Reflections on a team-based conference

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If software product delivery is driven by teams, why are team-based conferences not the norm?

Recently I attended the 2017 LeSS London conference. LeSS is an organizational design framework for scaling Scrum to more than one team. It is about applying the Scrum principles as simply as possible in a large-scale context.

For the first time at a conference, I participated and learned as part of a team.

This is what I learned:

#1: Sometimes skills and experience have a stronger influence than roles

At the start of the LeSS conference, attendees picked their specialist role – Coach/Consultant, Business, Developer – and then self-organized into 8-10 person teams. The ratio of roles was heavily skewed towards Coach/Consultant.
I ended up in a 10 person team with five Coaches/Consultants. Some Coaches/Consultants had been previously developers or product managers/owners.

The team quickly built rapport and communication was very fluid. Throughout the conference the team never pointed out the unevenness in roles. The skills and experience offered by every single team member was far more important than their official role. This situation can be manifested in very mature and high performing teams where responsibilities are shared.

#2: A clear purpose helps teams of any size to adapt and change quickly

At the start of the second day, LeSS co-founder Bas Vodde asked if we wanted to change any agenda items. I could sense the sudden level of excitement in the room.
Have you ever been offered that opportunity at a conference before?

A few changes were proposed and voting happened very quickly. All proposed changes were backed up unanimously.

Reaching a quick consensus would not have been possible if every single attendee did not understand or share the common purpose: a team-based conference.

#3: To learn and grow, connect with others

Prior to the conference I selected my preferred sessions. However, during the conference my choices changed as influenced by:

  • Comments about a presenter based on previous conferences
    Opportunity to pair with someone who was a specialist for a given session
  • I decided to compare my choices before and after the conference: I made more choice changes than I had anticipated.

Upon further reflection, I discovered that I had devoted time and energy towards an interpersonal self-improvement path – connecting with people and improving quality of relationships. This behavior was perfectly aligned with the team based purpose of the conference.

#4: Use a Bazaar facilitation model to divide and conquer

For the last agenda item of the LeSS conference, teams shared what they learned using a Conference Review Bazaar facilitation model. Team members rotate roles between “home base” (show others your team’s work) and “go see” (visit other team’s output). The repertoire of communication styles was amazing – from songs to word games!

Recently we used a Bazaar facilitation model to kick-off multiple goals within a quarter for one team. First round was to identify key questions followed by a second round focused on proposing answers. Everyone was able to rotate for each round and at the end of the session everyone was well informed and aligned.

Have you attended a team-based conference in the past? Would be great to learn more about your experience.

Here is a great blog post by LeSS co-founder Bas Vodde describing the 2 day structure in more detail.



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