European Scrum Gathering: How mental images boost performance

I was at the European Scrum Gathering 2018 in London. I expected to learn about skills to write user stories, play funny scrum games or fancy metrics of agile teams performance. It was different - far more emotional than I expected. Here is what I learned.


The team

The main topic for me was all about the team. Not surprising. It is common knowledge that a high-performing team is one of the most precious things to have these days in an organization - venture capitalists just buying startups for their teams, they “acquihire”.

I really liked the talk by Richard Kasperowski about high performing teams. I learned that high-performing teams and friendships are pretty, pretty similar. Key elements are

  • Positive bias - e.g. the idea of the opposite is at first great
  • Freedom - e.g. meetings are treated as invites not obligations
  • Self awareness - e.g. realizing the emotional state of yourself and of your teammates
  • Connections - e.g. asking open questions out of interest in others

The feedback loop

I received another reminder of the power of feedback loops. John McFadyen talked about extending scrum to business: “Enterprise Scrum”. What I realized while talking about feedback loops, is that the fundamentals empower and it’s not the rituals and artefacts that count, but understanding why they were introduced. Main motivation for developing towards agility is the demand for more market responsiveness. And that’s where ambuzzador’s “intuitive” agility comes from. During the wild years of Social Media shaking up marketing and corporate communication strategies, we consulted companies on how to respond faster to questions posted on the wall and how they can effectively transpose their brand identity to a profile.

But back to London. Suddenly, the lady right in front of me asked: “How do you handle the usual questions like: When is the project finished? How much does it cost?” The response astonished me: I think these are legitimate questions from a business leader and that they have to be addressed. It’s more about giving people ranges (min, max) and openly communicate probabilities. So, what is called “Agile” does not introduce a new method for how things are done but rather helps people face the truth. Making a business profitable is still the driving force.


The Atlantic

The 3rd talk was the motivational power show of Debra Searle, who rowed, rowed, rowed her boat gently through the Atlantic, totally on her own, in 4 months - a short version of a similar talk is here:

She made it to Barbados not only thanks to her physical strength, but also her mental strength. How did she succeed? She had a very precise idea of her arrival in Barbados. Something she called the “arrival scene”. How people will look, such as their shoes, smell etc. She always ran the “arrival movie” when her brain ran low on motivation. She also talked about how this experience helped her in a life as a business leader. For instance how she realized that changing her attitude to a certain problem made a difference and made her stronger. Next time I happen to be alone in the Atlantic ocean I will definitely give it a try.