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Insights / Blog / Agility & Organisation

Scrum Master Gathering 2017 at AOE

November 20, 2017
Daniel RäderDaniel RäderProject Management

Forty-five Agile enthusiasts met on November 10, 2017 for the annual “Scrum Master Gathering” at AOE. The Open Source Enterprise web developer had invited 45 Scrum Masters from all over Germany, including colleagues from andrena objects, Namics and //Seibert/Media.

The gathering was organized in an Open Space format. At the beginning of the event, the principles of the format were presented and then the individual sessions were planned. For this, the participants introduced those topics, questions and workshops that interest them the most. In five parallel tracks, each lasting 30 minutes, the participants were able to examine and discuss a total of 19 topics.

Highlight Topics: Optimal Communication, Challenges for Scrum Masters and Agile Processes

The 19 topics comprised the entire bandwidth of those areas that a Scrum Master has to consider in his daily work, including “experiences in multiple projects”, “Scrum Guide revisions” and “Scrum/Agile in media production.” Below, we outline some of the most important topics.

1. Optimal Communication

Communication in all its facets was one of the most important and visible topics of the event. Here are some of the key issues:

  • Esteeming Communication – Many participants were already familiar with Nonviolent Communication (NVC) according to Marshall B. Rosenberg. However, since this approach offers a lot of potential for constructive communication, it was raised as an issued in one of the sessions, whereupon a lively discussion on the subject took place.
  • Pioneer Cards – In another session, I introduced the Pioneer Cards. With their 32 value- and competence cards each, they offer a great opportunity for self-reflection. However, they can also be used in conjunction with NVC to make it clear to yourself or your conversational partners which values or needs are behind a conflict. The cards are also ideal for team development or communication in retrospectives. Here, they can be used to serve the team as a basis for a common understanding of values. If new team members are integrated into the team, these values can be communicated and made transparent with help of the cards. As an alternative to the Pioneer Cards, the Moving Motivators from Management 3.0 practice were mentioned, but they have a slightly different focus.

2. Challenges for Scrum Masters

A Scrum Master faces many challenges. Therefore, the following topics weren’t the only ones discussed during the event:

  • How do I measure my value as Scrum Master? Should I, in a best-case scenario, rationalize the Scrum Master role? – These questions triggered a spirited debate whether the value of a Scrum Master can even be measure and if so, how. The consensus was that the value of a Scrum Master can’t really be measured. It does make sense, though, to request feedback and input from all sides, especially the team, and to compare this feedback with one’s own self-awareness. The Scrum Master role should only be rationalized if the team has reached a high level of maturity (see e.g.: Tuckman's stages of group development). But, rationalization should always be the goal. However, if a team feels that it cannot evolve, look again – you can always learn something new. It is very important in the context that the Scrum Master should constantly evolve. If he does not, he limits the further development of the team. Conclusion of the participants: This should never happen. 
  • Retrospective Techniques – Experiences, failures, impulses: Scrum Master talked about cool retrospectives and retrospectives gone wrong. Ideas and recommendations were exchanged.
  • Fixed sprints / short-term (re) prioritization  In this session we had animated discussion concerning the current strategy of the service provider who raised the question. The service provider uses Scrum as an Agile solution for E-Commerce support. Input from the participants was to establish a greater relationship of trust with the customer in order to establish more understanding of the process. Alternatively, it might make sense to use Kanban, which is more suitable for output than outcome (business value).

3. Agile Processes

Of course, Agility is the basis for our work as Scrum Masters. Nevertheless, I would like to pick out two topics specifically, which I will introduce briefly:

  • Decision-making in self-organized teams – Teams must continuously make decisions. Starting with different solutions to Task Breakdown issues up to the really important, difficult questions (“Where do we go to lunch together as a team?”), many decisions have to be made in daily teamwork. In a self-organized team without hierarchies, it is also the job of the Scrum Master to moderate this decision-making and help the team make a decision that leaves out as few as possible. During the session, we collected the methods and tools we were familiar with and in which cases we would use them and when we would not. Dot-voting as a classic tool of a majority decision was quickly ticked off, leaving us with more time to talk about less-frequently used methods, such as the consultative individual decision, Consent, expert decisions, systemic consensus and the need for a right-to-veto. Even those methods that at first glance seemed nonsensical, such as the coin toss and the threat of the moderator making the decision himself, found a place in the toolbox. If a team generally agrees, but loses itself in a discussion of details, both methods can be used successfully. The role of the “dictator” in a team where everyone has the same rights can also make sense, as long as the role rotates regularly and the decisions involved are rather trivial.
  • Ubongo Flow Game – At first glance you might ask yourself what a game has to do with Agile processes. This workshop on process change delivered the answer: This Agile game was introduced during the Ubongo Flow session. The aim of this team-oriented game, based on the popular board game Ubongo, is to show team members that different approaches lead to different results and different levels of efficiency. The exercise also illustrates how this happens. The game is played in three rounds, is very entertaining and has a cool learning effect. It can be very helpful if you have already played an Agile game, which helps you recognize the rough edges as well as the goal of the exercise. For this reason, it was terrific that the participants had the opportunity to experience Ubongo Flow hands-on.


The participants owe special thanks to the host, AOE; Christian Zenker, Martin Tepper and Daniel Räder of the AOE organizing team, as well as everyone who contributed to the success of the Scrum Master Gathering.

We would also like to thank Tobias von Garnier Photography, who owns all image rights for the photos in the photo gallery and the title. Thanks also to Christian Zenker for the scribbles in the photo gallery composite.

Image Gallery: Scrum Master Gathering 2017

2017 © Photographs by Tobias von Garnier Photography