2017 Conference Round-up


Ania, tell us about the conference in London?
This was the first ever conference, but it was packed with fantastic talks and workshops spread over a couple of themes: the Future of Agile, Agile Mindset, Agile Product and Agile Performance. I heard about this event through my friend Adam Polczyk, who was a speaker. The venue, food and organisation were all great and this was the first conference that I have ever attended with advanced Agile and leadership topics.

Walk us through your day. How did the conference kick off?
We started with Portia Tung’s keynote about the subject of Hope. What I really liked about this keynote was how engaging she was with the audience. We started off with some physical warm ups and then she walked us through how she created a user story for her talk and what her success criteria were for this presentation. I learned a lot about willpower and waypower. Agile is flexible, but having success with Agile also depends on the strength of your willpower and waypower.

Which talk did you attend after the keynote?
The next talk I went to was Playing the Chaos Lottery, which is an approach to gauge an Agile team’s resilience, through stress testing the team under controlled conditions. The premise of the simulation is ‘what would you do if this was a tragic event and you lost some team members?’ The presenter, Helen Lisowski, actually had this happen to her in real life when four or five of her testers left in one day. The point is that your team needs to organise itself and also trust that you can do the work, but do the simulation so you are prepared in case chaos happens one day.

The Chaos Lottery talk was on the theme of Agile Teams. Did you attend any other talks following this theme?
Yes, I went to another Agile Teams talk about remote work. The speaker, Lisette Sutherland, is working in a huge remote team and she also has a podcast where she brings people on to discuss their remote working experiences. Some of us work remotely at The Cogworks, so it was good to see what other people were doing. Lisette talked about one experiment where a remote worker, who loves hiking, took his work with him without his team realising that we was not at home. The experiment was a success because his colleagues didn’t notice at all! The key to a successful remote team is high bandwidth communication.

How about any of the other tracks?
I went to support my friend Adam Polyczyk who presented on performance management as part of the Agile Performance track. I believe that feedback is really important, not just once a year during appraisals, but it’s something that should come from all your peers. Your manager might not be working with you directly every day. In Adam’s framework, a team defines values and then individual team members will use these to evaluate their teammates. In the end, people wanted more feedback and started open discussions. I’m a fan of 360 Degree Feedback and getting feedback from people I actually work with.

Were there any talks or workshops that were particularly hands-on?
I went to another talk by Portia Tung about The Curiosity Carousel. She specialises in workshops about play and games. In this workshop, there were four game stations and three rounds to play them. I really like colouring books so I stayed at the colouring station for two rounds. Usually when you colour, you don’t talk to each other, but we found a way to communicate through this activity. Several of us would work on a sheet together and then debrief about the process. We would also build on top of what was done previously. We, as adults, often forget to play. In today’s business, you have to be creative; you can release this creativity through playing. When I’m doing my lego workshops, people are playing and learning at the same time!

Did you have a favourite talk at the conference?
Tobias Mayer’s Teal Shade of Agile talk was probably one of my favourite talks. The term “Teal” is referring to an ideal organisational stage - the promised land. Before a company can get to the “Teal” stage, it has to go through several progressions. Many companies say that they are at a higher stage than they really are. I would highly recommend going to see Tobias at other events and I’m going to be exploring this topic further.

Did you stay until the end of the conference?
Yes! The last talk I went to was how to foster a culture of documentation by Jennifer Riggins. When we were discussing the role of documentation in Agile, it’s interesting that everyone’s against documentation. People talk about documentation as if it’s a monster that will bite. But the truth is, in Agile, we do have documentation. We don’t provide 300 pages of documentation up front but we have, for example user stories, which are a kind of documentation. We need to add value for documentation and create just enough so it will be good for your users and yourself.

After the last talk, we stayed for some drinks at the venue and then we went to the pub. Some people were new faces for me and others I had met before at other events around London. It was definitely the best Agile conference that I’ve attended and I would love to get involved in the conference next year!