A couple of weeks ago, we (Jacqueline and Teresa) had the pleasure to sponsor and attend Agile2018. As always, we left informed, energized and ready to take on even more complex transformation challenges. As a conference 1st timer (Teresa) and 3rd timer (Jacqueline), we wanted to share our thoughts and takeaways from the week’s events and conversations.
Teresa: As a new attendee, I was struck by the authenticity and friendliness of the attendees, the presentations, and the formal and informal events. Presented as “where the Agile tribes meet,” I couldn’t agree more.
Jacqueline: This being my third Agile Alliance Agile conference, I noticed that some things have changed but most of what makes this conference one of my favorites have remained intact. I have come to expect the super-charged energy, creative backdrop, and inspiration! This year, the product owners, scrum masters, and coaches outnumbered the developers, testers, and business analysts. Next year, I would love to see an increase among the latter. But, regardless of the roles, we were all Agilists United! I love being in an environment with others who share (mostly) the same mindset, challenges, and passion for agile.
For those of you that couldn’t attend, here’s a brief rundown.
Teresa: The conference is a lengthy one – five days – and packed with sessions. The 300+ sessions were organized into 20 tracks including DevOps, Enterprise Agile, Collaboration Culture & Teams, Leadership, Experience Reports, and The Future of Agile Software Development. One particularly interesting track was the “Audacious Salon,” billed as a place to discuss and debate strongly held ideas on controversial or risky topics. Unfortunately, they filled up fast (many sessions did), and I was unable to make it to one.
Jacqueline: In addition to the diversity of the tracks, the emphasis seemed to shift from project to product development. Additional shifts and messages I picked up on were:
- Fixed → growth oriented
- Constrained → empowered
- Error avoidance → comfortable uncertainty
- More respect for people
- Software development is small continuous experiments
- Too much WIP comes from too many “Yeses” (I can do it)
- Radical candor: Get – Give – Encourage (Guidance, Praise, Criticism)
Teresa: Rich information sharing and discussion were not limited to the sessions. Attendees mingled over breakfast, lunch, and snacks, in the exhibit hall, at various social events, and in several interactive spaces throughout the conference area. For example, the Agile Alliance Lounge featured a Business Agility Lab where attendees could sign up for a mentoring session with a business leader with success in adopting agile. Post-its, markers, and whiteboards resided in unexpected spots and gently requested your ideas to some thought-provoking question like, “How can we alleviate fear about agile?” The general vibe was friendly, relaxed, curious, and engaged.
Jacqueline: For me, this is the best part – meeting people in hallway and on breaks. I heard some great soundbites and takeaways, and even learned a little new terminology. With over 2,000 people, everyone had their own stories of the ups and downs that go along with an agile journey.
Teresa: Now that we’re a week out, here’s a few things that have stuck with me:
- The more we can solicit and learn from the stories from those applying agile methodologies outside of software, the more we can learn and grow with respect to business agility.
- The currency of trust is autonomy and the opposite of trust is governance.
- AI can’t always tell a labradoodle from fried chicken.
- After you validate [something is working], stabilize before scaling.
- Our ideas are based on our experiences and mental models. Diverse opinions and world views are essential to generating the best ideas.
- Serious play is the essence of innovation.
- What we title our Kanban columns matters! Verify versus Test; Discovery versus Analysis.
- We must give our knowledge workers a say in what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.
- Hero culture does not support agility.
- Questions and understanding > judgment
- How might previous steps in the process contribute to blockers and defects later on? Don’t assume where the problem is found is where the problem is.
- What’s your “North Star” metric: the single most important thing that will tell you that you’re reaching your goal?
- Compliance is how we cooperate without true alignment.
Jacqueline: Other terms and ideas (some old, some new) that consistently came up in sessions and conversations:
- Agile’s Third Wave
- Business Agility
- Bus Count: How many people can be hit by a bus and your team still perform?
- Games to transform
- Scaled Kanban
- Lean Leadership
- Agile non-negotiables
- Value reorganization
- Team health and well-being
- Design to delight
- Psychological safety
- Minimally Viable Relationships
- DevOps (which still seems to be shrouded in mystery)
- And notably, the recommendation to NOT use the word grooming of the backlog
Teresa: For more specifics, the Agile Alliance has posted the keynote videos and session materials. If you regret missing out on this year, go ahead and save the date for next year’s conference taking place August 5-9 in Washington DC.
Jacqueline: Also, if you don’t think you can wait another 12 months, here is a list of books from conference presenters that I am adding to my bookshelf.
- Saying No to Say Yes: Everyday Boundaries and Pastoral Excellence by David C. Olsen Ph.D and Nancy G., Devor
- How to Listen So People Will Talk: Build Stronger Communication and Deeper Connections by Becky Harling
- Software Testing Automation Tips: 50 Things Automation Engineers Should Know by Gennadiy Alpaev
- Essential Skills for the Agile Developer: A Guide to Better Programming and Design by Alan Shalloway, Scott Bain, Ken Pugh, and Amir Kolsky
- Thinking, Fast, and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- Essential Kanban Condensed by David J. Anderson and Andy Carmichael
- The Millennial Myth: Transforming Misunderstanding into Workplace Breakthroughs by Crystal Kadakia
- The Career Engagement Game – Shaping Careers for an Agile Workforce by Anne Fulton and Jo Mills
- 100 Ways to Motivate Others by Steve Chandler and Scott Richardson
- Introduction to Disciplined Agile Delivery: A Small Agile Team’s Journey from Scrum to Continuous Delivery by Mark Lines and Scott W. Ambler
- Sharpen Your Positive Edge: Shifting Your Thoughts for More Positivity and Success by Tina Hallis
- An Executive’s Guide to Disciplined Agile: Winning the Race to Business Agility by Scott W. Ambler and Mark Lines
- The Leader Phrase Book: 3000 Powerful Phrases That Put You In Command by Patrick Alain
- Agile For Dummies by Scott W. Ambler and Matthew Holtiza
- Tribal Unity: Getting from Teams to Tribes by Creating a One Team Culture by Em Campbell-Pretty
- The Little Black Book of Decision Making: Making Complex Decisions with Confidence in a Fast-Moving World by Michael Nicholas
- Leading with Vision: The Leader’s Blueprint for Creating a Compelling Vision and Engaging the Workforce by Bonnie Hagemann, Simon Vetter, and John Maketa
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni
- Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman
Did you notice that most of these titles are very telling of one of the biggest challenges in agile? It’s not the ceremonies, the nomenclature or the theory behind it, it’s the people, communication, and mindset (or carryover of an old mindset or the idea that agile is a quick fix for a dysfunctional organization).
Let us know if you need help overcoming some of these challenges; we’re working on some exciting new techniques to boost your team’s collaboration and overall agility!
Join us next year!
– Jacqueline and Teresa