Keep on Trucking at Scrum Australia

In my previous article, I gave my impressions of my 2 days at Scrum Australia. As I mentioned, I ran a session which was an experience report of my time with Toll Global Logistics, helping out Risto Pearce, their Technical Development Manager, and his teams. Here is how it went.


Our goal for the session was:

To give an insight into to implementing and using Scrum in a corporate IT environment, and particularly the management perspective.


We wanted to not just stand at a lectern with some slides, so we decided to go for a fireside chat format. You can see a prominent example of this, in the video below:

I played the role of Walt Mossberg/Kara Swisher, with Risto as the Bill Gates/Steve Jobs figure.

You can see the structure, and the questions that we prepared for the session in this Google Drive document. The Prezi that you can see at the top of this post, was used to add some visual interest, allowing me to dive in and show some photos to illustrate some of the points being made.

Selected highlights

We didn’t stick rigidly to the questions, as we wanted to keep things fairly informal and to be able to, depending on audience questions, explore different routes, Choose You Own Adventure style. This means that what is in the document, isn’t exactly what happened on the day. My summary below, blends elements of both to give you an idea of what transpired. There’s more detail in the Google Document.

Starting up and training

Risto was fortunate to have good support from his organisation; he said they are supportive of new processes and technologies that can provide the company with competitive advantages

There are so many advantages with Agile for delivering on time, responding to change and minimising rework that it was easy to make a business case to support it.

Is the cost of doing business inefficiently or ineffectively greater…yes.

He stressed the importance of training for his team and also for himself:

If I’m supposed to make decisions about agile I needed to be do the same training as the team

Risto said that he had known agile/Scrum for a while, but had an impression that it was for people that didn’t like writing specifications or following process. The reality, as he sees it, is that it as disciplined as any other development technique that he has ever used before.


When it came to putting the training into practice, he said that:

We chose an existing project that was well understood so we could apply agile techniques, to make sure we stayed on track.

Although, he also said that there is something to be said about getting all teams to dive right in, so that they are learning together, and aren’t our of sync.

When asked about how he communicated different ways of working to the management team:

The real issue is getting the management team to be comfortable with a process that doesn’t require detailed requirements up front to work. Once you take them through it and get them involved, they quickly understand just how much insight they have over the product being developed

Gripping the pen

When asked how using Scrum changed what he did as a manager he had an interesting analogy, likening past management as holding a pen palm side down; you keep control by gripping tightly. With agile approaches, you hold the pen palm side up, allowing you to relax your grip but still provide support; giving you opportunity for regular inspection but not forcing solutions on the team. Reduced micro-management frees up time during Sprints to allow a manager to look at big picture items, and help to remove barriers for the team.

On Coaching

Risto’s view is that Scrum is simple to learn the basics of, but there is a lot of “devil in the detail”. Trying to work this out on your own takes time that is reduced by having someone who can guide you through it.

Having an agile coach completely mitigates this as they help guide you through the minefield which means you get to the other side without blowing up too many. I couldn’t imagine professionally introducing Scrum without an agile coach or experienced staff.


When asked, “How has what you have done improved the way you work?”…to paraphrase, his response was:

Everybody is generally happier with the way things work

Job done!

Thanks to those who attended the session, and who joined in the discussion. We seemed to have a decent level of feedback at the end of the session, with a majority of people getting value out of it.

Finally, thanks very much to Risto for collaborating with me in putting this session together.


Scrum Australia 2013 report

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A little bit of time has passed since my trip to Sydney to present at, and to participate in the inaugural Scrum Australia conference on 10-11 April. This article is  a quick run down on what happened. I’ve also detailed the session that I spoke at, in this article.

General Impressions and presenters

The overall impression was that the organisers outdid themselves, creating an efficient, stimulating, collegiate atmosphere. At first sight, I thought that the NSW Teacher’s Federation conference centre might feel a little cramped, especially in the common areas where people would congregate for breaks. This turned out to be OK, though.

I didn’t take very many photos, but I’ve put a few in the slideshow that you can see at the top of this article.

The quality of the presenters was high. Kenny Rubin, over from Colorado, was the star overseas striker. His stimulating opening keynote, was titled “Economically sensible Scrum”. He also did another well considered and delivered talk, “Portfolio Management with Scrum”.

Here is Lynn Cazaly’s sketch notes of Kenny’s keynote:


It was gratifying to see many faces from the Melbourne agile community speaking across the 2 days. In no particular order, I spotted Herry Wiputra, Francisco Trindade, Anton Rossouw, Craig Brown, Bernd Schiffer, and Adrian Fittolani. You’ll spot some of these faces at Melbourne meetups, and other events like LAST Conference, and Agile Australia, indicating the strength of the community here.

Open Space

A valuable addition to the program was the morning of Open Space, on day two. For space reasons this was divided into beginner level groups, and experienced practitioners in separate rooms. It would have been nice to have had enough space for all of the conference delegates to create one, large Open Space morning. However, having said that, the format really led to a wider level of participation than is possible with just sticking to speakers standing at a lectern.

My session

The session I ran was with Risto Pearce, who is the Development Manager at Toll Global Logistics. I coached his department through an agile transition; helping Certified Scrum Trainer Rowan Bunning, with the a couple of the training courses they attended, and then going on to work with the Toll team through the first few months of switching to putting into practice what they had learned.

We did this in a fireside chat/talk show format. With me being the interviewer and Risto answering questions, and both of us giving insights. Here’s more detail on what happened, including the Prezi presentation and the notes for the session.

I’m a glutton…for meetups

Despite being somewhat drained from 2 days of talking to people, I headed straight from the conference to a meeting of the Sydney Business Analysts group. Craig, Renee Troughton and I led a session asking, “What is an Agile Business Analyst?”. The format we chose was a mix of Lean Coffee and Fishbowl, so I called it a CoffeeBowl. Topics were suggested by participants Lean Coffee style, and we used a Fishbowl to discuss it. This worked pretty well, and I’m happy to say that the event has a 5 star rating on its Meetup page 🙂

Thanks to the organisers for having me at Scrum Australia. It was well worthwhile.

Getting Good – Melbourne Geek Night, 18 March 2013.

Here’s a talk I did last night at Melbourne Geek Night, that I call “Getting Good”. It’s an extension of the pseudo Subterranean Homesick Blues style lightning talk that I did once at the Melbourne Scrum and Agile meetup. I thought I would try Prezi out, and it turned out OK, I think. It is a look at how we learn skills, how we progress, and how we get good at them. I dipped into Malcolm Gladwell’s so-called “10,000 hour rule”, linked The Karate Kid with Alistair Cockburn’s Shu-Ha-Ri progression, and then equated this to how I learnt how to Telemark ski. At the end I made mention of how I used to go to Oxford Geek Night, the inspiration for Melbourne Geek Night. The links for further reading can be found on Pinboard. It was also great hearing about and, from Ned and Matt. I hope that my more general talk was a good counterpoint to their accounts of life at their startups. Cheers to Ben, Ben, and Andrew at Thirst Studios for organising the night. I enjoyed it.