Global Scrum Gathering Vienna 2019 Recap

I’m late. And, this very post is not the first 2019-thing to be delivered late. No excuses: This has been very conscious prioritizing. As stated in My Year in Review my priorities were very clear. Now without further ado here comes my summary of the Global Scrum Gathering 2019 in beautiful Vienna, Austria.

Global Scrum Gathering summary

Here’s some Gathering specs the Scrum Alliance likes to advertise with. It’s impressive stuff:

  • Biggest Gathering so far with 1000+ participants
  • Over 75 sessions based on seven impactful themes (of which I’ve visited only 9 this time)
  • Two motivational keynotes (summaries below)
  • Open Space day with over 100 sessions (more below)
  • Room of Games (What?)
  • Monday Mingle in a palace (outside the European Union!)

My personal Vienna Gathering

Since I hosted a session on Monday and then spontaneously decided to host a follow up session during the Open Space on Tuesday, the summary is much shorter compared to the recap of London 2018 (which was even two parts). Here’s my Vienna-curriculum:

MondayTuesday – Open SpaceWednesday
Opening Keynote:
Testing Business Ideas
Alexander Osterwalder

Scientific Method to Hire Great ScrumMasters –
Pavel Dabrytski
Radical Innovation
preparing my own session (final touches 😉 )preparing my open space sessionThe Incredibles: Product Owner Super Teams –
Kim Antelo
Product Ownership
Becoming ScrumMaster and a Master of Politics
Robert Kalweit
The Leader in You: Share Your Story
Open Space: Following up on the survey-/numbers part of my session from Monday with an interested and engaged crowdTwo not memorable sessions on team building and the anticlimactic journey to becoming a product person… 
getting feedback on my session
When an Agile Leadership Coach Becomes a Leader Himself –
Jeroen Molenaar
The Leader in You: Share Your Story
From Output to Outcome — Shifting the Agenda for Change
Mike Leber
Environmental Safety

Closing Keynote:
Fun, Fear and Focus
Friederike Fabritius

Impressions from an Open Space with 1000+ people

I’ve never witnessed or participated in an Open Space before. So this first time was a record for me anyways, but even experienced hosts of Open Spaces will have rarely seen one with this many people and this many topics. 80-90 sessions were presented during the pitches and excellently organized by the Gathering team, making day 2 of the Gathering a day “by the community for the community”.

Monday Mingle in the Liechtenstein Garden Palace

The Monday Mingle, a Scrum Gathering tradition, took place in an impressive venue! A short bus drive from the conference grounds at Messe Wien is the Liechtenstein Garden Palace, which, as we had confirmed, is not part of the EU. Thanks to Schengen (I guess) we could enter without passport control. Celebrating outside of Austria, whilst in the middle of Vienna.

The venue, unsurprisingly for baroque palaces, was opulent. Gold plating wherever you looked, massive stairways, sky high ceilings and giant halls. Starting the evening made my jaw drop a few centimeters: The place itself, but particularly the first floor art collection made for great conversation starters. Impressive what wealth a small principality can accumulate: The art collection was stunning. Visually this was the most memorable part of the conference. The real contents, the sessions, fortunately rang with me for a while longer:

Global Scrum Gathering Vienna Session recap

Testing Business Ideas – Alexander Osterwalder

Opening Keynote

Alexander Osterwalder held this years keynote and presented a topic that I think most people with some experience in our field of work already know too well: The Business Model Canvas. Surprisingly for me, his keynote was quite exciting and insightful nonetheless. Exciting because he made it so. Insightful because he explained several details. Just from using the Business Model Canvas one does not always get these right or have them in the right order. Here’s my visualization/sketch notes of his talk:

Global Scrum Gathering Vienna 2019 - Sketch notes: Testing Business Ideas by Alex Osterwalder

Becoming ScrumMaster and a Master of Politics – Robert Kalweit

The Leader in You: Share Your Story

My very first talk on stage ever quite was a success. And because I don’t hold exclusiveness in high regard, but favor inclusiveness and openness, I’m sharing all about it in a dedicated post very very soon.

From Output to Outcome — Shifting the Agenda for Change – Mike Leber

Environmental Safety

A session about Agendashift. Agendashift is a framework for change. The session itself was intense. Even though the room was not crowded, people got lost: The model is complex so each part was to be conveyed with a practical exercise. The exact tasks were not always 100% clear, so we went to discuss general things regarding Scrum and making it work.

What puts me off a bit is how even in 2019 this can still be a thing. There are several widely accepted models for change, Kotter’s probably being most widely known. Here’s how I think these map:

Kotter starts with the WHY behind change and his model also includes people (driving the change). Of course Creating a Sense of Urgency and Building a Guiding Coalition come before actual Discovery and Exploration. These two map easily:

  • Discovery > Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives
    Needs and outcomes form the theoretical basis for this.
  • Exploration > Enlist a Volunteer Army
    Given the whole change is run by the Guiding Coalition, it can only be put to work in the field: With people volunteering for trying (trialing) the change or parts of it (Enlist a Volunteer Army).

The purpose is to Generate Short-Term Wins, while any blockers will be resolved by the Guiding Coalition. Mapping and Elaboration are catalysts to Sustain Acceleration. While more and more people in the company adopt the change, it’s important to keep the agenda visible. Elaboration of the change is required until finally the Change has been Institutionalized.

To me, the heart of Agendashift are the few (good, but not new!) recommendations for the Guiding Coalition (the Change Agents):

  1. Start with needs (which you should always do anyways since you read Simon Sinek’s “Always start with Why”)
  2. Agree on outcomes (which is something any project manager, PO, ScrumMaster does at the end of any conversation)
  3. Keep the agenda for change visible – the most fundamental aspect of Agendashift, since it’s not explicitly mentioned at Kotter’s. Generally a best practice among ScrumMasters: Where better to be transparent about the change than in a public physical task board somewhere?
  4. Manage options, testing assumptions – options should not be left unaddressed. Decide swiftly if the teams don’t have preferences. Assumptions should never be the basis for anything (If you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME), so test them!

Scientific Method to Hire Great ScrumMasters – Pavel Dabrytski

Radical Innovation

Pavel gave an engaging session about hiring ScrumMasters. It turns out, we are aligned. The way I recommend companies to hire for this (my, our?) position matches exactly with the way he now so publicly recommended.

A brief summary would be:

  1. Define your criteria
  2. Rate people according to these criteria
  3. Trust the final (potentially weighed) result of your evaluation more than your gut feeling

Here are my sketch notes of this session:

Global Scrum Gathering Vienna 2019 - Sketch notes: Hiring Great ScrumMasters by Pavel Dabrytski

The Incredibles: Product Owner Super Teams – Kim Antelo

Product Ownership

I only joined the 2nd half of this session to witness confusing (but incredible level of) Product Owner collaboration. Various teams around a dozen or so tables had a project and their POs were to organize with other POs to deliver the best results. The main point Kim highlighted in this session with practical evidence was: The way to organize work in an agile company is via Product Owners. They need to distinct their backlogs while at the same time strongly aligning them, where alignment is relevant. Moving this alignment to the team level will lower productivity tremendously.

When an Agile Leadership Coach Becomes a Leader Himself – Jeroen Molenaar

The Leader in You: Share Your Story

Funny anecdote: I was sitting in a session and thought “This is so goddamn boring.” When I checked my phone, I realized this wasn’t the session I wanted to attend. This wasn’t the session of Jeroen Molenaar!
I asked the person next to me whether the schedule had changed and he told me “No, you’re right, but these are separate 15-minute sessions.” Then he added that he was only there, because his session was next. So this was Jeroen Molenaar! Good laugh. Some minutes later, when the current talk had ended, he started sharing his story.

Moral of the story: Agile Coaching for executives is one thing – being the executive and (even in a small company) being personally responsible for the jobs of the people who work for you, is another thing. We should keep this in mind while we Agile Coaches do “our thing”.

Given it’s brevity this was an interesting and entertaining session especially since Jeroen used the story of how today’s Space shuttle (or at least the boosters) are measured in widths of the average Roman horse’s bum. (see Global Trends: Facing up to a Changing World).

Fun, Fear and Focus – Friederike Fabritius

Closing Keynote

A great closing keynote. Not quite as awe-inspiring as Lyssa Adkins in Dublin 2018, but really great nonetheless. Fun, Fear and Focus was a bit of a tailored version of her equally named session at Google (which is public by now, see below, highly recommended). Some little things to note, which served as a reminder for me in my work life again:

  • Fun, Fear and Focus are the basis for performance and innovation.
  • Our phones are constant sources of fun and fear, but not of focus.
  • What also helps on a personal level is: Sport, Sleep and Snacks.
  • And last but not least: Don’t buy clothes, you won’t wear.

Some things I’ve noted for myself to look into after the conference, that I didn’t know of before are:


Bottom line: Previous Global Scrum Gatherings have inspired me more. Mostly due to the fact how intense hosting a session was. Both in terms of preparation and also by how much people’s feedback will accompany you over the course of the conference (even after the closing keynote, two days later, I still got people recognizing me and chatting with me about my session). Still even though I got less out of it, I hope I could give something back, inspiring others in turn with my session.

I would recommend visiting a Global Scrum Gathering to anybody even remotely interested. Particular interest in one of the themes is not even required: Leadership, scaling, team work are challenges in every organization and across all layers.

Questions? Remarks, comments? Express yourself below! And see you in Lisbon 2020!

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