Scrum AND Six Sigma – Can they co-exist?

I have clients in two diverse domains – material sciences and life sciences – that are currently investing in maturing their business agility using Scrum. Recently, both clients asked about introducing Six Sigma practices into their organizations. They pose the question – can Scrum and Six Sigma co-exist?

The short answer – of course they can, and they should, if the problem requires it. Please read on and share your opinion in at the end of this blog.

What is Six Sigma? Motorola developed Six Sigma in 1986. Six Sigma is a structured methodology for process improvement and problem solving. The tools, techniques and roadmaps aim to reduce variation, improve the quality of production processes by decreasing the number of defects and improve the capability of the processes, products and services. Six Sigma gained popularity quickly in the manufacturing domain, mainly because of its origin and main objective of reducing variation in production processes.

What is Lean? Lean has deep roots, often associated with Dr. Deming, the Japanese, and in particular the phenomenal continuing success of Toyota. The Lean movement has been rising in parallel to Motorola’s Six Sigma movement and is finding success in many industries beyond manufacturing. Basically, the Lean philosophy systematically eliminates waste. Anything other than creating value can be a target for elimination. Lean and Six Sigma were eventually combined to produce what was called Lean Six Sigma: a systematic approach for process improvement and problem solving aiming to reduce variation, remove waste and increase capability.

What is Agile? Agile is a mindset, often mistakenly used as a synonym for the Scrum framework. Until recently, Agile was seen as a set of practices relevant mostly to software development, because it was created by software developers looking to achieve a smarter way of creating useful software. Agile’s foundational document is the Agile Software Manifesto (2001.)

What is Scrum? Scrum is a well-known and widely practiced Agile framework used for delivering products in complex, human-centric environments, such as software development. By the nature of software development, you’ll always find variation due to complexities associated with the interdependencies of individual skills and team dynamics. From this perspective, variation is not perceived as a problem in software development because different engagements are not identical (at best, similar) and thus, not repetitive. That makes Scrum a strong solution for software, but now we are also seeing a steep rise in the use of Scrum outside of IT, in domains like Marketing, Recruiting, and Education.

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

There are many best practices shared between Agile, Scrum, Lean and Six Sigma. They are complimentary disciplines, which rely on data, are committed to reducing waste, and intentional in the pursuit of continuous improvement. In order to make the right decision, define the problem first, and then choose the best combination for your needs. If your goal is primarily to remove variation in a repetitive production process, Six Sigma can be a successful approach. If you are working in human-centric and innovation-focused domains like software, Lean UX, creatives and marketing, an agile approach with Scrum is the method you can use to gain higher team performance in your pursuit of continuous improvement.

The big picture: Agile is a subset of Lean, which is a subset of Systems Thinking

Both agile frameworks and lean models focus on achieving business goals and delighting clients with a competitive product of the best quality. But a team can only get so far without hitting obstacles if the rest of the organization is not maturing along the same agile roadmap. We need to encourage Lean thinking in management (continually reduce waste and remove impediments) and Systems Thinking in leadership (all parts of an organization interrelate and affect each other). [Read more about Agile < Lean < Systems Thinking here.]

Adopt a Systems Thinking approach

Six Sigma and Scrum can coexist in organizations with leaders who really understand how to apply Systems Thinking at the portfolio level. The modern portfolio management system provides:

1.   A culture of innovation with clear organizational objectives. Autonomy without alignment is waste.

2.   Cross–functional teams. Ruthlessly mitigate dependencies.

3.   Safety to let people be awesome, feel awesome, and act awesome.

4.   Opportunities to learn. Pause. Listen. Adapt. Celebrate.

Empower people and enable flow

A modern management system is built for agility and innovation. With the right balance of strong alignment and healthy autonomy each team should choose the toolkit that best solves their problems, which can include both Scrum and Six Sigma.

~Julee Everett with help from Milan Radulovich and amazing Sketch Art by Joshua Partogi

Hone your craft, live your truth, show your thanks…

Scrum AND Design Thinking

Design Thinking is an imperative practice for innovation and organizational learning, therefore an essential mindset for Product Owners – the title Scrum uses for Product Managers. It’s a complementary practice for Scrum practitioners, not a competing one! The use of structured, customer-centric exercises – and user data – helps us identify and explore key interactions and gain empathy for the customer. And that can lead to new insights and exciting ideas for new business opportunities. Design Thinking exercises can help anyone learn more about their customer and improve their product, service or process.

Stay connected as I share some blogs, tips and best practices to bring into your team.

Change your thinking, change your product, change your world.


5 tips for new Agilists


Hey! Does your agile coach’s job look like fun? It is! I believe it’s the best career possible in the market today – and the need is growing. Every time I am at an agile event, people reach out to me telling me they want to get into coaching, or evolve into an agile career. When they ask for advice, these are some of the things I’ve learned along the way. Please add your tips.

1. Play! Get hands-on. Exercise all sides of your brain and get your teams involved, too!Experiment with the plethora of #retrospective activities, #designthinking exercises, and mapping techniques available everywhere – online, in books, videos, webcasts, podcasts… sources abound! Stop wondering ‘if this exercise is going to work.” It is. Have fun with it – and don’t take yourself too seriously. Every day is a chance to try something new.

2. Read. Read everything that interests you. Don’t wait until that vacation or that weekend where you imagine you will stop and read all those things you bookmarked. Find time every day to immerse yourself in the power of the written word. Learn from others, be inspired, and then go further. Read the works of those you disagree with, open your mind, consider their viewpoint. Educate yourself on industry trends. And then – read for fun.

3. Write. Keep a journal of your wins, funs, and fails. Apply some introspection and self-awareness to your journal… Am I listening to everyone in the room? Did I get too full of myself today? Did I speak up when I should have? Did I shut up when I should have?

4. Find your tribe.  We are very fortunate with the growth and expansion of our craft. So much so, that there is no excuse not to network, somehow, with other agilists. You might not have the budget for travel to the big conferences, but I personally, cannot, in good faith, recommend anyone who is not active in their local Meetup or user group in some way. These events are typically free, easy to access, and frequent…. Plus, I have an expectation that people will not just come and take, but give back to their community. The best way to learn is to teach, so take a risk and get in front of the audience. I am always inspired by those who can get up in front of an audience and explore and share a topic or an exercise they are learning about. You don’t have to be an expert… you have something to share.

5. Be impeccable in your word. Your reputation will proceed you, and it’s only a click away from everyone in the world.

I promised 5, but here is one for the bonus round: If you are just starting out, be easy on yourself. There is a lot to learn – and the worst mistake you can make is thinking you need to know it all right away.

There’s a lot more… but I wanted to leave room for others to chime in. Please add your thoughts below!

Julee Everett

Hone your craft, speak your truth, give thanks 

New Public Course: Product Bootcamp!

There are no excuses to investing in your own career in 2018! I am pairing with Product Guru Chris Spagnuolo, of Edgehopper, with a 2-day weekend course in January in Tampa! In two days, you will get an intensive, deep dive, hands-on workshop to introduce you to a full slice of product management.

This course covers creating personas, customer journey maps, how to validate experiments, and more. You will leave with a full toolkit that you can use to identify and develop product opportunities.


3 tips and an 8 second habit that will change the emotional climate of your team

Scrum Masters, are you a natural servant LEADER, or do you struggle to be the inspiring coach that creates high-performing teams?

The following blog is inspired by Scott Watson’s work, an emotional intelligence speaker and trainer. I hope they will complement what you are already doing well and help you create a tactical plan to improve your own emotional intelligence and the emotional climate in your team. You might find that focusing on how your behavior is impacting others can change the emotional climate in your team – and positively impact your career. (Think the issues on your team are all the Product Owner’s fault? Share my Emotional EQ for Product Owner’s article.)

1. Physician, Heal Thyself

We teach people how to treat us

As a leader, you must overcome any of your own emotional insecurity and speak up, even if you might have a personality that shies away from conflicts. It’s not about standing up to others; it’s about finding your voice. If you cannot speak up for yourself, how can you defend your team?

Continue reading “3 tips and an 8 second habit that will change the emotional climate of your team”

ProductCamp GulfCoast

ProductCamp is an unconference that brings talent from the entrepreneurial, product, and IT space together in an exciting day of collaboration and networking. This event is held in several regions nationwide, and now we want to bring it to Tampa! Please visit 

This site currently hosts a very short survey that will help us gauge local interest and shape a venue that will bring the most value to our participants. Please share! #ProductCampGC

5 tips to increase Emotional Intelligence as a Product Owner

A Product Owner is constantly balancing expectations from the business, the team, and users. It’s a tough job. You might feel you are doing all the right things, but your team is just not responding. If you feel you are not getting the best results from your team, or perhaps you sense they just don’t like working with you, you might benefit from improving your emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of how your thoughts, speech, and actions impact others, and then use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships. I’ve heard it described as the “unique intersection between head and heart.” In practice, it’s a combination of using impulse control and social awareness to moderate your behavior.

The following 5 tips to increase your Emotional Intelligence are inspired from Scott Watson’s work, an emotional intelligence speaker and trainer. I hope they will complement what you are already doing well and help you create a tactical plan to improve your emotional intelligence and the emotional climate in your team. You might find that focusing on how your behavior is impacting others can change your relationships – and positively impact your career.

Continue reading “5 tips to increase Emotional Intelligence as a Product Owner”

Creating a Modern PMO… Empower People; Enable Flow

Stop being good at process and start being good at business! Evolve your PMO from process-centric to people-centric with what I call the the Minimum Viable Artifacts. These are three actions, with outputs, that I believe are the 3 ingredients to a Lean PMO.  Interested in learning more? I’m speaking about this at Orlando’s ProjectSummit, in April 2017, and again in May 2017 at the Tampa Agile Meetup. Contact me for more information, or view my slides on here.


Motivation, not Medication

Once I got a $30,000 raise. It was the worst job I ever had.

In order to get a raise, I had to leave a good job. (More thoughts on that later.) As a single provider, the overnight increase put me in a state of near ecstasy. It was The Motivating Factor to leave that good job – and of course, I thought I was going to a great opportunity.

For the professional standpoint, I successfully delivered a multi-million dollar agile program that had C-suite visibility. We delivered on time and under budget; I had alignment with the executive sponsor, clearly identified outcomes, and a team of top performers. It was a huge win for the organization.

But the relationship I had with my manager was incredibly rocky. There was a chasm between him and I that we would never close. It was if we didn’t speak the same language, and certainly, we didn’t act as if we were on the same team. He would question my wording, he would second-guess my decisions; he would challenge me in front of my team on a daily basis. I would get defensive; I shut down; once, on the verge of crying, I left a meeting.

I felt I was at a professional all-time low. It seeped into my personal life, and people closest to me started to comment on the negative changes in me they observed.

I found myself debating every day if I needed to stay in order to learn a lesson, or if I needed to leave in order to survive.

Continue reading “Motivation, not Medication”