alacrity in action
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This year at “Spark The Change” London I felt like a veteran. It’s strange as it’s only the second time the conference has been organised. Perhaps it’s the familiar venue (and an excellent one at that) or the familiar faces I remember from last year (even if there were many new faces too) or the general theme of the event that has always been close to my heart.

When the conference was announced I got an email boldly claiming: “So this year […] makes last year look like we were winging it.” A tough job given I still remembered the amazing talk form Dr Paul Thomas, inspiring vision from Tim Harford, and challenging workshop form The SO Team, just to mention the few highlights from last year.

Turns out I really was in for a treat again. From the moment Helen made the first introductions, the first talk by Mark Stevenson (big personal highlight this year for me) to the very few final sounds of the songs we sung together at the last session it was a blast. Yes. We actually sung together. Everyone. And (Nick, can I start a sentence with an “And”?) we sounded rather nice too. Plus I got to write my Bio as a Haiku. Win.

Did I mention Mark Stevenson? I went to his talk on the first day, and to his workshop on the second day and then picked up his book and read it almost on-the-spot. Awash will all the optimism and exciting vision of the future I found this thought from John Seely Brown in the final pages of Mark’s book:

“The real challenge of innovation today is not technological innovation, it’s institutional innovation. We have to start inventing new types of institutions that can stay in step with the information age.”

followed up in his own words:

Hierarchies are on the way out, networks are on the way in. Don’t look to get promoted, look to get distributed – as an individual, as an organisation, as a nation.

Now it all becomes clear, it all begins to take shape. The presentations from W. L. Gore & Associates, Gov.UK, Monmouthshire Children’s Services, Spotify, Propellernet and others were all tangible, specific and encouraging stories of institutions and organisations that are reinventing themselves and the way we do and think about work. They are the real sparks of change that will take us into the 21st century. We need more sparks like this. We need more people understanding the future that’s unfolding in front of our very eyes.

Will you be there next year?

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The slides from my “Where Bad Code Comes From” talk at the ACE! 2012 conference in Kraków, 13-15 June 2012.

If you were able to attend, thank you for your participation.

THe slides are on Speaker Deck as I like it above Slide Share, sadly, it doesn’t seem to be working at times.

So if Speaker Deck is not responsive you can go directly to the deck on Slide Share.

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Last week I visited Kraków for the second ACE! conference 2011 – Agile Central Europe, organised by Paul Klipp. To set the record straight up front – it was an excellent event.

The intense, fun packed two days started with a keynote from Corey Haines who reminded us of the central role that feedback plays in agile and the importance of many technical practices.

There were sixteen 30 minute sessions in only one track. This was a change from the previous year, and although I have not had a chance to compare, for me this format worked well. We had an opportunity to be exposed to a diversity of topics and each session was concise and punchy.

My personal favourite was “Overcoming Self-organization Blocks” by Andrea Provaglio delivered in a direct and engaging style and addressing an interesting and important subject of self-organisation and personal dynamics in agile teams. Paweł Brodziński had a really clever idea to run his presentation about Kanban using a real Kanban board, it worked very well. Marc Löffler tackled the problem of meaningless RAG reporting using melons – very tasty. Monika Koniczny did a great job running bubbling experiments on stage, talking about games and turning me into a creative person in front of everyone. Presentations from Elad Amit and Barry O’Reilly both provided valuable food for thoughts for me. I also hope the message from Mateusz Srebrny was picked up well as he was talking about an important topic of visual management.

All sessions were videoed and should be available on-line soon. I will follow-up with a post with a pointer to my talk.

In between the talks, there were openspace sessions facilitated effectively by the mischief maker Mike Sutton. This was a perfect opportunity to engage with the audience and learn from each other. I lead two sessions – first one on “Motivation” based on the ideas from Dan Pink’s book “Drive” and another one as a follow-up from my talk and discussion of challenges agile faces in large organisations. Both gave me interesting insights into some cultural aspects of agile adoptions in Poland. I also joined the first Polish ALE Network panel with Marcin Niebudek and a session on retrospectives with Nick Oostvogel. The latter brought an important insights from Maria Diaconu about the importance of gathering data for improvements during the sprints as well as in retrospectives.

There was also an opportunity, at the end of each day, to give a 5 minute lightning talks on any subject and once again, it was a good place to hear others’ ideas. I’ve managed to sneak my two pence in on “learning from mistakes” (inspired by Kevlin Henney).

The conference was really well organised and went like clockwork with Paul doing a great job of keeping us all on schedule. In the true agile spirit there was also a feedback flip chart and many suggestions written down were acted upon very quickly.

I’d like to call the ACE!2011 the right size conference: the timing was right, the presentations worked well with the 30 minutes format, the size of the audience was good and the size of the presenting crew fit well.

The event was closed in an excellent keynote by Jurgen Appelo (serendipitously available at an almost last-minute this Dutch guy simply rocks) and was by far my favourite of Jurgen’s talks that I’ve seen. He paid great attention to what was going on during the two days and managed to weave several quotes from other speakers into his talk so it felt like a truly engaging dialogue with other speakers and the audience rather than just a simple recital. (Also, no Germans were hurt while he was running the show).  The closing keynote proved that in the short space of time, with the help of the particular conference format and thanks to great people, we have managed to engage fully and bond well.

It was great to put some real faces to twitter friends and to make new friends. Somehow only, I’ve missed Szymon, next time perhaps.

I’m already looking forward to visiting Kraków next year and so should you, it will be awesome. The rumour has it Lisa Crispin might be joining us for the keynote… (no idea who started that one).

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First, there was the volcano in April and some speakers couldn’t make it to Atlanta so we had OpenVolcano 2010. This was just an appetiser. Today was another tasty bite, a conference at Bletchley Park organised by Karl and Rachel (to coincide with Agile Coaches Gathering), with a bunch of great presentations initially destined for Atlanta.

The day was nicely concluded by Eric’s talk adapted on the fly and a quick fishbowl session.

Some of the recurrent themes I picked upon, were:

  • visualising the work
  • understanding how the work works
  • understanding the product
  • importance of creating good relationships with all people involved, identifying all stakeholders
  • integrating IT as part of the organisation (not them v/s us)
  • small, small and small – defying the complexity
  • getting quick and frequent feedback, closing the feedback loop
  • code is inventory not until it goes live but until it goes live and delivers value
  • flow – making sure the work flows cleanly and there are clear exit criteria
  • continuous learning by running deliberate experiments and collecting feedback
  • the PDCA Shewhart (Deming) cycle

Kanban is becoming increasingly popular, useful and adaptable as a tool that help visualising the system and thus  facilitating learning and creating a shared understanding.

The main challenge still remains with over-engineered organisations that are bafflingly refusing to embrace the lean goodness defending the status-quo.

Thanks to the organisers, the sponsors, presenters and all the great folk from the community. It was a day well spent.

Presentations and podcasts should be available on Skills Matter website.

  • 08:30-09:00 – Registration and Coffee
  • 09:00-09:45 – Karl Scotland – A Kanban Multiverse
  • 09:45-10:30 – Eric Willeke – Value Stream Languages
  • 10:30-11:00 – Coffee
  • 11:00-11:45 – Simon Baker & Gus Power – Product Development in the Land of the Free
  • 11:45-12:30 – Damon Morgan – Learn to Lean: Becoming a Lean Startup
  • 12:30-13:30 – Buffet Lunch
  • 13:30-14:15 – Benjamin Mitchell – Using Kanban to Get Knowledge and Continuously Improve
  • 14:15-15:00 – Liz Keogh – Behaviour Driven Development: Learning as a constraint
  • 15:00-15:30 – Coffee
  • 15:30-16:15 – Mattias Skarin – Converting A Scrum Team to Kanban
  • 16:15-16:30 – Close