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LitheBlog

Agile insights from LitheSpeed
4
Nov

Global Scrum Gathering Vienna – Stories from the Ground

I just got back from representing LitheSpeed at the largest Global Scrum Gathering yet, which was held in Vienna, Austria.  While I sadly got little time to check out the city, I did immerse myself in the conference and emerged with a few stories about what happened for those who couldn’t make it.

DAY ONE: THE SCRUM ALLIANCE UPDATES ITS GUIDES

Things kicked off with a Guides Retreat, a special event specifically for CSTs (Certified Scrum Trainers), CECs (Certified Enterprise Coaches) and CTCs (Certified Team Coaches).  Aside from just catching up with folks I haven’t seen in a long time and meeting plenty of new ones, some of the highlights here were:

  • Free research:  I learned more about our access as Guides to the The Oxford Review, which houses many research case studies and provides good reference stories for those looking to establish the value of coaching and training.
  • Help for those aiming for CEC/CTC:  Check out The Path to Coaching resources available in Scrum Alliance Labs.  There are several free videos helping people to understand the competencies they must acquire, and mentored assistance is available as well for those looking to become coaches.
  • Plans to push coaching hard:  The Scrum Alliance aims to dramatically expand the number of certified coaches within the next few years (from hundreds to thousands).  Given the sketchy reputation the term “agile coach” has acquired in many circles, a more consistent and reliable means of identifying those who really hit the bar would certainly be a boon to the industry.

DAY TWO: ALEX OSTERWALDER & HIS CANVASES

This was the first open day of the conference, and we went from about 200 people to over 800. 

The big upside of this day was attending a three-hour workshop by Alex Osterwalder, author of Business Model Generation and Value Proposition Design.  LitheSpeed has incorporated his canvas and the many spin-offs (of which he’s not too fond on average) into many of our classes and used the tool in numerous consulting and coaching engagements, so I had a good basis for learning more about the nuances. 

This was a special limited session for the first 50 Guides, and I’m glad I got in as I found it both engaging and insightful.  Alex walked through a number of specific examples of how to use the business model canvas, calling out a few patterns that tended to differentiate companies that really succeeded.  These were:

  • Leveraging switching costs – Companies like Apple lock customers in.  While this may not always be great for the users, it is unquestionably good for the businesses that succeed in applying the idea. 
  • Getting others to do the work – Airbnb is a good example of this; they don’t own the rooms they rent, they just provide a marketplace.  Services like Uber are similar.
  • Generating recurring revenues – Adobe’s painful switch to a subscription-based Creative Cloud Suite from their normal model of purchased packages is a highly visible example of this, and many companies have followed suit to ensure that they don’t have to constantly remarket to attract new users when they can keep making money from old ones.
  • Game changing cost structures – Netflix is the obvious example here, utilizing a monthly subscription that’s far cheaper on average than renting or going to see a bunch of movies.
  • Earn money before you spend it – Alex hearkened back to Dell for this one; their just-in-time manufacturing model meant that they got paid before they even started building a computer.  This of course dramatically reduces overall risk and inventory.

Alex also shared some insights into an experiment tracking canvas that he’s getting ready to introduce to the world in his forthcoming next book.  The core idea here was using various levels of experimentation to gradually de-risk an investment, leading to an ability to prioritize portfolios that is based on rigorous validation (or invalidation) of hypotheses.  It reminded me of Trevor Owens’ Javelin Board, and like Trevor Alex noted that he’s building an electronic tool to escape the limitations of paper.  His blog is nice for those looking to explore these subjects.

DAY THREE: ALL OPEN SPACE

The third day was a whole-day Open Space event.  This was a bit much for my tastes; I love open spaces, but for such a large conference I’d be inclined to go with a few hours rather than force people to guess about which discussions are going to be valuable and which might go nowhere (not that sessions are immune to this same uncertainty). 

In the end I managed to attend a couple of interesting ones, namely:

  • Agile in Education – This is a subject that’s interested me for a long time, with a sister who’s an ex-teacher and many friends who are the same.  I’ll be blunt and say that I believe education globally is largely broken.  The fact that so many educators I’ve known have left the art with broken dreams is strong anecdotal support for this conclusion. We discussed movements like eduScrum, with the head of operations in attendance from Germany, and went into some detail about several cases of these ideas being used (always to good effect).  There were a good number of passionate attendees here, and I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more about this idea in coming years.
  • Agile in Long Term R&D – Here we discussed the applicability of core agile methods to deep research work like developing AI models or fundamental science.  LitheSpeed got one early taste of this with one of our clients that housed a relatively small Silicon Valley R&D lab under a large Korean umbrella and had to find ways to apply agile ideas to potentially long-term projects with inherently uncertain results. Lengthy, large-scale experiments seem at first blush not to fit into the rapidly cadenced agile methods, but by the end of the chat we’d noted that increased transparency in the form of frequent demos can keep motivation higher, cross-domain and cross-disciplinary sharing of ideas could lead to lateral thinking benefits and decrease internal sniping of other research teams, and smaller scale experiments could often be used to de-risk investments in programs that might later scale for great impact.

SUMMARY

All in all, it was a good conference.  Vienna is lovely, with the Monday Mingle venue of Palais Liechtenstein the most spectacular I’ve been to at an agile conference to date.  Most folks I met were there to learn and build their own careers as agile coaches and trainers, so it was a great time for networking.

Perhaps we’ll meet some of you at the next one!

Arlen Bankston