Scrum for Empowered Teams - Bertelsmann University

Every year employees at Bertelsmann Group gather to share knowledge in the format of ‘Bertelsmann University’. This year was no exception and we had a number of great talks where people were able to improve their knowledge in many different areas.

The topic of my session was ‘Scrum for Empowered Teams’, which I presented together with my fellow colleague Michael L. (Agile Coach). The empowered collaboration model has become a hot topic in the past year with the publication of the book Empowered by Marty Cagan. As many organizations are finding value in this new way of working and making the transition to it, I thought it useful to present 3 core principles that help product development teams get the most out of Scrum and ultimately succeed in this new way of working.


3 Core Principles:

Principle 1: Definition of Value

Whenever I start working with a new team or talking about Scrum or an Agile way of working, I always emphasize the importance of establishing a Definition of Value. As the understanding of the word value can and usually will differ among team members it is important to agree on a common understanding of this widely used word in the context of product development. What is value? What is the most valuable thing our team can produce every sprint?

A definition that I suggest to start with: Work or code that has the highest probability of driving the business objective.

Principle 2: Categorization of Work

How a product development team categorizes its different types of work has a direct impact on how well it is able to deliver value. Many of us are using online issue and project tracking solutions such as Jira which allow for many different ways of presenting work on its boards through its many customizations. It is great that we are able to customize these solutions to fit different situations but it is also important to remember to customize them in a way that will increase value delivery and quality. Different setups will produce different focus areas for a team. Where do we want our teams focusing?

A categorization that I suggest is to divide the different types of work into 3 categories when using Scrum:

Stories: New features / functionality. Only tickets with Story Points.

Bugs: Unexpected functionality that should be fixed.

Technical Tasks: i.e. Refactoring Code. Created by engineers.

With this simple categorization the team will be positioned to produce Stories, which means they will be focusing on producing high quality value that will be driving the business objectives and helping achieve the company product vision and mission.

Principle 3: Team Interactions

Interacting with other teams can be complex and time consuming especially if multiple teams need to work together on a common business objective. A very large web of communication can become a lot simpler by employing the first 2 principles across several teams. The teams will know how much value/stories they are producing, what is currently impeding value delivery and they will know what and when to expect dependable value from other teams.


Combining these principles with continuous improvement techniques on the team level will have a tremendous impact on motivation, focusing on value and driving the business forward. Even though most of the material we usually present in these sessions is tried and tested such as the 3 principles mentioned above, it is also a time and place to test new material. My colleague Michael L. for example presented Scrum in a new and unique fashion in a subsection of the talk called ‘The Soul of Scrum’. 

Overall it is a great tradition for a company to have a teaching and learning environment such as Bertelsmann University. The discussions and feedback that follows the sessions provides a great dose of positive energy and it will surprise you to know how much of a wider impact you had!


*Kristen is currently looking for a colleague to join their team of Agile Coaches, so if you have an interest, apply here:

Kristen Poola

Kristen Poola

Agile Coach