It’s been 12 days since Agile2014 ended and I’m still struggling to answer the most frequently asked question from colleagues and agile enthusiasts: What happened at Agile2014? 

If you are not familiar with the conference, it is THE conference to understand the concepts and trends within agile software development and beyond.  I’ve been going to these conferences since they were called XPUniverse and I have valued every one of them in what I’ve learned and the people I’ve met.  I’ve also served as a track reviewer a few times and have deeply valued the experience seeing the trends based on papers submitted and the collaboration with my fellow reviewers.  There are always hard choices to be made in selecting who will get a voice at the conference.

The big themes were Agile at Scale (SAFe, DADs, etc), DevOps, and we still don’t have requirements, planning and estimating right (evidenced not only by an entire track on Projects, Programs and Portfolios, but the many sessions in other tracks about user stories, estimation techniques (or even #NoEstimates).  Secondary themes were about people and the systems they live and work in. Many great sessions presented topics in the Coaching, Training and Culture tracks.  Wish I could have attended them all. Yet this is one of the tragedies of this conference: there are always 5 or 6 sessions you want to go to simultaneously.  I don’t think anyone gets to “see the whole”, perhaps not even the conference and track chairs.

Regardless, here are some of the impressions and highlights others have taken away from the conference:

These are just slices of perspective on the conference.  There are many things I and others have missed.  The links above are not the whole picture … and that’s part of the problem I see.

I wonder if it’s time for a change in the agile conference.  In speaking with others, reading blogs, and listening to the post conference buzz, I heard things like “wish I could have seen more”, “I didn’t get to spend much time with _______”, and “I’m exhausted from the interactions”.  While I truly value the opportunity to reconnect with this community this year, I can’t help think that the model of “the conference” is a broken model.  It feels like a big Thanksgiving-style feast of concepts and collaboration that almost leaves me feeling bloated.  I’m not even sure of what valuable dishes of information I missed.  What insights did not get shared?

This realization came in focus for me when I read Johanna Rothman’s “What Makes Your Heart Sing?”  Truly, this gathering does make my heart sing, but after I leave this gathering how do I continue and help others make their hearts sing?  Don’t misunderstand.  I value this gathering and deeply respect all the preparation and hard work of the many volunteers that put it together.

But does this conference truly model what we are trying to coach and teach to build a better way of working?  Or is the conference “big batch learning”?  Is there another way to even the flow of learning the key innovations and hearing the spectrum of ideas from stalwarts to new up-and-coming thought leaders?  Is there a better way for us to enable continuous learning and collaboration in the agile community?

Please share your thoughts and ideas here or in social media.  Let’s build a #betteragiletribe