Last weekend I had an opportunity to travel to Edinburgh and attend the first edition of Lean Agile Scotland. Now it is over and it’s time for a summary.
It all started with David Anderson’s Individually Smart, Collectively Stupid keynote. I wasn’t amazed but it was good enough for the opening, touching quite a few concepts that were to be discussed later during the event. I would prefer it to be a bit more focused and, with David frankly admitting it, it should be rehearsed more. At some moment though, David fell back to his comfort zone, talking on basic Kanban stuff, that I am sure everybody must have heard before.
As David finished speaking a difficult process of selecting one of two simultaneous tracks started.
I started with Understanding Kanban Thinking by Karl Scotland. From my point of view it was an extension of the keynote – a talk on the foundations of Lean & Agile. Nice idea of Karl was not to use slides and narrate the talk using flip chart (any change from power pointing is refreshing) though I have some doubts whether it actually contributed much.
Leadership on all levels, flawlessly delivered by Florian Eisenberg, mentioned quite a few ideas from my own talk, though I had an impression that Florian talked a lot on why letting employees make decisions on all levels of an organization is important, and my own talk gave more ideas on how it can be done. In general – a nice presentation.
Gillian Julius talked on Crafting an Agile Supplier Contract. It was a story of an enterprise asking software vendors to try agile and about a contract that supported it. This alone seems bizarre to me :) but after a later chat with Gillian it turned out obvious that whenever you make a fixed price contract you can get away from those “beasts” from legal departments – lawyers, accountants, procurement, etc. And beside that – agile isn’t about stopping fixed-price contracts – it’s all about not fixing the scope…
After Mike Burrows’ Kanban the hard way presentation I started to have an impression that this will be Kanban-centric conference. Fortunately it turned out not to be, however this one for me was the best Kanban presentation during the weekend. I got three things out of it, which is a lot. First – Value Stream stages represent “what type of work needs to be done to issue” rather than just the process that is implemented in an organization. Second – Cumulative Flow Diagram is great for telling stories about historical events in a project. Third – organizational change should be founded on four principles – Understanding, Agreement, Respect & Leadership. Generally – thumbs up.
Then I listened to Joe O’Brien giving his insights on People Patterns. This one for me was clearly the best presentation of the conference. Joe talked a lot on the way people react in social situations, a lot of that corresponded with my own personal experience and behaviour. Great stuff, it is hard to cherry pick a single idea (or two) for a summary, I highly recommend waiting for the recording of this session. Beside all the valuable information, Joe also managed to spice it up with lots of humour and I am sure it was not only me who had great time.
To close the day I chose Gojko Adzic who I had wanted to see for some time. He talked about Busting the Myths of BDD. Good stuff in there also with a dose of jokes and anecdotes. The thing I got out was his recommendation of using BDD for documentation rather than for creating regression test suite. On the actual myths I especially liked what Gojko had said about the belief that “business guys” can write behaviour tests on their own and about reactions to the fact that they don’t. This is something I learnt years ago when I tried to convince business people to document their processes using UML state diagrams and wanted to use those diagrams to generate code. It’s just not the way it works.
Gojko finished with invitation for a drink / beer / wine. As with many conferences – those chats with other participants are often even more valuable than the “official” conference itself. This part of LA Scot gave me a lot of inspiration to try a few ideas.
Day Two started with Liz Keogh’s keynote on Respect for People. She presented quite a few ideas on the single most important value (IMHO) – respect – making the foundations of successful work environment. It’s all about people making teams (as someone mentioned – no projects fail or succeed because of technical reasons) and teams cannot be created without proper environment. I don’t agree with every postulate Liz made, ie. IMO financial bonuses basing on company effectiveness don’t have to be disrespectful (I believe the example I gave during my own talk later on is not disrespectful). And the replacement of the retrospectives prime directive (http://p.twimg.com/A3YjJs_CMAAm1q8.jpg) definitely makes a difference… In general – great start of the second day. This talk gets into my personal Top 3 chart.
Just after Liz’s keynote Lean Agile Scotland offered a whole block on Rightshifting (I talked with Torbjorn later on and he said it was not arranged by the Rightshifting Tribe :D). The block started with Bob Marshall talking on basics of Rightshifting & Marshall Model. I finally got an opportunity to learn some more on the concept of rightshifting. I think I start to like the idea even though I believe it is a model and as all models it must be wrong – but I have a gut feeling it might be a useful one. I especially liked the Ian Carroll’s comment after the talk about using lean/agile terminology in CV when applying for a job – the company might not have a Mind Set allowing it to understand this terminology. From my personal experience – same applies to relations between companies – especially during bidding.
Just after this one Ian Carroll presented his own view on how Kanban fits Rightshifting in his Rightshifting in Action. This one didn’t get into my memory with anything specific. I think it was more Kanban oriented than the title would suggest, giving another real world case study on how Kanban can be implemented.
Finally, Torbjorn Gyllebring delivered his Faith, Science & Rightshifting. I left before Torbjorn got to Rightshifing (I wanted to see the second speaker – Sandro – in action as well) and until I left this talk (at least to me) was about moral aspects of contributing stuff to the community (with my own examples of participating in a conference or open source movement). But I guess one can also apply the idea of reciprocity in a day to day life – teach others so that you will also be taught or help others so that you will be helped…
In the middle of this session I changed rooms as I also wanted to listen to Sandro Mancuso talking on Software Craftsmanship. I had an opportunity to talk with Sandro the previous evening and wanted to see the official version of his take on craftsmanship. Sandro had more to say than time allowed him but he was able to present an idea I really liked – SC is not about TDD, BDD or other stuff… These are important, but at the same time – these are only practices and it is more than probable that in 5 years we won’t be using any of those. It is all about being a professional. And that’s a great thought to take home.
During the following presentation John Peebles talked about People: Your Most Agile Ingredient. Another one about teams and people and a great one. John easily made it to my own Top 3 list. One thing to think about – average software developer reads one technical book a year. But average team leader reads nothing about team building and soft skills.
Finally, just before my own talk, Henrik Berglund kicked with Real Teams. He presented a way of running team building workshop not focusing on holding hands and singing songs together :).
My own talk on Managing gang of chaotic software developers is complex I will cover in detail in a separate post…
To recap – Edinburgh is a great town for a conference – small enough so that you can walk, with it’s own character and a unique combination of history and modernity. I regret I didn’t have time to sightsee more. Thankfully Chris Hopcroft managed to arrange great weather – I believe everybody enjoyed it.
I talked with a few people about the conference and was told that:
– it was hard to decide which track to choose
– different people found different flavours in the conference – for some it was more lean, for some – more agile and for some – focused on soft skills and teams.
I guess that such comments are the best feedback organizers can be given. So, stealing from Chris’ closing speech…
Lean Agile Scotland crew
just do it
again next year
Tips & ideas for the organizers
In general the organization was ok. Nonetheless I have a few tips for @LeanAgileScot team for the next edition… Minor stuff but having done such a great job this year it is details that need to be polished.
- Twitter stream – personally I believe it’s great to have a projector presenting Twitter stream somewhere on a wall around the venue. it’s For all those who are not yet addicted to twitting everything with their phones. It’s pretty simple to arrange, so – getting back to what Chris said during the closing – just do it :).
- wifi access info – a minor thing that got sorted out quickly anyway… but it would be marvelous to be given wifi access ssid & password with conference materials during registration.
- schedule – it was not until I got home after the conference that I found the schedule printed out in the booklet with details on speakers and talks… And I was missing it all the time – had to check what’s going on next online. It could be printed on the cover (for visibility) or on a separate sheet. I have also seen it printed on the back of a conference name tag (at another conf) – which is not a bad idea though the font tends to be too small for some people. And also – it could be printed as a poster / projected somewhere around. Or at least topics of next talks written on flip charts or something – in front of the conf rooms.
- booklet and gifts – is it only me that finds it unnecessary and waste of trees? Is there anyone that is reading speakers’ bios? Free O’Reilly book is nice though.
- name tags and twitter ids – I have seen quite a few people adding their Twitter ID to their name tag using old school pen… It would be an extra cherry on a cake to be able to give some extra info during registration and have it printed.
- drinks session :) – from my point of view – it burnt out pretty quickly. For the following edition consider making a break after last presentations of a day so that folks will have time to get refreshed, have a dinner, etc and then gather again. I also think that arranging it in a pub would make more comfortable atmosphere – there must be some great pubs in Scotland ;).