Global Scrum Gathering Dublin 2017 Recap

Global Scrum Gathering Dublin 2017 Recap

Those who know me wouldn’t describe me as a very risk affine guy. So it’s no wonder I attended my first Global Scrum Gathering on familiar ground: Dublin! I’ve lived in Ireland, started photography and had loads of fun with the guys at Each&Other. A trip to the Emerald Isle promised much and left me with some strong ideas and inspiration. If you’re short on time: Invest in reading about the most inspiring Closing Keynote by Lyssa Adkins.

First, let me share some facts about the conference, which I shamelessly copied from the closing newsletter by the Scrum Alliance:

  • 649 Scrum and Agile practitioners attended SGDUB17
  • 40 different countries were represented
  • Over 100 members of the community attended the first-ever Trainers Clinic
  • Over 250 members of the community attended the Coaches Clinic
  • Scrum Alliance welcomed 13 new Certified Scrum Trainers
  • Scrum Alliance added 2 new Certified Enterprise Coaches

Second, I’m gonna go into detail on the sessions I took notes of or that inspired me greatly. Also except for the Opening and Closing Keynotes I didn’t follow a chronological order, but rather ordered the sessions according to how I believe they fit the project life-cycle.

Opening Keynote: Tobias Mayer – Interacting Individuals

When you expect boring talks at a conference about coaching, be prepared to be overwhelmed! Tobias Mayer set the stage with an inspiring interactive session about values. I’d say the minimum viable product (result) of a keynote should be audience engagement with the conference that’s about to start. Tobias Mayer did so much more. In his session we:

  • defined a set of values that for each individual should shape the conference to come
  • made (at least) one human connection that became a good contact over the course of the next days
  • formulated a statement of intent for the gathering

Mine contained Purpose, Passion and Authenticity. Purpose kept me going to sessions (and sometimes enduring pretty low-level introductions), passion kept me participating actively whenever possible and authenticity kept me being myself in this highly professional environment.

Not only the content was great – the method was, too! I will describe it in detail here once I tried this. I promise!

Project Initiation or Product Inception

Against popular belief being agile does not mean we don’t plan. We do plan. We do prepare. Without a rough backlog I’d never start a project. Without refining that backlog with stakeholders, leaders and of course the team, I’d never start development. So in this stage there’s a lot of interaction and most certainly this is when interaction with the project’s stakeholders is most intense.

Debunking the Product Owner Role – Roman Pichler

Creating the Agile Organization

I always wanted to see Roman Pichler, since he’s been among the first people to – through his book(s) – spark my passion for Agile. Whilst writing my Diploma thesis I devoured his book “Scrum – Agiles Projektmanagement erfolgreich einsetzen”. It’s only available in German, but even after having read dozens of books on the topic, this remains my personal favorite for its level of detail and the sophisticated yet understandable explanations.

Roman Pichler - Debunking the Product Owner Role sgdub17Now during this Scrum Gathering Roman Pichler hosted a session on debunking the Product Owner Role. And that he did. He demanded “big Product Owners”, who can shape a product from grand vision to little button, instead of “small Product Owners”, who merely put in a Product Backlog what they’re being told. This is how the role should be filled, lived, fulfilled.

Bottom line he was asking everyone to think big, for which he also provided support by sharing one of his tools: The Product Vision Board. Explaining the different (easy to understand) parts of it, he highlighted how creating and validating this should be a collaborative effort between Product Owner and stakeholders, driven of course by the PO.

Product Roadmapping That Works! – Jason Tanner

Collaborating Effectively with Customers

Jason gave a good presentation on Product Roadmapping (here’s the best two links I could find). The audience, including myself, had pretty mixed feelings. Here’s what I think (in consensus with several people after the session):

Having a roadmap like this doesn’t hurt. As long as it is being created collaboratively by all stakeholders and team representatives, the exercise will be important and useful. Still the roadmap remains an artifact that only evolves with the company if people use it and work with it. Otherwise it will be disconnected from people’s everyday life.

If we manage to transform an organization’s way of thinking to apply agile values across all levels of management, we won’t need a roadmap like this. We will get a company backlog which becomes the living representation of our plans. Top down updates feed into teams, bottom up changes will be reflected in the high level backlog.

However I will try this exercise soon, since it is a good step on the way from little to no organization to an appropriate high level organization.

Implementing the Project/Product aka Working with the Team

Discover Your Dream Teams Through Self-Selection with the Team Ingredients Game – Dana Pylayeva

The Essence of Agile

In this part presentation part interactive session Dana Pylayeva both spoke about the prerequisites to enable team self-selection and simulated one such process with us, the audience.

Common arguments against team self-selection are:

  • It won’t be possible to staff all teams with required skills
  • People will never be able to organize themselves
  • This is gonna result in endless arguments
  • There are people who don’t get along and mustn’t be in one team

Following these steps, the prejudices can be overcome:

  1. Prepare yourself
    • learn, network and pitch
  2. Prepare management
    • solve their issues, do a trial run
  3. Prepare the process
    • work with team representatives to fine tune the process
    • clarify the participant list
  4. Prepare participants
    • create individual participant cards
    • host Q&A sessions, do 1x1s, address worries and fears
  5. Prepare the space
    • big enough for separate areas
    • prepare posters and material
    • food and beverages (duh!)

The highlight: We tried it in this session. Yes, it is possible for a group of 40 people to all get what they want. At the same time teams (in our case in “offices around the world”: Zurich, Dublin, Kyoto, NY, Cape Town) can be staffed with all the required skills to get the job done. In our group of 40 people we only had to mediate in 3 cases, so people voluntarily picked their second choice!

Conflict? Try Perspective Switch – J. and T. De Jastrzebiec Wykowski

Collaborating Effectively with Customers

In this certainly underestimated session (I was surprised that there were max. 40 people) Justina and Tomasz De Jastrzebiec Wykowski not only told us, but interactively demonstrated “putting oneself in the others’ shoes”.

The approach sounded super easy and obvious when resolving conflicts, but first: It requires a bit of organization, ideally from a third, neutral party and second: It’s tougher and more powerful than I would have expected.

Justina and Tomasz split each group into three roles: Development team, Product Owner and client(s). Each group got a scenario description of which we, the participants, quickly derived our groups main goal. First stating the conflict from our native perspective, then doing three rounds of rotating through the other roles until we were back in place, we realized:

  • Putting ourselves in the others’ shoes is harder than expected
  • Thinking about what we expect from the other roles (amongst them: our (native) selves) lead to deep understanding of the other party’s frustration and
  • Generated lots of ideas how to better collaborate

This can be simulated for any group in conflict and even higher numbers of conflict parties. In that case all you need is a bit more time. A powerful extension of an Agile Coaches tool belt.

Fragile Agile: Coaching a Tired Team – Anna Obukhova

The Essence of Agile

I found this session particularly interesting on the agenda. Because when do companies get help? By ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, call it what you want? Exactly: Most of them only get help when managers learned something is wrong.

Unfortunately at that time, most people, team members will already have endured “whatever is wrong” for quite some time. Sometimes these team members have already tried to remedy the situation. Sometimes with more, other times with less success. This actually means that “Coaching a tired team” is the rule rather than the exception. So because of this I joined Anna Obukhova’s session in order to get some advice.

Surprisingly the talk was focused ~70% on the symptoms, spiced with some interaction with the audience and self evaluation(s). I didn’t get much hands on advice in the end, yet I rated the session ★★★☆☆ (3/5 stars). Mainly because even though it strongly differed from my expectations I got some great hints on further reading, references and it at least further sharpened my eye for symptoms of tired teams. Please see my scribble for details:

Anna Obukhova - Coaching Tired Teams sgdub17Here’s the direct links to the things mentioned in her talk:

  • APGAR – a quick self test to identify symptoms
  • The Upward Spiral – an inspiring book on how to escape the downward spiral
  • Welltory App – an app to measure stress levels

From One-time Success to Reproducible Success

Some sessions we not focused on Agile practices, but on organizational change. I’ve visited two of these:

Surprise! Coaching Leaders is DIFFERENT than Coaching Teams – Bob Galen

Creating the Agile Organization

Robert “Bob” Galen lead us through principles of coaching leaders in this inspiring session. It has not necessarily been the session with the most innovative content, still it was a lot of fun experiencing Bob. We concluded with a practical, hands-on management-coaching exercise in groups of three which was not only insightful, but also lead to a lot of post-session conversations.

Robert Galen - Coaching Leaders sgdub17

The Key to Sustained Organizational Agility – Kurt Nielsen

Creating the Agile Organization

Kurt Nielsen from AgileLeanHouse provided a talk about sustained (also sustainable) organizational agility. Unsurprisingly key to it is agile / lean thinking and acceptance of the underlying values by an organization’s leadership.

Kurt Nielsen - Agile Lean Leadership sgdub17The fact sheet covering some of the topics of this talk and his trainings is available here.

Bottom line: I have rarely been inspired this much over this short a time frame. Visiting the Global Scrum Gathering Dublin was great: A fun, learning and networking experience definitely a good ROI and also Return on Time invested.

Questions? Remarks, comments? Express yourself below! And see you in London 2018!

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