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Monday night mingle at Global Scrum Gathering Munich

Global Scrum Gathering Munich


In mid-October I headed over to Munich to participate in the Global Scrum Gathering. The event is held in various parts of the world three times a year for Scrum professionals and those keen on agility and Scrum.

You may now wonder how such a simple project management method is enough to be discussed over and over again. The response lies in the definition of Scrum: it’s easy to understand but difficult to master.

650 participants, half of them first timers, came to the Westin Grand Munich Hotel for three days to share experiences and ideas, get inspired and learn new tricks. More than 40 countries were represented. The topic of the event was Business Agility: how to thrive in a constantly changing environment. The topic was discussed at sessions divided into four tracks.

Global Scrum Gathering Munich kicking off
The event is about to kick off

Snowflakes and invitation cards

Choosing between the sessions and prioritizing items on the agenda was easy this time and I managed to avoid the usual conference overload. What surprised me, was that in many cases session names and descriptions didn’t match the actual content very well. That aside, particularly the first day was a real success, as all the sessions I attended were thought-provoking. Here are some of my favourites:

Reza Farhang: Maximize your outcome, not your output
The Lean Startup Snowflakes game was a fun idea, illustrating how to improve client satisfaction and maximize results. We made snowflakes in minisprints and took them to the market. The better we were able to meet clients’ needs and understand the market, the more we earned. According to Scrum, each sprint was followed by a retro: we inspected the outcome, adapted and learned – among other things that quality is more important than quantity.

Lean Startup Snowflakes at Global Scrum Gathering Munich
Snowflakes in the making

Marc Löffler: The Systemic Scrum Master
The talk was about the composition and building of a functioning team based on the Passion model by Löffler; what are the characteristics that a team should have to achieve the best possible result.

Bernie Maloney: What did they *Really* Want? Bottom Line Impacts of Customer Collaboration
The presentation analysed agile client cooperation, with main focus on one of the most common stumbling stones: a client has a strong vision of what he wants, but what he wants is not what he truly needs. The situation was illustrated by an exercise where we made invitation cards closely following the model. The exercise revealed standard behaviours that can potentially weaken client cooperation and showed the impact of improved cooperation on the end result. It also revealed how frequent releases and short iterations contribute to meeting client’s needs and foster cooperation and communication with the client. Maloney gave us some fascinating statistics about the exercise: how different teams had coped with the task and how many products – invitation cards – actually included “bugs”. The exercise illustrated the seemingly effortless ease of agility that actually requires considerable discipline and courage.

Participatory Open Space

This time the free form Open Space was held on the second day instead of the usual third one and I liked it this way. It could even be on the very first day of the event, as it’s such a great ice-breaker and lowers the threshold between getting to know other people.

I decided to add my own session to the Open Space agenda as well. It was a similar facilitation games workshop I run last summer at the Agile Coaching Camp. We had time for three exercises with the participants. I facilitated the Non-Musical Chairs game and a multitasking exercise illustrating why multitasking is not the best way to work. Juha Luotio facilitated the Paper Planes exercise. The session received positive feedback and I was asked to propose it for the agenda again next year.

Open Space sessions at Global Scrum Gathering Munich
Some of the Open Space sessions, including mine on the far right

I also participated in a couple of other Open Space sessions concerning the Scrum Alliance itself. One session demonstrated the functioning of the Trainer Approval Committee (TAC) in a Q&A format. TAC meetings are held at the same time with the Global Scrum Gathering where TAC tests and then certifies those who have passed the test as Certified Scrum Trainers. The other session was all about how to make best use of the Certified Scrum Professionals in the community, gathering new ideas for the Scrum Alliance.

How to sum this up?

So was it mere game and play? That’s true to a certain extent, but with a good reason: practical exercises are effective. They often have a deeper impact since you learn by doing. And this facilitates insight that leads to double-checking how you operate. The nature of simulations is usually quite general which is why everybody can participate. The program also included talks, but as has become obvious from this story, empirical workshops often leave a deeper impression. All in all, the level of presentations and workshops surprised me in a positive way.

On the minus side was the combined sponsors and meal area – constantly so crammed that conversating and networking was almost impossible due to the noise level. A special mention goes to the evening program on Monday in the air of the Oktoberfest. After a long day we unwound in a classical Biergarten, where the local band “facilitated” eating and drinking in a true Oktoberfest spirit.


Header image: Scrum Alliance

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