Notes from the Agile User Group: Empowering Teams – the Secret Sauce of Atlassian

Yesterday I was able to join a special meetup hosted by the Atlassian User Group and the Agile User Group Rhein Main together. Sven Peters aka @svenpet who is traveling Europe was sharing his secret sauce which was about empowering teams.


The variance of the product portfolio of Atlassian is going from autonomous to controlled teams, comparable like from startup to enterprise teams. And teams vary from autonomous, connected and guided.

Master thesis: teams are connected by their values.

So based on this thesis, Sven inivited us to a journey with his presentation covered by the five values from Atlassian.

Team Empowerment – Five values as a secret sauce from Atlassian

#1 Build with heart and balance

Once you’d start to build something with a team, several directions come into mind depending to the people you talk, like for example:

  • Refactor to microservices
  • Lower costs
  • Less downtimes
  • Finish project xyz – it’s the most important
  • Automatic deployments
  • Etc.

Rule: Be the north star!

All this is realized by the horizon of a two year plan and a classical approach: land and expand! Don’t sell the whole solution, just solve the customer problem first and then keep on going.

VTFM – Vision, Themes, Focus, Measure

  • Vision: 2yr plan
  • Themes: Whats important
  • Focus areas: How do we get there?
  • Measure: How success looks like?

OKR’s – Objective Key Results

All this is steered and guided by OKR’s defined by the teams themselves. Like for example:


So is 0.7 a bad score? No! Scores are stretch goals like all OKR’s are stretch goals for the teams. They plan quarterly and less objectives is more. The main part is to make the goals transparent for everyone.

#2 Be the change you seek

Atlassian tries to live a culture of innovation. Therefore they use “Atlassian Ship It” and  Hackathons in specific stages:

a. Before planning

  • Plan dates
  • Announce and tell stories
  • Find your teams aka „Pitch it“

b. During Event

  • Remember, time is ticking
  • Have fun
  • Get energise – eat and drink!

c. After follow up

  • Presentations – give it all you got
  • Voting, celebrations, and winners announced
  • Get onto a product roadmaps and plan for the next ship it

All outcomes could take part of an innovation week, as a ship it idea or new ideas.

#3 Open company – no bullshit

Usual setup of an enterprise installation with Atlassian looks like this:


Most of the things are restricted. At Atlassian everything created is open by default. O.k. not all, like HR and Financial are more or likely restricted.

Decission making is done by the DACI framework used and documented as blueprint. For sure this is available as a template on the product as well.

Share it or it didn’t happen

The mantra of openess at Atlassian works like this:

EAC or it didn’t happen (EAC = Extranet of Atlassian)

Once it is not published, it never happened. Of course this causes also bad experiences, like for example the BYOD Policy – 211 comments in a passionate discussion.

But there are policies as well for cases like this:

Stop endless discussions – take it offline!

#4 Play as a team

Every team at Atlassian is a service team. Service teams are for example HR, Finance, Marketing, Legal and all could offer their services via the help desk:

  • Need new hardware?
  • Need a new business card?
  • Need to borrow a bike?

Legal contract review less than 25k? Yet another self service.

Open arms for new hires

The new hire on boarding works like this: Everything is new so we are having a buddy which is usually a long term Atlassian. Another one is the fun volunteering for new hires with the beer bike every Friday. This is dedicated for new employees to connect with others. Each and every new hire gets a template to fullfil which is a 30-60-90 day plan with todo lists to get started.

Trello is also used for on boarding.

#5 Don’t #@!% the customer

This one is my favorite.


Atlassian uses the NPS score as basic information and a free text field. The free text is then filtered by RUF:

  • Reliability
    • Performance
    • Bugs
  • Usability
    • Complexity
    • Content
    • Navigation
  • Functionality
    • Editing


This is told to every Atlassian in the company by a weekly email.

Appendix: Guidance – the hidden agenda

It is your team way and teams should do what’s best for them. At Atlassian teams are provides with some guidance for new concepts, feedback etc.

The playbook: 40+ plays to guide project teams

This playbook should help to align leadership and project teams.

The Atlassian playbook can be found here:

Team health example


Health monitors – plays


Short break and 2nd part

The 2nd part of the evening was about the product portfolio, features (elements, reactions and home etc.) and upcoming changes at Atlassian, like Trello, Bitbucket integration and their 2 year plan. Atlassian as a platform and people – team work platform and the new cloud version of HipChat which is called stride.

Thanks to DBSystel and DB Skydeck as sponsors

The presentation started with a beautiful and entertaining introduction from Darren Cooper about @DB_Skydeck and @dbsystel. Thank for making this happen!

Original Slidedeck by Sven

Link to the original presentation:

Professional impressions of the evening

All photos are powered by Tobias von Garnier Photography and Agile Rhein-Main – many thanks for sharing it here!


Like to add something? Missing something? Please comment or discuss via Twitter.



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