Approximate reading time: 10 minutes

Today it’s time for the next interview in our knowledge section. To be more precise, this will be the start of an alumni series of former training participants who will tell you what their everyday work looks like, why they booked a training or took advantage of the consulting services back then, and how they have been applying their agile knowledge in practice ever since.

Since our first interview was already able to generate so much positive feedback, we are excited to learn how you will like our “Best Practice” alumni interviews.

Without further ado and before I give too much away, I would like to start directly into the interview. Our guest today is Sebnem Andresen.

Scrum Academy

Sebnem, thank you so much for taking the time to give us an interview. Before we keep the readers in suspense, please introduce yourself and tell us who you are and what you do.

Sebnem Andresen

Gladly. I am Sebnem Andresen, 45, married, mother of a daughter and have been working in the IT industry for 16 years, alternately as a project and product manager. The last 6 months I was employed as a fellow at the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure through the Work4Germany program and gained many impressions of how the government works or how the work structures are set up there. I also got to know many interesting projects of the ministry and many people from different departments.
Work4Germany (The site is german only) is a program under the patronage of Helge Braun (Federal Chancellery) and has been a federal agency for a few months. The goal of Work4Germany is to bring people from the private sector who are methodologically strong into the federal ministries to introduce agile working there. It was a very exciting time with many impressions and I am grateful that I could participate.

Scrum Academy

That sounds really exciting and I’m glad that the program has gotten off to such a promising start. How and when did you find your way to our trainings?

Sebnem Andresen

I have had a lot of experience in the agile environment over the last few years, i.e. dailies, reviews and retros in project management. I wanted to deepen my knowledge and learn the philosophy of Scrum from scratch and get a certificate. I found my way to you guys through TAM Academy and then talked to Sohrab on the phone. I was immediately enthusiastic. I took the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Agile Leadership (CAL-1) trainings with you. Both took place online and, in addition to being a lot of fun, expanded my horizons and knowledge enormously.

Scrum Academy

What was particularly important to you in choosing the training provider and/or training?

Sebnem Andresen

It was very important to me that people from other industries who do not come from IT also took part in the training. Diversity was a given in the training and it was a lot of fun. It was also very important to me that the training included good exercises that could be put into practice immediately. After the 3-day training, we (all participants among each other) networked and I know if I had a question – in whatever direction – I can count on their support. It was great teamwork!

Scrum Academy

What is the most important insight or the biggest ah-ha effect you had in training?

Sebnem Andresen

I have deepened my knowledge about the Scrum Master and gained a lot of confidence. Of course, you already know a lot if you have worked according to Scrum or another agile method. But what I found great were the appropriate examples from other industries and the experiences from Sohrab’s projects and consultancies that he included. The best and worst practices when it comes to implementing Scrum in organizations were also extremely helpful. Sohrab kept putting the most important things in the forefront, saying what is necessary to be able to work in an agile way and also how the mindset needs to change in order to use the way of working successfully.

Scrum Academy

You have now spent six months at Work4Germany, the German government’s project as a fellow at the BMVI. Before that, you were in a large telecommunications company or a subsidiary. Both are probably not the most “agile” of the agile. But where do you see the differences between a large corporation from the private sector and a federal authority?

Sebnem Andresen

Before the BMVI, I was at Motionlogic, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, where I worked in an agile manner with colleagues in the Big Data department. There, we created in-depth analyses of traffic and movement flows based on anonymous signaling data from the mobile network – and shaped these into products.
We used the Kanban method and modern tools, such as Confluence, Jira and Slack. There were also dailies and reviews.

Agile was also used at my previous employer Sensorberg, which operates in the IoT sector. In addition to the modern tools for project management already mentioned above, there was, for example, an idea board, and the best ideas were tried out. In general, there was a very open atmosphere at Sensorberg, the company was run by “agilists”, teamwork and team spirit were very important, each:r employee was allowed to try out a lot and take responsibility, there was a lot of freedom. We never had to be present, could work from anywhere – and accomplished great things, and in a very short time developed a technology and hardware that opened doors via Bluetooth with the help of an app, which was very effective for operators of coworking spaces, for example, because no keys had to be distributed anymore.

For this reason, my two previous employers are not comparable to the federal agency. In the federal agency, work is hierarchical. However, there were already agile approaches in some units and great interest everywhere. But the goal of the Work4Germany project was precisely to ensure an exchange and to try out and introduce agile methods in the various units. It also worked well.

Scrum Academy

What surprised you most about the agency in a positive way?

Sebnem Andresen

The people working there and the open-mindedness towards new working methods. In addition to a tool for collaborative work, I introduced the Kanban method in connection with dailies in several units, including a Kanban tool. The colleagues started to work with it immediately after a short training. One colleague, who is 2 years away from retirement, was very open and enthusiastic! Such experiences have motivated me very much.

Scrum Academy

What elements from the trainings have helped you the most in your work at the agency? Is there anything that you approached differently after the training than before?

Sebnem Andresen

For example, the colleagues brainstormed working agreements in a workshop. I think it really helped the team to understand each other better. I have also introduced Scrum elements such as dailies and retrospectives. I think that such methods can only bring advantages when it comes to organizing work.

Scrum Academy

How agile do you think a government agency could be if it wanted to be? And how long do you think it would take?

Sebnem Andresen

I think agile working fits very well into the world of government. Wherever different people are working on complex issues, ad hoc tasks have to be performed and there is a need to react quickly, agile working can be used successfully.

What would happen if, in the new legislative period, there were a ministry of its own that recognized the need to reform the administration and prioritized the “agilization” of it? A ministry in which agile working could be experienced, in which innovative solutions for the administration would be developed?
A ministry that thinks and acts “digital first” in all aspects and has infrastructural equipment that would make even Google sit up and take notice?

In fact, I think government agencies should definitely work in an agile way. My Fellow colleague Mirine Choi and I have taken existing thoughts and our own experiences further and written a concept paper for the ministry of the future, for a “New Ministry”, in which we set up the structure and organization to be completely agile.
For those who are interested: “The new Ministry” (german page)

How long would it take? It could be implemented as a pilot project as early as the next legislative period.

Scrum Academy

That sounds very exciting. I hope it will be very well received! What are the biggest “stumbling blocks” for public authorities as opposed to similarly sized corporates?

Sebnem Andresen

The work in an authority is hierarchically structured. The biggest stumbling block with such a structure is that agile working in self-organized teams is hindered or not even made possible. You have to start small and introduce agile working step by step. The advantages must be demonstrated. People have to be convinced. This takes time. Unless an “Agile Ministry” (PDF) is set up completely, as described in the concept above.

For the most part, large companies also tend to work according to the top-down management style. But there it depends on the leadership, if the leadership recognizes the benefits of agile working, it is possible to implement agile working in a short time.

Scrum Academy

Now that your Fellow period is over, you’re going back to work in the private sector. Can you already tell us in which direction you will be going and what your tasks will be?

Sebnem Andresen

I am very pleased to be joining the Elia Group. With its two transmission system operators, 50Hertz in Germany and Elia in Belgium, the Group is one of the top 5 in Europe. 50Hertz is also a leader in the secure integration of renewable energies.

Scrum Academy

Definitely a topic that will become even more important in the future. Do you think you’ll use different things from the training in business than at the federal agency? What are the biggest differences between working within a government agency and a commercial enterprise?

Sebnem Andresen

I think that agile methods and tools from my previous work experience and training are well applicable in a government agency as well as in a business enterprise.

Scrum Academy

How agile can a government agency be anyway? Do you think there are limitations? And if so, why?

Sebnem Andresen

Max Weber’s bureaucracy theory serves as an organizational theory model for public administration. According to this, a public authority is hierarchically structured. The limitation is due to the fact that in agile teams, work and decisions are self-organized – this is not possible in a hierarchical structure.

However, my experience is that it doesn’t have to stay that way and that it is very possible to work agile’ish in a ministry right now: with dailies, retros and agile PM methods like Kanban and tools that can be used to work collaboratively. There are limitations because, for example, government agencies don’t want to or can’t usually work with tools that are on the cloud. I understand that. However, there is also the possibility to install, for example, a Kanban board or tool locally on the servers. There are also restrictions due to hierarchy. Therefore, we need politicians and authorities who want to rethink or reimagine. I think the Work4Germany program is a very good approach to encourage rethinking.

What is very important for public authorities to be able to work more agile in the future is for managers to open up and develop an agile mindset. Executives are the biggest lever for creating a collective culture of change. Again, ministries are no different from other organizations. Leaders serve as role models for other employees and influence what behaviors are encouraged or sanctioned in an organization. Leaders should be developed into more agile “new leaders” through coaching and training.

The role of the New Leader is to develop and support the team to get the best out of each individual (output). By ensuring that (in line with the agile values) courage, openness, respect, focus and commitment are lived within the team. To do this, he or she must create an environment in which progress, creativity and improvement become possible in the first place. The focus as a New Leader is always on the needs of the team.

Scrum Academy

Do you think the Corona pandemic has changed anything in business in terms of agile working and digitalization?

Sebnem Andresen

I think that the Corona pandemic has changed quite a lot in the world of work in general in terms of digitization, or needs to change. Since people usually work remote, it is particularly important to have agile methods such as daily standups for the morning exchange or a kanban board for visualizing the status of the various tasks so that everyone in the team is informed and on the same page. This eliminates many phone calls and coordination rounds.

Scrum Academy

That’s right. What I like here is that it forces topics like “bring or fetch” and everyone can keep up to date on their own responsibility.
We are seeing more and more inquiries where the topic of agility has been dealt with little or not at all, but companies are now realizing that they need to do something here and are therefore finding out more about the trainings. What would you say to these people? How does training with us help them or their employees?

Sebnem Andresen

I would say, “The time is now to break down rigid structures! Do the training, it will broaden your horizons.”

Scrum Academy

What is an “agiles Mindset”?

Sebnem Andresen

For me, an agile mindset is a way of thinking and an attitude that promotes team spirit, where the focus is on customer benefits, where perfection is not required, but the team grows with the tasks and there is a culture of mistakes that is understood as a learning opportunity to further develop oneself, the team and the product.

Furthermore, for me, part of the agile mindset is that learning is just as much fun as being able to do it; by this I mean the willingness to constantly learn new things and expand one’s horizons. People with agile mindset have a substantial vision and mission. For example, learning together with the customer/stakeholder is part of the approach.

Scrum Academy

You said that beautifully. Sebnem, we wish you all the best for the start of a new work chapter and thank you for the pleasant conversation.

Sebnem Andresen

Thank you very much for the invitation. It was a great pleasure!