5 + 1 Questions to Marijn van der Zee

Marijn van der Zee is a Scrum Master and XSCALE Product Management Coach. He loves to guide software teams on their journey to deliver valuable software and becoming a great team, creating an environment where teams can shine.

Besides an XSCALE Product Management Coach and PSM III certified Scrum Master, Marijn is also an agile developer, pragmatic student, team player and coach with more than fifteen years of experience in software development.

He works as a freelance Scrum Master/coach, hands-on helping Scrum Masters, Product Owners and teams on their journey to become more agile. He’s also an experienced facilitator and facilitates workshops for Scrum Masters and Product Owners on-site who want to grow their skills and learn from each other.

“I think I’m skillful and knowledgeable, yet I continuously find that there are better ways to go about my work. There still is much for me to learn.”

1. What is Agile or the Agile Mindset for you?

The mindset that people are willing and capable to:

  • collaborate on creating valuable products
  • embrace the uncertainty and ambiguity of our modern, complex lifes
  • adapt and improve based on a growing understanding of where they are and want to go.

I strive to do those things to the best of my abilities and try to help others doing the same.

2. What’s your favourite tool or method you use during your coaching?

Visualizing the work is the one tool I have used with all the teams I have helped and I cannot imagine not using. Although I have some appreciation for digital tools to do this, I find that a physical wall and some post-its work best.

The last couple of years, I use Liberating Structures a lot, in all kinds of events and workshops. That’s an awesome facilitation toolkit to have at your disposal.

I’d love to say that my favourite tool was active listening and asking powerful questions, but I would be lying. I struggle mightily at both, but I keep trying.

3. Which book or website would you recommend?

So many to choose from – I’ll leave you with three:

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96 Visualization Examples (by Jimmy Janlén). I like this book because it is what it is – a great collection of examples you can adapt to visualize your team’s work. Nothing more, nothing less.

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www.liberatingstructures.com. A comprehensive website on Liberating Structures. I still visit it regularly when preparing events or workshops.

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Humble Inquiry – the gentle art of asking instead of telling (by E.H. Schein). A lovely little book on Humble Inquiry – “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”

4. What is essential for you during an Agile transformation?

Any change process is hard for people, teams and organizations. Trying something new is exciting and challenging. It is not clear what the organization will look like during and after the change. This is scary and requires a healthy amount of courage to take on.

You cannot change people by showing them a manifesto; you cannot force people to change. Instead, you have to go looking for the people who actually want to change; wet their appetites, build your change initiatives around those people and help them do the same with the people around them. Invite these people in and together carefully grow a new agile capability in the organization.

If those people are there and you can help them create an environment where they can grow their new agile capability, then you have the two essential ingredients for a continuously adapting organization.

5. What’s 1 Aspect of coaching Agile teams you like the most?

I really appreciate the process of vanishing in the background while seeing a team bond, improve and deliver together.

+.1 Do you use XSCALE principles in your work as a Scrum Master?

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Yes, XSCALE is a huge influence on how I work as a Scrum Master.

A good Scrum Team is able to sharply focus on delivering the next valuable Product Increment. Because of this focus, such a team runs the risk of missing the forest for the trees.

The XSCALE principle of simple, breadth-first design augments a Scrum Team with the ability to discover what the most important bottleneck is they should target next.

XSCALE practices that have helped me a lot as a Scrum Master are pull based transformation to help facilitate organizational change beyond the team, and applying XSCALE’s Leadership-as-a-Service practice to the Product Owner role, to name just two.