It is not the strongest species [organisation] that survives, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
Over two jam packed days, there were a lot of new ideas to experiment with but there were also some basics to cater for those just starting out on their agile journey. The vibe at the conference is that Agile is no longer a fad and is transforming across the wider organisation – we have crossed the chasm from IT agility to business agility. However, speaking with people from the trenches there are still many struggling to get the benefits of agile with existing hierarchical management style at odds with the horizontal product delivery focus of agile. James Shore summaries this well when he said
agile is about how you think and that organisation thinking overrides team thinking. Therefore success with agile depends primarily on organisational culture and investments.
Here’s some highlights from the conference:
David Marquet (@ldavidmarquet) – Intent-based leadership
David Marquet is a former nuclear submarine commander and author of the book ‘Turn the ship around‘. His opening Keynote looked at the future of Leadership.
- In the future leaders will get people to think (not do)
- In the future Leaders will help people feel safe (not scared)
- In the future leaders will push authority to information (not information to authority)
- People doing the work can make better decisions because they have the information. You will get better speed of execution because you don’t have a delay.
- In the future leaders will focus on getting better (not being good)
- In the future leaders will fix the environment (not the people)
- In the future, leaders will give control & take leadership
- The only thing hard about this is you, we have been genetically and culturally to take control and attract followers. What you want to do is give control and create leaders.
During his keynote, David did a live poll of the audience on what it would like to work in an environment where the leadership style meant controlling people . I hope the managers and leaders in your organisation are not creating a work environment like this….
Jeremie Benazra (@jemben) – How forgotten knowledge will help you avoid regrettable decisions
Jeremie’s presentation took a interesting look at turning some common questions we may face into reality checks using some common principles that we know today. Whenever we make decisions we need to be grounded (and often reminded) that there are certain principles that may challenge our biases.
|Principle||Question you want to ask||Question you should be asking|
|Moore’s Law: Information systems doubles capacity for the same price every two years||“Which technology is the best to invest in now?”||“How long do we want to maintain the product using this technology?”|
|Allen’s Curve: The communication efficiency decreases exponentially with the physical distance between the persons||“How much could I outsource?”Or what I come across a lot is a statement that “outsourcing is cheaper”.||“How much effort are you ready to dedicate to make outsourcing work?”|
|Parkinson’s Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion||“How long do you need to get this done?”||“Do you have any time constrain? What is your deadline?”|
|Little’s Law: The lead time is proportional to the number of items in the system and their time in the system.||“Tell me when I could expect to get this done as well?”||“How urgent is it compare to what is currently in progress?”|
|Meskimen’s Law: There is enough time to do it right, but there is always enough time to do it over.||“How complete are you? How far along are you?”||“Could you help me clarify what we consider complete?”|
|Brooke’s Law – The Mythical Man Month: Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.||“How many people do you need to get this Done? Faster!“||“What are you ready to trade off, scope?”|
|Conway’s Law: Organisations are constrained to produce designs which are copies of their communication structures||“How could you improve our customer experience?”||“How could we remove some organisational silos to work better together?|
Bernd Schiffer (@berndschiffer) – Concrete experimentation in Agile environments
Bernd talked about a problem that many organisations face today, struggling turning change ideas into tangible outcomes so they get better at being Agile. What we need is a way to use experiments to drive change throughout the organisation and Bernd introduced a nice mnemonic to help us remember how to perform an experiment to drive change and improvement – CAT SHOE, SIC! It’s really simple of course:
- Clear goal – what are the outcomes you want to achieve
- Arranged – A plan how you will approach the experiment
- Trackable through metrics – measure the improvement/change. did it have an impact?
- Small – make small incremental experiements, short timeframe, small/one team.
- Has due date – do I need to say more? timebox the experiment
- Out in the open – make the experiment visible eg use ganban boards
- Evaluated through hypothesis – leveraging the lean startup approach, what hypothesis are you trying to prove? what does success look like? what does failure look like?
- Safe-To-Fail – it is an experiment after all so we need to take some risks, but balance risk taking with impact if it fails. You need to be able to recover (and learn) from failure
- Impelled by champions – need people (1 or 2) to sponsor and champion the experiment – they will own the outcome and be impelled to make it happen
- Communicated before start – be transparent and make sure everyone understands and is comfortable with the experiment before starting
Stuart Bargon (@StuartBargon) – Don’t scale Agile. Descale your organisation.
Anders Ivarsson (@anders_ivarsson) – Autonomy and Leadership at Spotify
Linda Rising (@RisingLinda) – Myths and patterns of organisational change
|Myth||Pattern for Change|
|Myth #1: Smart People are rational
||Take on a role of a Evangelist.You need to believe and have a passion for the change. What you have is your belief that your idea is a good one and that it will work.Create short term goals – build on your successes and learn from your failures – do small experiments, just do it, time for reflection, baby steps.|
|Myth #2: Good always triumphs over evil. (Just World Fallacy, one of our many cognitive biases.)
Data clearly shows, that when we are eating we are more open to influence.All languages speak to this connection. When we eat together, there’s a feeling these are the people we trust – its a great influencer even if its a bad idea.
|Myth #3: If I just had enough power I could make people change.
||Personal Touch.You must address a genuine user need. Data does not equal empathy. You need to reach out and try to understand the viewpoint of people who you want to change and give them a reason (sell your idea as a way for them to be better).Different people accept new ideas differently, so you will need to address people differently and answer the “What’s in it for me?” and bring them along the journey.|
|Myth #4: Skeptics, cynics, resistors—THOSE people, well, they must be BAD or STUPID or BOTH!! Ignore them!!
||Fear LessUse resistance to your advantage.
Listen, really listen and learn all you can, even from the cynics. Respect and build on the resistance.Find a Champion Skeptic: Encourage a resistor to play the important role of “Devil’s Advocate.” Treat the person as valued partner in the change effort. Get them to help get better.
|Myth #5:You’re a smart person, so you don’t need help from others. After all, it’s your idea!||Ask For HelpThe idea is yours and you believe in it, but the change must NOT be “all about you”.You need other people’s help. And when others help you, recognise their contribution with Sincere Appreciation – this is a powerful influencer! The thanks must be sincere, timely, contain details of what they did and the impact of their help.|
Towards the end of last year I was interviewed by Shane Hastie from InfoQ about Agile Coach Camp. The interview was published in the article An Update on Agile Coach Camps Internationally.
Coach camps are volunteer organised events which typically happen over a weekend and are designed to be cost neutral, sharing the venue and catering costs across the attendees without a profit motive. Coach Camps run using an Open Space format.
Bernd Schiffer and I are bringing Agile Coach Camp to Melbourne in March 2015. We have been busy finding a suitable venue and we are very close to finalising one soon.
For more information and how to get tickets (once they go on sale) for the Agile Coach Camp in Melbourne, please visit www.agilecoachcampaustralia.org
Here’s the transcript of my interview on InfoQ:
I was one of the few people from Melbourne who traveled up to Sydney for Australia’s first Agile Coach camp in 2013. I didn’t know what to expect from the event other than wanting to network and meet other people who were passionate about helping others deliver customer and business outcomes through agile ways of working. In the end I caught up with a great bunch of like-minded people and walked away with some new ideas and hopefully provided some inspiration for others.
I want to increase my competency as an Agile Coach and help others by forming a community of practicing Agile Coaches. Through this desire I formed the Agile Coaching Circles Meetup (www.meetup.com/agile-coaching-melbourne) in Melbourne to provide support for the role of the Agile Coach. Naturally Agile Coach Camp is another outlet to learn and become more effective in the role of an Agile Coach and anyone else involved in coaching, training, mentoring and leading Agile organisations, teams and individuals through a community of practicing coaches. It is a practitioner-run event and the sessions are planned collaboratively on the day with the participants. I find the peer-to-peer Open Space discussions to be diverse, cooperative, stimulating and interactive.
I am looking forward to the coach camp in Sydney and I am excited about collaborating with Bernd Schiffer in hosting Melbourne’s inaugural coach camp in early 2015 and making this a regular event in every coach’s calendar. We want to run the Melbourne coach camp as a grassroots event that is cost neutral with little or no sponsorship other than a sponsor who can denote a venue for us to use. We want to encourage everyone to bring their best ideas or problem they want help with, unleash their enthusiasm and together we can discover how we can be even better coaches.
I hope to see you in March at the Melbourne Agile Coach Camp.
Last week I attended the LAST Conference (Lean, Agile, Systems Thinking) held at Swinburne University. The LAST Conference is a big departure from the Agile Australia 2012 conference I attended earlier this year. There was no fanfare, no big build up, little corporate advertising and significantly less people. It was also only $50 for the whole day but still contained lots of learning opportunities. It lived up to the advertised “low cost, grassroots mini-conference” message.
The conference schedule contained 5 parallel tracks so it was hard to attend all of it. I found myself at times wandering between sessions to get sound bites of what people where talking about. Being held at a uni one thing I definitely liked was the university lecture theatre style of some of the sessions – it felt right compared to sitting in a large conference center. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the last sessions as I needed to head back into work.
I didn’t take any detailed notes, but here are my takeaways (in no particular order):
- Systems Thinking is the opposite of scientific thinking. Systems Thinking is not:
- Rocket Science
- Sea of Systems a handy guide to Systems Thinking
- Invention is the process of discovering something new or come up with an idea. Innovation is the act of of introducing that idea into the market and commercializing it
- Played some neat games that help with agile learning.
- Stages of learning:
- Unconscious incompetence
- Conscious incompetence
- Conscious competence
- Unconscious incompetence
- I had lots of fun in the Visual Collaboration session fine tuning my sketching skills. Use Wong-Baker Faces to visually represent levels of pain.
- Lots of interesting tidbits some of which I already knew but others just heard of in Edgy Agile things.
Here’s a selection of twitter posts on the conference (#LASTconf):
- @RonicaRoth: #LASTconf motto: you are not an attendee. Excited to participate!
- @lynnecazaly: Story structure: people + place + trouble …people want to know why, why this, why different #lastconf @unorder
- @hwiputra: A good storyteller uses concrete words not abstract words #LASTconf
- @hwiputra: Be comfortable with silence when getting stories out #LASTconf
- @AgileRenee: #LASTconf how to measure value? IRACIS – improved revenue, avoid costs, improved service
- @AgileRenee: #LASTconf my answer: the biggest waste in software dev today is doing the wrong work (benefits to cost don’t stack up)
- @libodyssey: culture is the product of behaviour #lastconf
- @ScrumMasterNZ: Work towards “Decision Meetings” and not “Status Meetings” #LASTConf #agile #lean
- @jodiem: Eg this guy has 3 levels of backlog – team-product , release-quarterly and sprint… #confused #lastconf
- @CEPitchford: The motivation for #offshore at REA was not cost it was talent! #win @hwiputra @frankmt #LASTconf
- @CEPitchford: Standup with #offshore team via Skype was hard. We couldn’t understand each other @hwiputra @frankmt #LASTconf
- @CEPitchford: Was hard for Chinese #offshore team to get visas to come to OZ @frankmt @hwiputra #LASTconf
- @CEPitchford: The whole local OZ dev team went to china for 3 weeks to handover to the #offshore team #LASTconf
- @AgileRenee: Find I’m mentally disagreeing with a lot said in the offshoring session in #LASTconf we have talent and should invest in building it locally
- @jodiem: Self service test environments… Where QA env is exactly the same as production env. Cool #devops #lastconf
- @antomarsh: Team rotation from Aus to China critical #LASTconf
- @gusbalbontin: Words such as “framework” and “governance” should never be in the same sentence as the word innovation. #LASTconf
- IrithWilliams: #Lastconf the real job at a standup is to ‘listen, inspect, adapt’
- @magia3e: Too many context changes slows down the #scrum team. Focus on getting to-do done #LASTconf
- @rooosterboy: How is #LASTconf different to #agileaus ? Seriously.
- @magia3e: If u don’t have some sort of continuous integration toolset/capability it will limit your velocity #LASTconf
- @c2reflexions: @AgileRenee doing a song and dance at #LASTconf
- @magia3e: Document the right stuff, but don’t waffle it out. Cut to the essence of it. communicate it with the right collaborative tools #LASTconf
- @CEPitchford: More control from management = less innovation from empowered teams #LASTconf @frankmt
- @CEPitchford: It’s not about execution anymore. It is about learning. #organizationalchange #LASTconf @frankmt
- @CEPitchford: Change programs: do we actually want to change? Or adapt, innovate and LEARN? #purpose #LASTconf @frankmt
- @CEPitchford: The way we still run companies was invented by people who lived in the last century @frankmt #LASTconf
- @CEPitchford: Project schedules and budgets are a work of fiction anyway @brown_note #LASTconf #fishbowl
- @hwiputra: All good leaders believe in their teams. #LASTconf
- @Drew_1609: Best value and most fun conference attended in a long time #lastconf
- @njhoughton: MVP … what’s the minimum thing to go-live … hold this as a meta-frame as you sprint … my examples are #foresight and #Innovation #lastconf
The visual recordings by @lynnecazaly were done using the iPad Brushes app. I have downloaded the app and now I just need to brush up (no pun intended) my skills. Thanks Lynne for the inspiration to try visually recording my notes.
Thanks to the organisers, Craig and Ed for putting together this great event. Snaps!
I had the pleasure to attend Australia’s inaugural Agile Conference in Sydney supported by the Agile Alliance. It was a 2 day event on 15-16 October. Being the first Agile Conference in Australia, the key theme centered around Agile Adoption and how companies have adopted Agile; Why companies have adopted agile; and Issues and Challenges faced by companies in their adoption of Agile.
It was a very good conference with the ability to network and share ideas with other people during the breaks who are also working on their Agile adoption in their own companies. I have taken some key messages from the conference to help with the Agile adoption initiatives I am working on within HP Enterprise Services. I am already looking forward to next year’s event.
One of the more inspiring session I attended was the keynote on the 2nd day, Increasing Business value through simplicity (Lean and Agile) by Jeff Smith, CIO of Suncorp. Jeff provided the Executive sponsorship and the vision for “Living Agile” as a way to infuse organisational simplicty into the DNA of Suncorp through the introduction of Agile and Lean principles and methodologies. Any organisation would benefit having an Executive like Jeff to help drive their Agile adoption. I highly recommend you watching this inspiring video!!
The other sessions I attended with some key summaries:
- Panel – The journey towards the Agile enterprise; discussion on the Agile adoption journey by the respective panalist’s organisation.
- The journey needs active executive support which permeates through the enterprise.
- “Agile is about teams doing extraordinary things with ordinary people”.
- 12 Agile Adoption failure modes (Keynote Day 1) by Jean Tabaka, Rally Software; based on her experience it outlines that Agile does not fail. It is the Agile adoption mode that fails. Organisations need to stop the denial that waterfall is really deliverying value. Most of the 12 points are quite common when adopting Agile (yes, I have experienced some of it):
- Checkbook commitment doesn’t support organisational change management. Executives provide checkbook commitment to Agile without actually supporting the Agile adoption (unengaged). Same metrics are used and it continues the illiusion that software development is very deterministic.
- Culture doesn’t support change. Governance is Conformance; Standard of work is static; detailed documentation; PMO are enforcers.
- Do not have retrospectives. Or they are done, but actions that are identified are ignored or there is no action.
- Infrastructure to support the team is ignored or inadequate and architecture becomes unstable.
- Lack of full planning participation. If the right people are not part of the planning you will not get the right commitment.
- No or too many product owners.
- Bad Scrum Masters. Scrum Masters that are Command and Control.
- Not having an onsite evangelist/coach at remote teams.
- Team lacking authority. Empowered teams amplify learning.
- Testing not pulled forward.
- Traditional performance appraisals that reward individual heroics.
- Revert to old ways of doing things. Change is hard.
- What’s it take to make an Agile transition? by Shane Hastie, Software Education; focuses on the premise that Agile is a culture, not a methodology. The talk examines the organisational, cultural and individual changes needed for a business to successfully embrace Agile.
- Panel – Waterfall is from Mars, Agile is from Venus; panel discussion centered around bridging understanding and communication between Waterfall organisations and Agile teams. I didn’t get too much out of this session.
- Taking the Leap of Faith by Mike Allen; this was a good presentation that described the Agile journey that was used to deliver a large application transformation program. It starts with hiring the right people, providing the right office environment (the organisation spent money to reorganise the office to be more collaborative), provide the proper training and use the right tools. The Program started off as waterfall, but being a large program there was a lot inertia to get the program moving so Agile was introduced – Agile gets you moving. You may move in the wrong direction, but that is ok. Agile gets you back on course quickly.
- Better Software Faster! by Michael Milewski; another presentation on how realestate.com.au started the Agile adoption journey. It all started with a pilot project.
- Bringing IT back from the brink by Nigel Dalton; discussion on how Lonely Planet’s IT department was not delivering and how it used Agile to transform their organisation and brought the IT department back from the brink. Nigel introduced “Watergile” – when you dangerously mix waterfall with Agile – “it’ll drive you mad”. It was interesting to hear how Agile is used in a non-IT context in their new guidebook product development.
- Panel – Distributed Agile; Distributed agile has challenges. Expect more travel and travel costs, but this is is offset by the long term benefits it brings. Despite the challenges, distributed Agile is better than waterfall for projects with changing requirements & uncertainty. Distributed Agile means you need to pay more attention to the challenges, but the Agile practices itself will help improve the challenges. e.g. through retrospectives. Going distributed, 3 of the 4 Agile Manifesto values are compromised.
- Lean and Agile in the large – principles and experiences for large scale software development by Dave Thomas; this was a good presentation by Dave Thomas who was one of the authors of the Agile Manifesto and founding member of the Agile Alliance. This presentation is worth watching. One metaphor I liked:
Successful software development is about a winning culture
- Software is a team sport, & like team sports, practice, constructive peer feedback & coaching are essential.
- Winning teams need to implicitly know the moves of each player, as well as the movements of the team as a whole.
- The ultimate expression of process is a culture where building software is more like playing Jazz!! People just do it!!!
- Understanding just-in-time requirements to support Lean software development by Martin Kearns; content of this presentation is self-explanatory from the tile. I didn’t get too much out of this that I didn’t already know.
- Lean thinking for Lean times by Alan Beacham and Jason Yip; discussed how Kanban is used to manage workflow in Agile projects.
- The inter-sprint break by Simon Bristow; this presentation discussed the introduction of the inter-sprint break – a period between the end of the Scrum sprint and the beginning of the next. This concept was very similar to a previous project I have worked on and I would recommend introducing such a concept.
- Being Agile at the Google scale by Dhanji Prasanna; this was a very technical presentation with much of it not about Agile. It was interesting to note that Google do not follow a specific agile method (eg. Scrum, XP, DSDM, etc). Instead Google base the way they approach work on the Agile Manifesto value “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. Google also has a fundamental prinicple: “Maximising the amount of work…..NOT done. a.k.a. Simplicity.”
- Agile mistakes and how to avoid them by Rown Bunning; was very similar to Jean Tabaka’s keynote on Day 1 where Rowan outlined some of the common mistakes in adopting Agile. He presented the Agile Metaphor: “Agile development is like teenage sex. Only 10% who say they are doing it, are actually doing it. And those who are actually doing it, are doing it wrong.”