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Agile on the Beach 2016 – Day 2

Agile on the Beach

Two days, five discussion tracks, thirteen panels, one beach party – its been a whirlwind 48 hours in Falmouth for Agile on the Beach 2016. Whilst the weather on Friday did not hold up to the lovely day Falmouth enjoyed on day 1, that didn’t stop us from seeing a variety of panelists speak on a wide range of topics. Here are some of our top take aways from a fantastic day 2.

1. If You Aren’t Failing, You Aren’t Innovating

Those were the words of day 2 keynote speaker Rebecca Parsons who gave an excellent talk on Business Agility to kick off the day. Rebecca’s talk was about some of the tips and tricks that businesses can employ to help improve their Agility. She outlined that evolve-ability should be the standard that you aim for in your software instead of maintainability or adaptability. Good Agile software should be able to pivot its purpose to something that you could not have conceived of when writing the code. In addition, Rebecca discussed architecting in an Agile world – her advice was to wait until the ‘last responsible moment’ when deciding architecture – wait as long as you can, but no longer, based on your fitness function. Continuous deployment was the final thing touched on in this keynote, with Rebecca stating that the goal of continuous deployments should be that deployments should be boring and safe. Overall, this keynote focused on the mindset and mentality shifts that are needed when trying to improve your business agility – it has to be safe to fail, as the the bets that differentiate you are not the safe ones.

Rebecca Parsons delivers the Day 2 Keynote

2. 10% Time – Myth or Magic?

The first of the days panels was from Elizabeth Pope on a topic that has been hot in the development and wider technical community for years, 10% time. First brought into the wider consciousness by Google, the idea is that your team spends a percentage of its time every week or couple of weeks devoted to non-project work. Elizabeth shared her companies definition of what 10% time should be – it should support you in your development, or benefit the business, either now or in the future. As well as enthusing about some of the benefits that this time has brought to her team, such as an improvement and collaboration between team members, in addition to it making an impact on employee satisfaction and retention, she also outlined some of the challenges of having this time, with some team members unsure as to what they should work or and the difficulties getting buy in from stakeholders who are not directly involved in the process. To help enable the benefits, Elizabeth suggested that the best thing that you can do support this time is to ensure that you are realistic and open with everyone in the process, from the team members themselves to the stakeholders that will be impacted. She also suggested that you work hard to reduce the barriers for entry, and that a facilitator for the whole scheme can help with this.

3. Run out of colours? Turn a post-it and get a bonus shape: a diamond!

The lovely Darci Dutcher walked us through, in a very fun and interactive way, the debated, loved, feared, and unavoidable world of workshops in the Agile world. She left us with a few useful guidelines:

Participation:

  • As a facilitator use your voice to represent the people in the room. Empower the team to self moderate the conversation.

Choosing an activity:

Body language:

  • Always observe your room: who is intimidated, scared or angry?
  • Train daily by paying attention at your own coworkers more carefully!

Facilitators:

  • Be emotional detached. If you are not you might need a person to substitute you. Neutral is key!
  • Don’t lead but smooth the conversation

4. Enter the Cyber Dojo

Jon Jagger gave a talk on a piece of software that he developed that helps enable learning and practise in a team or on your own. Like all good stories, it started with Uncle Bob playing battleships in Oslo. Jon mentioned how he had gone to a talk from Uncle Bob in 2009 where there was a team based coding exercise, but no end of installation and hardware compatibility issues meant that the session wasn’t as fulfilling as it could have been. So he created his cloud based solution, Cyber Dojo. Some of the features he highlighted included live collaboration between a team in addition to a anonymous dashboard overview. It definitely sounds like something we could look to incorporate in our Java sessions.

5. Agile in Large Companies

Agile is sometimes thought of the domain of the small business. David Espley spoken about some tips for approaching an Agile transformation in a large company. One of the analogies that David used was that of a carpenter  – if you want a cabinet or chest of drawers made, you would sit down to discuss the outcome with your tradesman, but you would not normally specify which individual tools he or she should use to complete the job. In a large company, David suggested that a similar approach with senior management. Often, those at the top of the company do not need to know which specific framework you are using or have access to your metrics, and David suggested it could often be dangerous to share these with people that do not fully understand them. Management should set out the direction and the strategic vision, and the teams should pick the tools and Agile methodologies that are used to implement it.

And just like that, Agile on the Beach 2016 closes. Team Manifesto have had a great time down on the Cornish coast – bring on 2017…

Team Manifesto at Agile on the Beach 2016

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  1. tushar says:

    Hi, thank you for this post I agree with you that Good Agile software should be able to pivot its purpose to something that you could not have conceived of when writing the code. very useful information

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