Scrum Gathering 2012

I’ve recently attended the Scrum Gathering 2012 in Atlanta, GA. I’d presented at the previous on in London and was delighted to be accepted to speak again in Atlanta. I enjoy the sense of community and shared values I find at the Scrum Gathering, lots of interesting people with interesting points of view.

The event was held in the Atlanta Marriott Buckhead Hotel & Conference Center, the conference centre was very well equipped, the rooms were comfortable and thank air conditioned. The only gripe I’d have with the facilities was the awful wi-fi reception, when you’re 3000 miles from your wife & 2yr old daughter, Skype becomes very important. This time the wi-fi wasn’t man enough to call home.

I travelled out on Saturday the 5th to get there a day or two early. My travelling companion on this occasion was Christina Ohanian and we met up with another attendee on the way out, Mark Stocker. The three of us formed a little gang of Brits out to see what the Scrum Gathering had on offer.

What follows is an account of my 3 days.


Monday – Day One – Opening Keynote.

Clarke ‘s style was quiet and witty, an on a couple of occasions I felt the crowd didn’t quite get his European style of sarcasm, but he was generally very well received. He gave a very interesting keynote on why focus is important and the evils involved in multitasking. This was multitasking in the sense of switching people from project to project as opposed to individuals multitasking in a scrum but the learning’s and principles are applicable to both.

By demonstrating the cost in the lost revenue by starting too many things and not finishing quickly Clarke was able to easily visualise the damage this causes to the bottom line and additionally the de-motivation felt by workers in that context. He played a simple multi tasking game to highlight the mental anguish that multitasking causes as you switch between tasks. It was very effective and i’ve since used it in a coaching session.


Morning – Morning Session

Put your Students in the Driver’s Seat – Teaching Scrum Effectively using Training from the BACK of the Room – Brian Rabon and Lonnie Weaver-Johnson (@yourpmpartner)

As I’m looking into the CST application process at the moment, I felt this sessions would be beneficial to me. I wasn’t disappointed. Brian has a highly energetic style of presenting/training, though that may have been due to the fact he’d been binging on the Skittles he’d provided for the session attendees.

While the games and exercises were very useful, I felt the pace was a little punishing and didn’t really allow for the techniques or information to sink in properly, which I why I’m failing to list them or do them justice here.I did like the use of toys and sweets on the table and the allowing of attendees to fiddle, play and doodle. Kinesthetic learners often being overlooked in training classes.


Monday Afternoon – Session 1

Discovering the basics of the Cynefin Framework by playing LEGO – Andrea Tomasinin (@tumma72) & Dave Sharrock (@davesharrock)

I’d previously looked into Cynefin as I’d heard lots of fluff going around about it. At a previous one day unconference, I managed to coerce Liz Keogh (@lunivore) into talking about it and that helped me understand it immensely. I was hoping that the Cynefin & Lego session would take my understanding further. It did, but honestly not by a great deal. Essentially the Cynefin domains were described with use of Lego in a series of games. Overall I really enjoyed it and if you’re new to Cynefin it’d be a fab session, but going in with a similar level of left me feeling I hadn’t pushed my knowledge.

I hasten to add if you want to learn about Cynefin, this is definitely a great introduction!


Monday Afternoon – Session 2

Retrospectives; the good, the bad and the ugly – Jeroen Molenaar (@mc_raze)

I gave Jeroen some feedback during the session, I walked out. So did my companions Mark & Christina.

I’m sorry Jeroen, but the only honest critical feedback I can give was that you’re style was nervy and disjointed, the rapid rotation of slides didn’t engage me at all and the content of the session was poor. At no point in the 20 minutes that I was there did I see any clear differentiation between Good, Bad or Ugly, in fact bad and ugly apparently are the same thing. There was repeated use of the classic retrospective steps from the Derby & Larsson book but with nothing to show what a good retrospective might be.

Perhaps I came to your session hoping for something new and innovative, a departure from the ‘handbook’. Maybe my expectations were way too high and you’re session might have been useful for a brand new SM or someone looking to move into the role.

I hate to savage another presenter, as I know how nerve wracking the experience can be, especially or a first time presenter, but this session was no where near to the standard of the rest of the conference.


Tuesday – Day Two – Keynote

Creating a Focus on Results & Accountability for their Delivery

Tanner Corbridge

WOW! I think everyone agreed this was a killer keynote. Tanner Corbridge talked about the accountability of the self and avoiding the blame game. It’s on my to-do list to order some of the books he referenced in the keynote (The Oz principle being one). Lots of energy, humour and a couple of fun games to demonstrate his point. Covering blame, honesty, accountability, beliefs, experiences and a whole raft of stuff meant the keynote few by.

The funniest moment being a video from his family home showing his eldest daughter (3yrs old)  blaming his youngest (8 mths old ish) for drawing on a surface far beyond her reach (and ability). Hilarious and endearing at the same time.


Tueday – Morning Session

Sizing User Stories With The Team Estimation Game – Chris Sims (@chrissims) & Adam Weisbart (@Wesibart)

I’d gone to this session with the hope that I’d find new and innovative techniques for sizing user stories. If you’re new to scrum or a new SM you’d have got that. Chris & Adam gave a great demonstration of physically shuffling cards around to find an order of complexity to which points could be more easily attributed. This is a technique I’ve seen and used and felt I’d gain little new from the session so I left early.

I’d like to say that I didn’t leave because it was a poor session, in fact it was a very good session, I left as I wasn’t gaining personally. Hats of to Chris & Adam for the fun way they presented.


Tuesday – Afternoon Session 1

Would your Team survive the Zombie Apocalypse? James Scrimshire (@scrimmers)

This was my session, I’ll let others be the judge. All I can say is I had fun, met some great people in the attendees and gained some great feedback to improve my presentation.

If you were there, please feel free to elaborate honestly on your view.


Tuesday – Afternoon Session 2

I bailed on further session, drained by my own and feeling a little conference burn out I took the time to wander the halls and chat to some really nice people including Howard Sublett (@howardsublett) from Big Visible and Paul Ellarby (@pellarby) from Thoughtworks. That and a cup of tea.


Wednesday – Day Three – Opening Keynote.

James Grenning (@jwgrenning) – Demand Technical Excellence

I bailed on James Grenning.. yes i did that.. I bailed on a signatory of the Agile Manifesto. It’s OK though because I’d seen this keynote at Scrum Gathering London 2011. Sorry James, you’re a great speaker but I thought I’d have a long breakfast and sort out sending all my presentation gear home.

For the record, when I saw it in London I thought it was ace.


Wednesday – Open Space

The Open Space event was a great day, the real conversations that people wanted to have emerged and interested parties gravitated to them. It’s a real joy to see an open space working. Probably the most valuable information I got all week came in short bursts on this day.

Huge thanks to those that put up topics and stayed to talk them through. Sadly by the close of play around 4pm the conference had dwindled from about 300 to 50 people. Well done to the die hard attendees.



At the opening address by the organisers, a show of hands for those attending their first Scrum Gathering was held, the results were significant. Two thirds of the room were new attendees, and in my opinion it would have been amazing for most of them. I sadly found the 3 days a little flat, I didn’t gain much from the sessions, but gained far more from corridor conversations, made some great contacts and had a nice time. Compared to the London Scrum Gathering, while it was clear more money was spent, London really provided a more ‘mature’ view of the work we do.


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