Julie Donders

Scrum Session with Value First

RSA Blog • Karlijn Eskens  01/06/2012

Living the startup life, time is of the essence. With all the things to be done, working together as a team most efficiently and realizing your goals in a short period of time can be a challenge. That’s why, last week we invited Timo Mulder and Martin Koel from ValueFirst for a Scrum workshop. “When you have a team consisting of people with different expertise and you want to develop a successful innovative new product in a short period of time, Scrum is the way to approach it,” explains Timo Mulder.

Key in this method is working in iterations (sprints), enabling the teams to easily manage the process and keeping focus on the product and testing the underlying assumptions of your product as fast as possible.

Learning by Playing
Something the teams learned by playing the marshmallow game: the challenge was to make the highest possible tower with spaghetti, rope, tape and a marshmallow on top. Most teams started off enthusiastically by building the tower but ended with a disappointment when they put the marshmallow on top at the end of the game – and the tower fell down.

Doing it the ‘Scrum way’, you would have put the marshmallow on top of the tower instantly and check several times during the process if everything is working the way it’s supposed to, so your end product is what you imagined in the first place. Testing your assumptions by building successful prototypes and iterate based on your learnings, significantly increases your odds of success. Got it?

Scrum is Solid

The startups got it too and were really enthusiastic about the workshop. “The workshop was awesome! We understand the importance of estimating all the work to be done, the velocity of the team and it’s gotten a lot easier to organize everything,” says Cristian form Nexi.me. For Jonas from Peerby it were the more practical things that stuck with him: “The simplicity of the framework really helps us to clarify assumptions on which we develop our product. Also we have made our process more explicit, which makes it easier to manage.”

In every case the teams started working the Scrum way right away after the workshop, appointing the roles of Product Owner and Scrum Master to certain team members and covering the office with large sheets of paper saying ‘to do’, ‘in progress’,‘done’, and post-its on these papers with all the tasks to be executed. Timo was happy to hear this and leaves the teams with four tips in order to become a ‘hyper-performing’ team.


1. Don’t forget the importance of developing a good team by setting clear roles, communication lines upfront and use visual metrics to show your progress;

2.Each iteration (sprint) focuses on testing your most critical assumptions as fast as possible;

3. Find the right balance between managing the process and the content of your work (e.g. by doing retrospectives after each sprint on how you can improve as a team

4. Get help from an experienced Scrum Coach who can help you in the first sprints with setting up a good product- and sprint backlog and show you how the scrum ceremonies can be used most effectively.

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