Better Scrum Through Essence: My experience as a Student

How did the course benefit me and my career?

When I got the wonderful opportunity to join the Better Scrum Through Essence alpha course, initially I just had my eye on learning ways to build more maturity and transformation in a gamified way. By the end of the course, I realised it had proven to be much, much more than that.

My key take-aways from the Better Scrum Through Essence course:


  • I now feel more power coming from the fact that I am aware of a way to approach Scrum that is gamified and allows me to establish a common ground with my teams and other stakeholders.
  • I feel confident focusing on building success patterns and building teams that follow the rules better.
  • I benefit from Essence without having to spend time learning how it works internally, but instead discovered it is really like a car that I just have to drive.

So, what did I think of the course?

Firstly, the interesting stories of how agile and scrum are applied worldwide, not just in software but also ‘behind the scenes’ running businesses, were a treat to learn from Ian and Michael.

Secondly, the course structure demonstrated a great application of self-organisation. I completely loved how the simple instructions and guidelines helped us pick our teams, start using the virtual whiteboards, and swarm around all the activities we played together.

The games and exercises were, in one word, eye-openers. I have even played some of them post-workshop with my product owners and teams, and most people found that it helped them discover a common ground, and cut down a lot of their previous assumptions of how things really are. My favourite games were: “How well do you Scrum” and “Customer / Supplier”.

I noticed a shift when we started discussing applying practices using the essence kernel, instead of following processes. The visuals used to show how the alphas, activity spaces and competencies of each area of concern to an agile team were something that really caught the depth of each thing without participants having to know excessive Essence theory. The focus was on the application of it - in the group we related this to driving a car, yet not really needing to know how it is built.

I found the Scrum Accelerator to be the most insightful module, central to the course content. My key learning was: ‘good scrum teams follow the rules, hyper productive scrum teams apply proven patterns’. Since completing the course, I have hand-crafted a set of Essence cards that talk about the success patterns. I have found huge success in sharing them and finding opportunities to use them in my teams and workplace. Enabling transformations and showcasing the path forwards has never been so meaningful yet simple. The cards are my all-time companion and many of my colleagues leading the agile teams and transformations now have them too!

Pictured: Mahesh Jade’s homemade Essence cards

Scaling is a topic misunderstood and misapplied in many organisations. I found the module on scaling, and the associated games, really pivotal in reframing my thinking towards it. We learnt a super simple view of scaling with no jargon, no complexity, just a focus on individual teams to build great teams-of-teams that practice a scaled version of Scrum to make sense for each other and the product. Playing games to understand that scaling frameworks are not enemies of each other, but can learn from each other with the goal to create a minimum viable bureaucracy was something that will stay with me forever.

My favourite memory from the session is when we played games like Practice Patience and Value Ranking to burst some of the scrum myths such as sprints and marathons, scrum for speed, team swarming over hero mentality, etc. Again, this is a simple way in which I learnt to do some of the most difficult things for the teams. I found playing these games/activities at regular intervals with the teams gave us great potential to keep an ongoing dialogue about what is valuable for us as individuals and groups in being agile.

My overall thoughts on my Better Scrum Through Essence experience?

Hearing the news that I was selected to be involved in the alpha batch was a sweet surprise, following my hopeful nomination which I submitted after learning Ivar Jacobson International was looking for alpha volunteers during an Essence-themed meetup event.

I found the training was equally meaningful and memorable. It has changed my perspective to enable me to facilitate things in a way that people can benefit from, through a focus on practical application, making sense and impact.

My journey as an agile enthusiast and change agent reached a milestone through being one of the attendees of the alpha course.

As for how it has improved my work? I can now better channel my efforts to create a common ground, running experiments along with others to leverage this common ground to provide greater visibility of where the teams are headed and accelerate their agile journey.

Mahesh Jade, Agile Evangelist/ Change Leader, Mumbai, India


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