Gonzo QA: Fear and Loathing at Scrum Day Europe 2014 (part 2)

A savage journey to the heart of evidence-based management for software organizations in 1,000 words or less

Dateline: 3 July 2014, Amsterdam

(Read part 1.)

Lunch-time sandwiches behind me, Forrester’s Diego lo Giudice’s Keynote: The State of Scaling Agile In The Age of The Customer roared into life in the ‘Grote zaal’. Sporting a sharp goatee and an even sharper suit, Diego started talking at 160 words per minute. Having warmed up on his introductory slides, he passed 250 words per minute on slide 4 and was soon speaking at speeds exceeding the limit of normal human comprehension, around 500 words per minute. Facts and figures filled the air. Nobody moved for fear of getting hit. Towards the middle of the presentation, smoke was clearly visible coming from the left hand side vent of his jacket. ‘*’-uniformed roadies immediately appeared on the stage and sprayed his torso with a thick coat of fire-retardant foam, allowing him to continue to present uninterrupted. Diego’s 27,500 word presentation finished without warning to deafening silence followed by thunderous applause. There was 5 minutes left for questions but we knew we had just witnessed a tour de force and there was nothing left to say.

Forrester – buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get informed.

Revived by mojitos and apple flaps, I wondered about Session 4: The next steps after Scrum – Agility meets Operational Excellence by David Bogaerts and Paul Wolhoff. A presentation about the state of Scrum and DevOps at ING bank. Really? Yes, and it was good. Looking like Asterix and Obelix but without the moustaches, David and Paul walked through the results of two years of hard work showing how ING have been able to boost their continuous improvement journey by bridging the gap a.) between agility and operational excellence; and b.) between employees and management. This seemed to revolve around i.) tearing up the ING employee performance review system and starting again with only one ‘True North’, i.e. ‘speed without service loss’; and ii.) reorganising management using agile principles and scrum techniques. This was truly inspirational stuff. Over the same period, the ING bank Net Promoter Score had risen from around -36 to -18 or so. The speakers were surprisingly relaxed about their improving but still very negative scores. A number of UK banks have positive Net Promoter Scores so why not the group of Dutch banks ING considers itself a member of?

After frozen Margaritas and a handful of Balisto biscuit bars, I approached Session 5: Agile Myth Busters. Presenters Olav Maassen and Laurens Bonnema changed into lab coats and explained their mission. They would use elements of the scientific method to test the validity of agile rumours, myths, and adages. This they entertainingly did, testing five agile myths to see if there is any truth to them. Their results?


  1. Get more women on the team
  2. Military-grade fixed teams rule
  3. There is no good reason not to hold a retrospective of the right duration
  4. A combination of physical and virtual scrum tools work together just fine
  5. Smaller projects are better than bigger projects 60% of the time, every time(*).

(*) Terms and conditions apply.

You have to admire a couple of specialists so happy to shoot themselves in the foot.

A Tom Collins and several more Balistos later, I caught my first glimpse of Open Space Technology in action. The panel discussion used an OST ‘open fishbowl’ format, which appeared to mean that the four participants on stage spoke to an empty fifth chair and I forgot what had been said every 2 seconds. I didn’t get it and sat there mystified. Maybe the Closing Keynote by Ken Schwaber via Skype would round the day off more satisfactorily. Nope, Ken’s chat line was down and instead there was a scrumpede for the bar.

It was time to leave before the weasels started closing in. Discarding my ankle tag, I slipped out the back where a fast boat took me to the coast. I’ll be back if Ken can make it.

Author’s note

My thanks to everyone who made Scrum Day Europe 2014 a resounding success. Such inspiration! I look forward to Scrum Day Europe 2015 and, who knows, finally hearing Ken Schwaber speak.

www.scrumdayeurope.com 3 July 2014, Amsterdam


In memory of Hunter S Thompson, 1937 – 2005, high priest of Gonzo journalism

First posted: 12 July 2014 on www.spritecloud.com

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