Interview with Özlem Yüce

Interview with Özlem Yüce

It is always an eye-opening experience when you hear real-life cases of successful Agile implementations. This is even more profound for cases of companies that were more legacy oriented. Enter Agile Transformation.

Özlem has 12+ year of experience in e-commerce, software and product development, she is a frequent speaker at conferences all over the world and an avid surfer. 


Özlem will take us a trip into the waves with the real case of Agile transformation of Maersk Line. 

Let’s read her interview.

We are really excited to have Özlem in Agile Greece Summit 2016 and looking forward to her speech. Did you get your ticket?


Q: Could you briefly introduce yourself?

I have been working in product management and software development teams for more than 14 years. Throughout my career, I worked with various companies from Fortune 500 behemoths to fast-growing Inc 5000 startups. I lived in 7 different countries including 5 years in Denmark working for Maersk.

Along the way, I have lead and been part of many Agile transformations across multiple industries. I have engaged with all sorts of organizational cultures and have a passion for helping them learn and improve. I love building high-performance teams that deliver products that delight customers.

When I am not traveling around the world consulting, teaching and speaking, I enjoy reading and going surfing.

Most of all though, I love bringing people together and helping them change the way they work – so they love what they do.

Q: What will your talk be about, exactly? Why this topic?

I will be talking about how a massive Fortune 500 company transformed the way they delivered products and services. I will be touching upon what worked well but also what didn’t work for us.

So why this topic? I think there is a lot anyone can learn about Maersk Line’s journey. Participants will hear about how we drove change by focusing on changing the whole end-to-end value stream and improved the speed of product delivery. I will also touch upon some systemic improvements we made along the way – changing the funding model and changing the KPIs of the whole organization. Also how we made make massive improvements in cycle time *without* any changes in downstream practices like automated testing and continuous delivery. In the end, we were able to change the common perception that Agile is for Greenfields only.

Q: What do you think could be the main gain for participants in your session?

We started our journey by implementing Scrum on a couple of strategic projects. Although we got some improvements from this, it was quite limited since it didn’t address any of the systemic issues upstream of the development teams. Nor did it solve the dependency we had on key legacy systems, which were the real bottleneck for delivering meaningful change. Another problem was that we only had limited and mostly tacit knowledge of agile. We had been on Certified Scrum Master courses and could explain to others how Scrum worked, but we couldn’t explain why. When we came under pressure or when things went wrong, we soon reverted to our old ways of working. More fundamentally, though, Scrum didn’t fit very well with our outsourced development and with the complexity of our technology landscape. It wasn’t even Water-Scrum-Fall, it was more like a little bit of Scrum ceremonies on the side of a very large Waterfall. We just weren’t getting the outcomes that Maersk Line needed.

We then decided to take a more outcome driven approach and initiated a four-week assessment of the end-to-end innovation system at Maersk Line. We involved many stakeholders across the whole organization, interviewed key stakeholders as well as people working in the teams. The study also collated and analyzed data about the value being delivered, the flow of work, and the feedback loops that drive quality.
Alongside the interviews and analysis of data to understand the problem, we began to consider which Lean-Agile practices might help solve the problems we had seen. We narrowed down to 8 Lean-Agile practices that would fit with Maersk Line’s current reality. These were practices that could scale up to enterprise level and across the whole portfolio. They also aligned with Maersk Line’s outsourced delivery model and complex system landscape.

We have become more focused on outcomes as a result of the transformation. Across the organization, we implemented a common language with new guiding principles that are better suited for the complexity of a 21st-century organization. People talk about how they can break ideas down in order to deliver value early and often. Teams talk about how we need to optimize the whole end-to-end value stream, not just their team or department. We talk about how we can increase the speed and coverage of feedback loops, knowing that this is how we improve quality.

As you can see there is a lot to share from Maersk Line’s agile transformation.

Q: Can you give some advice to teams/organizations that are transitioning to agile?

I would make different recommendations depending on how much support you already have and how far you have already gone on your journey toward increasing organizational agility. If you have very little support, take a bottom-up approach, start small and prove that it works. If you already achieved some success and would like to scale I’d recommend to educate as many people as you can. If you’d like to scale agile, you need to build the support structure around it. At Maersk Line, we gave utmost importance to this. We educated a lot of people and built a championship structure around the transformation. Your champions don’t have to agree or understand agile beforehand – I have seen many people who were active resistors of the transformation become active supporters after the right kind of education. They have gone on to play a key part in changing the way their teams work. By education, I don’t mean teaching people the practices or the mechanics of agile. What I mean is teaching people the principles of agile and the ability to implement practices based on understanding of their own context.

Q: How do you see the evolution of Agile in the future?

I believe that adoption of Agile is going through a similar type of journey to the technology adoption. 15 years ago Agile was the new kid on the block. Today it’s the new normal. Everyone is doing a flavour of agile, leveraging different practices and implementing the principles. How do we evolve from here? I have seen a talk by Linda Rising recently at Agile 2016 in Atlanta this year. One of the things she said resonated very well with me. As the Agile community we are not really running scientific experiments and therefore we don’t really have any scientific data as to whether agile is a better way of working or not. I don’t know exactly how we can fix this but as a community, I’d like us to be humble, always learning from each other and improving. Also when we implement agile principles and practices, we need to realize that every context, every team, every organization is different. We need to understand the principles, take an outcome-based approach and adopt practices that fit different contexts. Otherwise, the new culture we create start attacking the organization like antibodies.

Q: What you like to say something in advance to the Greek Agile community?

I am from Turkey and I have never been to our neighbor Greece before. I am so flattered to be invited to speak in Athens and engage with the Greece Agile community. I look forward to building new relations and making new friends!

Get your tickets for Agile Greece Summit 2016

Agile Greece summit 2016



George Psistakis

I am a lousy singer and painter. Co-founder of the easiest data management platfrom. Ever… Blendo (
– I love Agile. Got certified as a Scrum Master and, along with more friends, a founding member of (
– I like community management and I am co-organizer of the API Athens (
API-Athens/) and the Agile Greece ( meetups.
– I do some blogging too and contribute to Developer Economics and write my own blog.