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My favourite takeaways from the 2019 Global Scrum Gathering in Austin (1 of 2)

Global Scrum Gathering Austin

AUTHOR: Malene Marie Bendixen Jacobsen, Agile Coach

Since I’m finally over the jetlag and back to my daily schedule in Cape Town, I thought it is time for me to look back at what happened at the 2019 Global Scrum Gathering in Austin.

Once again, this Scrum gathering showed me what an amazing community we have and how grateful I am to be part of something that special. If you have not yet experienced a global or regional scrum gathering, I encourage you to join one soon as there is so much to learn and share with your peers.

The keynote in Austin was given by Daniel Pink, who is the author of several provocative, bestselling books about business, work, and behaviour.

The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing – Daniel Pink

Daniel took us through a lot of scientific examples of why perfect timing matters. Throughout the talk, I sat there feeling like I knew the importance of timing, but I still found the science behind it fascinating.

Daniel summed up 5 takeaways from the session as follows:

1. Through different studies, Daniel showed us how important endings are and what impact it has on us. Personally, I always felt that I would work harder when I have a deadline, or if the deadline would be far out in the future, I would wait until the last minute and then get working on what needed to be done. For a long time, I’ve accepted that this was the way I worked best, I did not know why, but from self-observation, this became my way of working – setting up some tight deadlines for myself to get more done. Based on Daniel’s studies I now know why.

A number of studies show that we do most things in a ‘u-curve’; we start out great, we become slower, and then we realize there is an end and we pull ourselves together again to focus on getting stuff done on or before the deadline.

So now it is proven, “being slightly behind at halftime significantly increases a team’s chance of winning” – remember that the next time your time is behind.

2. Consider short fuses rather than long fuses!

If endings have such a big impact on how we work, why shouldn’t we then try to focus on creating more conclusions? This is exactly why Scrum focusses on small increments. Throughout his talk, Daniel did not once talk about scrum or agile, but it is fascinating how much of his talk I could relate to what we’re already doing in the agile world.

3. Remember that how people behave and how situations unfold at the end deeply shape how we remember them!

The studies that were shared at the gathering showed that you can be kind throughout your life, but if you change for the worse in the last year of your life, that is what people will remember.

I often work with teams where we are stuck in the old way of focusing on time or money. Due to this historical mindset, my mantra is to encourage teams to focus primarily on making the user happy; this is the agile mindset that emphasizes the user. Ultimately, if we create a bad product, that is what our clients will remember. On the other hand, if we deliver exceptionally, our clients will stay loyal to us, thus increasing their demand for our services which will contribute to our sustainability.

4. Always give the bad news first!

We often tend to want to receive good news before the bad. However, Daniel’s study shows that we should actually always give the bad news first. Again, this goes back to us remembering the last thing we hear, so why not remember the good instead of the bad.

5. Highlight the last chocolate!

This study once again emphasizes how important endings are. How it works is as follows: Two people are handed a number of chocolates to rate the quality. When handed the last chocolate, one participant is told that they are receiving their next treat; while the other participant is told that they are receiving their last treat. Both participants were handed the exact same chocolates throughout the test, but still, the person who was told that they were getting their final chocolate increased their score just because it was their last one.

From the gathering, I realized that I am already practicing a lot of what was addressed and using these methods in team collaboration. I was quite proud of this fact as it has given me some assurance that I am performing my duties correctly. As Daniel Pink said to our Chief Product Owner from the Scrum Alliance:

Open Space

The second day of the gathering was used for an Open Space. Just returning from a very successful Agile Coach Camp ZA I really looked forward to this event. Afterward, I am sitting with the feeling “I am not sure Open Space is working well with 1500 people” – but at least I got out of it what I wanted. I took the topic “Scrum Master Helpful or Harmful” from our Agile Coach Camp ZA to the gathering, mainly to hear a broader worldwide view on the topic.

At the session, I had my facilitator hat on to try not to impact the group with my view and what we talked about at the Agile Coach Camp. It was very interesting how the conversation immediately became very similar to our conversation at the coach camp. You can read more about that here:

My theory about the problem with Scrum Master being helpful or harmful is seen all over the world! Something that really stood out in this session was the conversation around the certified scrum master (CSM) course. Consider this from a manager’s point of view – a manager that does not know much about agile and scrum sends a person from his company on training and what will he expect back? A certified scrum master. We agreed that the training does not produce highly qualified Scrum Masters, but rather, creates a foundation understanding of agile and Scrum. For this reason, the talk was more about the fact that everyone needs the CSM training, so maybe we should call it something else in the future.

We also had the talk around whether Scrum Masters should work themselves out of their jobs, and as I mentioned in the other blog post, I do not agree with this saying. However, the following saying grabbed my attention from another session at the Open Space:

“If you are a great Scrum Master, you’re not needed, you’re wanted”

 And this is what Scrum Master should reach for – that you are wanted by your team!

See the next blog post for more favourite takeaways from the gathering.