, and the result is Spinner.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I think Roy was my favorite because he has other struggles besides his learning disability, and because of his intense loyalty to Alex. Friendship is a major theme in all of my books because I believe it is the purest form of love, and the friendship Roy, Alex, and the other characters have for each other is more powerful than all the forces pitted against them. I’ve known far too many kids like Roy who think they’re losers because society says they have little or no worth, and I wanted to bring that kind of character to life so readers can see, with clarity, that society is wrong.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I have written three novels aimed at the teen+ market and one for middle grade, all different in plot, genre, tone, and even narrative point of view, but thus far none of them have generated interest from publishers or agents. In my mind, I have outlined the two sequels to Spinner that will tie up all the plot threads, but I’ll see how Spinner sells first. If there is enough interest, I’ll write them. At this point, I can’t say when I will have a new book out, but I keep working hard to make that happen.
Fifteen-year-old Alex is a “spinner.” His friends are “dummies.” Two clandestine groups of humans want his power. And an ancient evil is stalking him. If people weren’t being murdered, Alex might laugh at how his life turned into a horror movie overnight.
In a wheelchair since birth, his freakish ability has gotten him kicked out of ten foster homes since the age of four. Now saddled with a sadistic housemother who uses his spinning to “fix” the kids she injures, Alex and his misfit group of learning disabled classmates are the only ones who can solve the mystery of his birth before more people meet a gruesome end.
They want to know who murdered their beloved teacher, and why the hot young substitute acts like she’s flirting with them. Then there’s the mysterious medallion that seems to have unleashed something evil, and an ancient prophecy suggesting Alex has the power to destroy the world.
The boys break into homes, dig up graves, fight for their lives against feral cats, and ultimately confront a malevolence as old as humanity. Friendships are tested, secrets uncovered, love spoken, and destiny revealed. The kid who’s always been a loner will finally learn the value of friends, family, and loyalty.
If he survives…
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Nickerbacher follows a fun loving dragon on his quest to be more than a dragon protector of princesses and sets his sights on becoming a comedian. What was the inspiration for the setup of this entertaining book?
This story started out as a Picture Book and evolved to a Chapter Book. In the beginning stage, I wanted to find a way of saying that it’s okay to be who you are. Being true to yourself and following your dreams. It went through a lot of stages, twists and turns but having been involved in theater, I ultimately went with performing as a fun way to get my message out.
I felt that the story carried some important lessons for children, like the importance of friendship and believing in yourself. What were some morals you felt were important for this story?
Those were exactly the morals I felt were important. The princess is a true friend who supports Nickerbacher 100%. And the evolution of the prince’s friendship is great to see ’cause once you get to know someone, unlikely friendships can develop.
The book is filled with some great art. My favorite includes ghosts and goblins at the Fairywood Forever Cemetery. What were the decisions that went into the art direction for this story?
Working with artist, Kim Sponaugle, was a wonderful collaboration. There was a lot of back and forth. We’ve spent hours on the phone planning each scene. Then she sends rough drawings and we discuss any needed changes before she does the final shading with ink & pen.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I’m working on a few different things right now. Pretty much in the beginning stages. Don’t really have any publishing plans yet.
“Nickerbacher is a dragon and aspiring comedian who travels to La La Land to audition for The Late Knight Show. Hoping to prove to his father – and the world – that dragons can be funny. Nickerbacher befriends a prince and a princess who help him realize his dream while paving the way for equal rights of all citizens.”
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