How Scrum boosts your willpower and productivity by Anna Obukhova

Speaker Anna Obukhova
How Scrum boosts your willpower and productivity
  • talk
  • 60
  • coaching
  • management
  • russian-stage

Willpower is the force that is between the brain activity (I want to do this or I need to do this) and the action itself (start coding).  If there is not enough willpower, people find it difficult to start any activity (especially that involves decision making). 

What is the standard approach when you feel tired and find it difficult to concentrate? Take some coffee (but latest research shows that coffee depletes the brain activity, even when body has more energy), take some sweets (but sugar ends quickly and gives even more exhaustion to the body)?  These widely used strategies generally do not work, and in long-term even add harm to the body and brain.

The willpower is not endless (so-called muscle theory of willpower), it can be saved, it can be trained, there are approaches how to keep the willpower level high. To keep the willpower (and thus, productivity) on the high level, people should know and use different approaches that lay in the field on the social and cognitive science.

There are a lot of evidences that SCRUM improves the developer’s productivity in terms of speed of development, code quality, and accuracy of design.  Unfortunately mainly all recommendations from SCRUM coaches look like “believe me, if you do this, you will have better velocity”. Yes, it works. But why does it work? Sometimes SCRUM does not give such great results even when main elements are in place. The question “Why” and “What makes the difference” is here again.

I will describe the model of relationship between the willpower related brain metabolism on very low level (specific amino acid cycle) and the SCRUM practices.  I can prove that SCRUM addresses the productivity of the people’s brain using 3 different flows simultaneously. There are several tips that make these productivity flows working or not.  You can make Agile productive, you can have non-productive Agile.  I will show you where the difference is.

Overall there are 10 productivity tips that can be put into  3 flows.

As the outcome of this session, Agile coaches, and all people who can change the process (in fact that is any team member) will review their SCRUM: does the way they have it improve the productivity or they are losing all the power? The changes are cheap, the outcome can be huge.


Learning outcomes:

As the result of this session people will:

-          Create the list of immediate improvements to existing SCRUM process

-          Analyze do they use their brain in the productive way or not

-          Agile Coaches and Scrum Masters will have new type of arguments when they are proposing changes 

This session is more like a discussion about how to make brain working better, what the drawbacks are and how the change can be done by everybody. I got very positive feedback on this topic from local conference and inside my company. Also this topic is quite unusual for Agile conferences and will bring a good contrast and variety with experience reports about using Agile.



Introduction:  5 minutes;  I am going to describe my background so the audience understands how I came to this topic and can build the trust.  I will list the types of knowledge involved and warn the people that this will be quite an intense brain exercise with a lot of new information and call for action.

The neurological piece: 10 minutes;  I plan to go deeper to describe the biological foundation for the brain productivity and what happens with the brain if there are not enough proper amino acids.

The productivity piece:  10 minutes; What actions lead to the great brain cognitive abilities?

The SCRUM and the brain: 15 minutes:  I will draw the 3 flows that exist in the SCRUM process that make the brain work more effectively.  For each SCRUM part I will describe how you can perform it so it boosts the performance and what actions lead you to normally weak productivity.

Call for action: 5 minutes:  Each description will have a call for action: so everyone can check, do they make SCRUM in Productivity way or in ordinary way. This makes the lecture more interactive and people will immediately have the personal outcome, like they do on the training.

Wrap Up: 10 minutes:  Questions and answers.

User Persona
  • coach
  • developer
  • first-timer
  • practitioner
  • manager
  • team lead
Constraints and Class Arrangement

no restrictions there, usually this topic attracts quite a lot of people, so the large class with fresh air will be perfect

Session History

The first version was presented on AgileDays 2012 in Moscow with very positive feedback.  I plan to present the updated one with changes made according to feedback to give more focus on most interesting points.

Slides are uploaded there, but please take into account that it is impossible to understand the topic using slides only, text and presenter is needed.

Last Updated 03 Sep 16:34