Agile2016: Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation

Technically, Agile2016 is not software, BUT, Agile2016 is about product delivery.  It is a product of hard work of countless volunteers, track and submission reviewers, sponsors, companies, and the people who attend.  And while I know that there was probably copious amounts of documentation and communication in paper form, the end game is not and will never will be about the documentation.

To dig into this further, I went to the principles behind the manifesto to get more understanding on this key pillar of Agile and how it applies to the actual conference.  If you peruse through the principles, there are key phrases related to the actual software product such as, “satisfy the customer,” or, “deliver… frequently,” or that the product is, “the primary measure of success.”  Each of these could be asked as questions in regards to the success of Agile2016 so far.

Is the customer satisfied?

As a customer (and no, I will not format this as a user story) – yes!  The way that the hotel staff has been attentive, the quality of the company booths, the attentiveness of the volunteers, the excitement and energy exuded by the attendees.  The answer is a whole-hearted YES!  Add to that the camaraderie of even competing organizations and the people focused on skills improvement and relationship building and Agile2016 is a resounding success.  I wish I could find the picture of one of our competitors chatting it up with us in booth – sharing stories, or seeing the two name sponsors’ staff hanging out in each others booths.  It is a sign of success of not just the conference but the movement.  Customer Sat? Check.

Is there frequent delivery of value?

Again, absolutely.  In 1:15 increments, speakers are delivering value.  In 3 hour bursts, the exhibit floor is bursting with value!  Even the breaks where one can chat with other agilists is a sign of creating instantaneous value.

Is the customer satisfaction and product delivery the primary measure of success?

This one adds to the first.  Not only do we recognize the need to create satisfied customers, but for our growth and for our validation of abilities, we need to actually deliver something.  What is the “product” that Agile2016 delivers?  Strategic and tactical agile transformation concepts, relationships, and vendor solutions.

On that note, welcome to Agile2016 day 2!  We look forward to more “quality product delivery” today!


Agile2016: Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools

As an agilist, I sometimes get worried over what I would call the “consumerization” of Agile.  Along the way it feels as though it has become less of the anti-command-and-control, return to the people, transformative movement and has become – more or less – a way for all of consultants to make money.  It has become about your process and your tool set.

Enter Agile2016; the largest Agile Event ever.  Over 2500 attendees from over 40 countries represent the thing that we love about Agile – the people.  It has been ultimately refreshing to walk among our competitors and have conversations about our experiences with agile.  It is good to have a majority of people simply want to know who you, what hasn’t worked well (and what has), and just connect with another Agilist.

Around 12:15 we did a Facebook Live Stream.  As we wandered around, one of the guys from MATRIX actually commented that we was shocked at how open the other booths were and how ready people were just to talk about their experiences here at Agile2016.  It goes back to what we all are here for – “Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools.”

More later from Agile2016!

Agile 2016: The First 12 1/2 minutes

I might be going a bit overboard on Agile this week with blogs, primarily because I’m at Agile2016, one of the largest gathering of us weirdo, hippie agilists – along side some still buttoned up folks – in the United States.

Upon walking in I was met by a wonderful group of volunteers; ready and eager to help as well as to laugh at my silly jokes.  I was also faced with my company’s competitors but this week we are not mortal enemies, but fellow agile journey-takers on a mission to get more info, sharpen our skills, and most of all meet more agile folks.

There is excitement in the air; a sense of urgency as people make their way to the keynote speaker session.  Others are headed down to put the finishing touches on booths or just talking with people they haven’t seen since last year.  All this excitement could also be because of the copious amount of coffee available to the attendees!

Overall, I’m looking forward to a week of getting to know a new set of people, talk “shop” for a full week, and listen to some thought leaders in the space.  Watch for Facebook Live, Periscope, Live Tweets, and other nonsensical stuff coming from me this week from Agile 2016.

Re-Post: Cooking with Agile (Literally)

The following blog was posted on MATRIX Resources blog.  It can be found here.

Oftentimes at MATRIX, we talk with prospective customers about the common sense of Agile. While it can be a big investment and challenging to transform corporate cultures, the concepts, principles, and practices are actually pretty common. I know it sounds crazy, but the ideas that we use in high-tech and corporate organizational agility are very close to the way that other disciplines operate!

For example: the food service industry. In order to be successful, restaurants, food trucks and caterers need to work in a high level of agility. Take the act of preparing meals; the ability to deliver is based on a keen sense of the market, the direct and continuous feedback from someone (or some group) of customers, the capability of the team to adapt and work in a co-located space, and the availability of resources or ingredients based on a host of variables!

Recently, MATRIX partnered with The Food Movement to host a take on their “Team Building with Taste” that we called “Cooking with Agile.” The idea came from the concept that other activities can provide a working analogy of how we should work with Agile and help solidify concepts that might be more difficult to embed. Call it creating mental muscle memory using food. While we had an idea that there were similarities that we would be able to create learning experiences around, it was amazing to all of us involved just how similar the concepts and principles would be between the two disciplines.

Respect the Timebox

In most Agile methodologies, there is a concept of some sort of timebox. Whether this is based on a release construct or based on a calendar, the idea that we have a small amount of unchanging time to complete an increment of work is pretty common. Think about your day.  We sometimes joke about wanting to extend the amount of time we have in the day to fit the work, but the fact is, we can’t – we have to fit the work to the time. Likewise, in preparing meals, I can tell you from experience that, as a father, I am under a pretty strict timebox to get food ready for my family. If not, I will definitely experience negative customer feedback! In “Cooking with Agile”, this was heightened more by a strict timebox. Teams were given 50 minutes to prepare the entire range of tapas for the contest. This was good and somewhat challenging for us Agile Coaches. We wanted to take each person’s move or each team’s decision and relate it back to an Agile concept. What we found was that we couldn’t – the teams were too focused on delivering a product. They were self-organizing! They weren’t listening to thing we were saying! And it was great!

Limited and Changing Ingredients

One of the most frustrating Agile principles that organizations comment on during transformation is that it is difficult to constantly consume customer change. Oddly, most of our customers at MATRIX state that this is one of the main reasons they have hired us to help them– consume change while still working within the constraints of their technologies. On the cooking front, it would be amazing, nay, heavenly to open my pantry door each night and see thousands of endless possibilities of ingredients to prepare dinner. But alas, most nights it is more, “hey honey, what can I make with ramen noodles, chicken, and that frozen vegetable mix in the freezer?” The fact is that not only do I need to meet the needs of my customer (kids need to grow up healthy) but I also have resource and infrastructure constraints. I have a limited amount of ingredients, a set of devices, and a finite kitchen size to achieve a solution and in the midst of that sometimes I have to change an ingredient or even start over with a dish. Chef Paul with The Food Movement took this concept to another level. He provided a must-have list of ingredients, forced the teams to share space and kitchen infrastructure, and on top of it changed some of the ingredients about halfway through. In one way, this sounds like we were trying to prove a point, but the fact is, it’s real life! As we watched the teams consume the newly added “cream cheese” to their dishes (we say creativity), we watched as they gracefully consumed the new requirement while fitting it in with the original set of constraints. It was agility at its finest.

Fail Fast, Fix Fast

It is amazing and, honestly, occasionally comical when we tell organizations that failure is ok. Failure helps us learn quickly and often it is better to know what not to do rather than just know what to do. Of course, the completion of failing is fixing. Failing over and over and doing the same thing is lunacy, but failing and making quick decisions to change the scenario is wisdom. We teach this to teams and leaders within organizations in order to help foster innovation, collaboration, and transparency. In the kitchen, this concept is seen at its most elegant and simple – tasting. I have always been told to taste the ingredients, to season at every step and taste again. This constant tasting allows a failure to be recognized early in the process and for corrections to be made quickly. Most of the time, a problem caught early can be fixed without starting over, whereas waiting to the very end can give your family that “I will never eat your cooking again!” look on their face. Chef Paul, during the introductions, pointed out the large container of plastic spoons at each workstation. He called out that these were tasting spoons and that they should be used! At the end of the event, there was only one tasting spoon left at one of the tables. The teams took the time to taste often. Even as the Agile Coaches walked around, the teams offered samples of their “in progress” works of culinary genius to us. They weren’t afraid of our feedback; they weren’t concerned that their mid-timebox food wouldn’t be good enough. They were transparent and were actually excited about their work!

The event was fabulous, the hosts were incredible, the food was even good (for scrum masters, executives, and the like), but what amazed us all was that there was so much commonality and “common sense” concepts that this event brought out which aligned with organizational agility.  Next time you or your teams are struggling to overcome the latest hurdle or if you plateau with your improvements, get creative – look to everyday life for examples of how you just don’t “do” Agile, you have to “be” Agile!