There are individuals who have influenced my professional journey significantly. Sometimes, by working with me directly. Other times, by their writing or position in our software community. And other times, simply as a role model.
I've started a segment on my blog called – My Heroes. I’ll post intermittently, perhaps every 1-2 months. But it serves as a reminder to me to be thoughtful and appreciative of the folks who’ve influenced my growth and skills. And of course, they get none of the credit for my many foibles.
The fourth one up is: Mike Cohn
Mike is one of those folks in the agile community that influences things without taking an obnoxious or too controversial stand. He's supremely experienced, is very pragmatic, and simply shares what has worked for him.
I first "met" Mike by reading his books. He wrote two of the most influential books in the "early days" of Scrum and agile.
these books were seminal at the time when many of us were really struggling with agile requirements (user stories) and agile planning. From my point-of-view, they were game-changing in providing practical guidance and advice for agile teams when it was needed the most.
Later, Mike also wrote another book that helped define more advanced advice called - Succeeding With Agile. It was another "hit" at a time (2009) when teams needed more mature, practical advice.
In 2007, I went to Boston to get my Certified Scrum Product Owner certification. I specifically signed-up for a class that was taught by Mike and Ken Schwaber.
As a side note, I'd received my CSM from Schwaber in 2004. I had/have a belief that if you're going to get a certification, you want to choose the best folks to deliver the teaching.
It was an outstanding class. And to be honest, Mike's treatment of the subject matter was much more story-laden, real-world, and practical than was Ken's teaching.
This was the first time I'd met Mike in person and he didn't disappoint. It's always refreshing to see a master craftsman and teacher practice their craft. And he was excellent.
Another area where Mike contributed and made a huge difference is with the Scrum Alliance. In the early days, the SA was formed and led by Ken Schwaber. However, there was a major "falling out" between Ken and the board, and he left to form Scrum.org.
I don't want to focus on the politics of that event.
Instead, I want to focus on the leadership stability that Mike contributed to the board and to the Scrum Alliance during those days. He provided a steadying leadership hand. He worked hard to mend fences and move the SA forward. And he did all of this as a volunteer and advocate for agility and Scrum.
Nowadays, Mike has gone a bit quieter. He isn't as involved in the Scrum Alliance. Nor does he do as much public speaking as he used to. He seems to be much more focused on his coaching and teaching practice at Mountain Goat Software.
I perceive it as he has "run his race" in the Scrum community and given as much as he could. So he's earned a bit of a respite.
But that being said, I still receive tidbits of wisdom from Mike in his weekly newsletter.
One of the defining aspects of my heroes is that they’ll probably be embarrassed to be categorized in that way. Nonetheless, they are my heroes.
They’ve helped me to become the person, trainer, speaker, and coach that I am today. Whether they’re aware of it or not.
Mike Cohn, you've shown me what it's like to be a long-time thought leader and role model in the agile community. You've reinforced my intent to remain embedded in the real-world and provide practical advice to my clients.
Throughout my career, for the past 15 years, I have the opportunity to lead many organizations and teams. Many of them were looking for certifications. My go-to reply for recommending WHO's class to attend...was yours.
Even if they had to wait, or if the costs were higher. I always said that - If you want to get the certification, you might as well go to one of the best teachers. Mike Cohn, you were/are always on my "best list".
Mike, I’m incredibly blessed to know you and want you to know that you are my Hero.
Stay agile my friends,