Scrum Day 2019: Lesson learned on leadership, decision making, and “done” increments

I'm now something of a regular at the Scrum Day conference in Stuttgart. It's pretty much around the corner from my house and has always delivered a large portion of inspiration and plenty of aha moments. Of course, I attended this year too and wanted to give you a short overview of the topics and new ideas I picked up there.


Photo: Miguel Á. Padriñán (Pexels License)

The machine tool manufacturer, Trumpf, had a slot on the program under "leadership." Luckily, this wasn't your typical "transformational talk" but instead highlighted an essential and practical aspect of organizations – the separation of disciplinary and technical leadership.

The idea behind this is that the product owner takes care of the product while another person deals with other topics such as salary (at Trumpf, they call them Agile Managers). Interesting idea!

As a side theme to leadership, Miriam Sasse presented her resilience model KANOSSA, a building block system for project management techniques.

In his Open Space keynote, Dan Mezik looked at the method of inviting leadership. In essence, this model is about not prescribing what people should do but instead using offers and invitations. The intended effect is that each individual feels like they are being taken seriously and have the power to decide, for example, whether they want to participate in a meeting or not. Ultimately, Dan took this concept further in his consideration of decision making.

Decision making

Photo: Engin Akyurt (Pexels License)

According to Dan Mezick, when decisions are made from the top down, they are often met with resistance. By contrast, team autonomy leaves many of the decisions up to the team; this increases motivation and means that everyone feels like they're involved.

Jeff Sutherland also included this aspect in his Scrum keynote and placed particular emphasis on team autonomy and fast channels when it comes to decision making. He argued that long decision-making processes are not always necessary and that they prevent teams from getting things done. In a scaled context, it is, of course, impossible for every team to make fully autonomous decisions, but the decision loops should be kept as short as possible.

The "done" increment

Photo: Pixabay (CC0 License)

The talk held by Andreas Kaffer and Irene Kuhn from andrena Objects ag highlighted the "done" increment as the key to success. Thomas Schissler and Peter Götz took the same line. And Jeff Sutherland even made reference to this fact in his keynote. One release-ready increment in each sprint means you are making progress and generating fast feedback.

In this context, they stressed that it is crucial to direct the focus toward the execution as well as working towards the goal of "getting things done" – both in terms of organization and technical progress.

The buzzword DevOps cropped up again and again, though it is not to be understood a dedicated role, but more of a mindset that everyone involved should have internalized.

Two talks were devoted to the topic of planning before execution: "Pitfall: Refinement" and "Sprint Planning." The talk on refinement looked at the INVEST criteria, the Pareto principle, and different ways of splitting stories. A simplified equation: smaller, more clearly formulated stories = faster execution = faster roll-out. In the talk on sprint planning, the focus was above all on the task breakdown, which can often mutate into a boring copy-paste marathon with no real added value. One speaker, Sebastian Bauer (known for his German podcast "Mein Scrum!") argued the case for thinking less about tasks and more about the technical execution and potential obstacles.

Useful experiences

This year I spent two days at the Scrum Day conference, and I can certainly say it was worth it. I got plenty of food for thought and the exchanges I had with others there were really interesting. The motto "Scrum is an aid to change the world" is inspiring, and it was so great to see all of the different areas in which Scrum can be implemented to help make things better. Although, I'm not quite sure that Scrum will create a paradise of this world 😉

In my Open Space session on "Remote Scrum Teams," I was surprised by how many Scrum teams work remotely. At times it even takes on a rather crude form (some Scrum teams are split up, and parts are "outsourced" to countries like Romania). The problems experienced while working with Scrum remotely were pretty consistent across the board – which was comforting for me. In fact, there was even someone there who had read the articles on the topic that I wrote for the //SEIBERT/MEDIA blog :D. (Last fall I also held a talk on the subject at the Tools4AgileTeams conference in Wiesbaden; here's an article about it on our blog.)

When it comes to leadership, I think that we are already pretty advanced at //SEIBERT/MEDIA. We also continually work on developing many of the topics discussed even further. Decision making has and continues to be a controversial topic and a particularly interesting field in a scaled agile context.

When it comes to the "done" increment, I think we still have some things to learn. And our product teams should focus on producing a release-ready product increment in each and every sprint. Furthermore, we have a lot of smaller tweaks that we could make. There is also room for improvement, particularly on topics such as tracking and user feedback, the data from which would provide a basis for decisions in the future.

On the other hand, I'm happy that we have Scrum masters in each of the teams that take care of these tasks masterfully. And that they have the opportunity to exchange information and discuss such overarching issues among themselves.

I'm definitely planning to attend Scrum Day again next year – I'm sure it will be worth it!

Tools4AgileTeams Conference 2019 on "Tools & Leadership"

On November 21 and 22, 2019, the eighth edition of the Tools4AgileTeams Conference will be taking place in Wiesbaden – this year, the focus is on "Tools & Leadership." If you are interested in Scrum Day, I'm sure our Agile conference is for you too! Tickets are currently available.  You can find all of the information on the conference at the Tools4AgileTeams website.

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Further information

Tools4AgileTeams 2019 website
All of the presentations from the last T4AT conference in 2018 (in German
Agile remote transition – life as a distributed employee in a local Scrum team