Agile2013 logoI’ve been struggling to summarize the best way to describe what happened at Agile2013.  It’s been 3 weeks now and I’ve come to this conclusion.  With over 1700 participating and 20 tracks, I decided I can’t do it.  It’s almost like the description of space in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  But what I can do for you is describe some themes and point you to other resources.

Themes and Resources:

  • Blog posts I wish I had written – a great summary of Agile2013 by Jason Little.  I had a  similar vibe.  I also like Jim Bird’s summary.  I have definitely seen the problem with role of the Product Owner and I agree that in some cases you need a Product Owner team to balance the demands on the role.
  • Scaled Agile – Whether it was about the Scaled Agile Framework or Disciplined Agile Delivery or alternative approaches such as from Leading Agile (my company), there were conversations and prescriptions about agile.  The SAFe vs DADs type arguments reminded me of Scrum vs XP debates in  2005-2007.  Some were tweeting why we even need these approaches and we should just flatten our orgs like Spotify.
  • DevOps – There was an entire track on DevOps this year which I felt was timely.  I didn’t make it to those.  Here are some comments from Phil Whelan and Nathan Wilson you might find interesting.  I did not cross the government theme Nathan mentions, but I know many government folks were there.  I did bump into Woody Zull and was sorry to miss his presentation on Mob Programming.
  • BigVisible Podcasts – the folks at BV set up a podcasting corner right at the conference and interviewed several speakers.  This is a great way to get a flavor of some of the other conversations going on.

My path through Agile2013:

Most of my colleagues were concentrating primarily on development practices, program and portfolio management, and scaled agile tracks.  I decided to focus on the deep skills of the coaching and mentoring track and collaboration/culture/teams track.  Some of my impressions:

  • I attended Peter Saddington’s Team Science talk on Monday.  I had hoped to hear more about the Team Science model, but he did had some great observations about discovering  team patterns.  Peter is doing interesting work with Team Science.  I wish he would make the model more accessible.  There is good stuff there.
  • Based on my conference heuristic “go to talks of interesting folks you don’t get to interact with often”, I attended two great talks by Geoff Watts.  The first was on the “Seven Pillars of Collaboration” where Geoff explained why H.I.S.T.O.R.Y. is important to the team (Hearing each other, Informality in connections within the team; Safety in the team; make sure they understand their Targets; being Open-minded; Resilience; and use of “Yes, and…” to be inclusive of all perspectives of the team).  Geoff’s other talk was on “Simple Maths of Change” where Geoff shared his equation for successful change: B X P > C (B – benefit of change; P – probability of successful change; C – cost of change).  Geoff shared many great tips for internal change agents to test the equation.
  • I attended two sessions with Lyssa Adkins and Michael Spayd.  They represent another conference heuristic: follow your passions.  I feel their work through the Agile Coaching Institute is truly advancing the craft of agile coaching.  First I attended their special Sunday session for ACI course alumni.  They showed us many interesting variations of the constellations exercise as a way to “reveal the system to itself”.  This was great preparation for my talk on Tuesday.  Second, I attended their workshop on Conflict.  Most of this is covered in their 3-day version of the Coaching Agile Teams course (I assisted with one in Feb 2013).  It goes well beyond Lyssa’s book and has a host of important tools for how anyone can deal with conflict.  If you can take their course or catch them speaking on conflict at a conference, I would HIGHLY recommend it for any agile coach.  I get no kickbacks here.  I just feel they are doing great work.
  • Tenemos – This was a session by Michael Sahota and Olaf Lewitz.  This followed my heuristic of “understand what interesting people are interested in (what are they researching)”.  In this session, Michael and Olaf gave a glimpse of the Tenemos model and what a session would be like.  I haven’t seen him blog about it yet, but I hope he will soon.  It’s not for everyone, but I can see it being used for deep work similar to co-active coaching.  I’ve known Michael for a couple of years now and I can see how it is made a difference for him.  He is a much better coach for it.
  • Open Space for Organizational Change – I attended Dan Mezick’s session as I always look for new ways to apply open space technology and I wanted to hear his lessons learned.  It was an interesting summary with many great tips on how to use OST within an organization.  One of the big aha moments was when Dan shared that “change requires grief work”.  You have to acknowledge that past ways were useful, but they are no longer useful and must pass.  People need a process to let go of the old.
  • Impediments to Learning – I’ve known Amr Elssamadisy since the early agile conferences.  I’ve always respected his opinion.  In this talk on Thursday afternoon, Amy and his co-presenter (Steve Peha) talked about Invisible Impediments to Learning: Why Bad Things Happen to Good Agilists.  They discussed Safety, Way of Being, Ownership, and Trust.  I struggled somewhat with the format, but didn’t disagree with the content of the talk.  One thing I’m still pondering is Amr’s simplicity theory of culture: All agile practices (and culture) are agreements between team members.  Good agilists will make, keep, monitor, confront, and renegotiate the agreements to keep the culture functioning well.  Still chewing on this definition of culture, but I agree with interpretation.
  • OpenJam – This is the “open space” track of the Agile Conference and has existed almost as long as the conference itself.  I was first introduced to Open Space in the early XPUniverse conferences.  I ended up spending most of Thursday in OpenJam.  My favorite session was by Diana Larsen and Ainsley Nies on their book Liftoff.  It was actually more about the model they describe in the book and gathering feedback from those who attended.  I wish it had more visibility across the conference so we could have gathered more.  I grabbed a ton of notes and still need to process before I launch another team.  Diana was sharing how she was doing multi-team mass Liftoffs.
  • The most intriguing talk I attended was Dajo Breddels‘ talk “Changing Cultural DNA with Spiral Dynamics to become thoroughly Agile”.  This was purely accidental because I could not get into the talk I wanted.  However, I was introduced to the Spiral Dynamics model which could have many intriguing implications for agilists.  I suspect that if we dig into this model, we’ll find that by classifying cultures through Spiral Dynamics, we’ll have a better idea of what tools to pull out of our toolbox as agile coaches.

I hope this helps you in learning about the conference and moves you along on your journey.