Firstly I apologise for getting a little slack with my blog. When I do presentations I tend to invest a lot of time in them and consequently a lot of other items get de-prioritised. Since my last blog I have presenting at the Agile Games Conference in Boston, at the HR Game Changer conference in Melbourne and at Agile Alliance 2015 Conferencein Washington. If you would like to take a look at any of my presentations feel free to visit my slideshare page.
I am hoping I will have a quieter six months in order to focus on a few projects such as finishing my Agile Forest Book, finishing a Visual Management book I am co-authoring with Craig Smith and getting a production quality Agile Bootstrap kit together which has Agile posters, cards for the usual ceremonies and cards for a training wall. If you are interested in being involved in any of these projects (ie reviewing or just want to know when they are done) then feel free to contact me at: email@example.com.
Anyway, this blog post is to endeavoring to talk about my high level observations of attending the Agile Alliance 2015 in Washington, so lets kick it off:
- It was my first foray to this conference. Comparing it in size to Agile Australia which has over 1000 attendees, Washington has near the 2500 attendee mark. Despite this, it didn’t feel like an impersonal event. With sit down lunches, dinners and breakfasts, round tables and activity filled sessions galore and lots of open space to have conversations, I felt that there were plenty of opportunities to get to know people that I have connected with on twitter, but also new people that I have never met before.
- Conference venue was great, I loved the natural light in the corridors. Hotel and hotel staff were great. Food was considerably below standard of Agile Australia but that could be my expectations on freshness and I do appreciate that all meals were provided with no requirement for me to source food elsewhere.
- The cost of the conference is quite extreme when coming from Australia, especially when you consider lost contract time and the two day travel time. I have submitted for three years in the hopes to have my ticket and accommodation covered before I finally got accepted. Without these perks I am not sure if I would make the trip. That said, I do believe attending the conference in the US is something every enterprise agile coach in Australia should do sometime in their life – the experience is definitely worth it.
- I had for a while thought that with the US crossing the chasm before Australia that the level of knowledge, expertise and experience would be significantly noticeable. The reality was it was very similar. Partly this could be because 40% of participants are new to the conference, but for the most part the problems and potential solutions we are dealing with in Australia is very similar to the US. In some ways it is reassuring that the divide is not so significant.
- Some of the key themes coming out of the conference include:
1) lots on scaling. It seemed like every second person had their own scaling method. What I appreciate about this is that the creation of such frameworks and methods suggests we still have problems that need solving so I don’t expect to see this explosion of frameworks slowing down. That said, the attempt to make money through certifications is a concern for me. I am supportive of open source frameworks, but the personal expense of having to be certified in so many methods is ridiculous.
2) lots on collaborative learning – there are many people other than myself experimenting with different approaches to a few days of training in order to get better outcomes for organisations.
3) lots on improv – safe, quick games to get learning outcomes of value
4) lots on leadership and enterprise agility (as you would expect) with quite a few references to Fredrick Laloux’s work on reinventing organisations
- I liked the longer sessions at the US conference but think the split would be better if it was 60 mins for a talk and 90 mins for an interactive session. I did really enjoy the number of interactive sessions, but on the downside, I went to a few where the learnings coming out of them were inhibited by the low knowledge and capability level of people at the table I was sitting at. I feel if you go to a session with someone who is an expert in that domain it would be worthwhile to actually hear what their solutions are to problem rather than hearing guesses of potential solutions from participants.
- I was surprised by the number of organisations in the US doing Agile ‘in the dark’. Their committment to growing an Agile organisation was to send it’s people to the conference (which don’t get me wrong, is great), but that is where it stopped. They wouldn’t pay for coaches, nor even pay for training, so basically it is like doing Agile when blind. I’m not saying this won’t work, however I believe that it will take longer and the road will be much bumpier. If they make these choices knowingly then so be it (but I suspect they don’t understand the impact and risk of their decisions).
- I understand there was a coach open space on the weekend before. I would have preferred a 4 day conference with the fifth day for coach open space.
- I am not quite sure about the 13 streams in a row format – sessions seemed to be very unbalanced with a handful of people to full. I can appreciate that sizing rooms in advance is tricky if not impossible. I guess it gave enough flexibility to have a few choices in case your first preference was full or didn’t meet what you were looking for. Part of the problem was with sessions being so long it often took quite a while to see if the session was going where you would hope it would. Maybe my lesson learnt out of this is to do some pre-reading of the presentations beforehand and picking from a shortlist of three based on that.
So if you attended Agile 2015 and feel like I have missed the point or you simply want to comment then feel free to reply in the comments below.