Oct 16, 2009

Agile Open California: day one at Northern CA

The first day at Agile Open California was quite a treat (started yesterday). For those unfamiliar with the concept of an open conference, the premise it to start with the conference with one common theme, in this case it was Agile in Changing Times, and from there the first activity of the conference after an intro by the organizers is an open invitation to all attendees (I mean, participants) to suggest any topic of interest. All topics are introduced elevator-speech style and posted in the market place together with a room and time from pre-filled post-its to avoid overlaps (this can be considered a high-level planning. Everybody then goes to the market place and initials what they are interested on. From there people gather at the set place/time to work on the topic; be it a presentation, discussion, hand-on work, game or whatever else they feel is the right thing to do. Although time is fixed people are free to continue their discussions if they wish and can move to any available space indoors or outdoors.

Elizabeth McClellan is an artist who volunteered to do drawings of the event and during the planning session. The image below is the drawing from the intro and high-level planning.

I participated at a Scaling Agile session proposed by three people (including me) and covered three aspects: scaling teams, scaling challenges at enterprise level and enterprise-enterprise scaling. Highest experience was on the first case and there was quite a bit of feedback and opinions on it such as keeping teams and meetings small, having the extra meeting such as when doing scrum of scrums, distributed training, distributed retrospectives, collocating as much as possible and being careful with overcrowding spaces. For the second case there was a bit less feedback but still good ideas and practices such as how to increase buy-in, bottom-up vs top-down approach and when to use them, etc. For the third case there was even less feedback since the case is not as common ad the other two so it ended up being more of a brainstorming session; and some ideas were the parent Co demanding the contracted Co to do agile (forcing agile… hummmm), emphasizing buy in at top level first, having devs from both companies work collocated.

The next session was also on scaling at enterprise level and discussions where around how to interact with non-dev teams, the difficulties of getting customers involved, and budgeting.

Next I attended a session on team coherence given by Joanna Zweig. This is a very interesting and important subject that has a follow up session today and I'll write a blog about it afterwards.

Richard Marks led a discussion on Trust-based Collaboration within a team, between teams, and at enterprise level. The aha! moment to me was Cesar Idrovo's sharing a personal experience that is becoming an agile principle, namely value the productivity of your team above your own. This is something I experienced intensely during my six years in Japan but have found very hard to see happen anywhere else. This principle could be a key change that.

Last was a session on leadership by Davil Chilcott that also has a follow up today so I'll write about it later.

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