Agile 2011 Reflections and Observations

Agile 2011 – Salt Lake City was a great event. I enjoyed delivering my presentation on Continuous Improvement. I had over 100 attendees and based on the feedback I received, folks got value for their time and some even had some ah-ha moments! It’s always a good sign as a speaker when only 2 people out of over 100 leave before the end of your talk 🙂  I was happy to make use of the ‘Sailboat’ adaptation of the ‘Speedboat’ Innovation Game.  I was able to collect some good information about perceptions of why organizations are challenged with both starting and effectively executing continuous improvement programs.  The only challenge was running the game with the size of the audience.  I could have used a couple additional facilitators.  Lesson learned.

VersionOne put on a fantastic party for customers and friends at the McCune Mansion. It was a 20’s-30’s party with flapper girls and gangsters. Paul and Ian Culling really got into the theme of the party, complete with Tommy Guns.

My favorite sessions that I got to attend was Mary Poppendieck’s presentation on design thinking. It is so true that much has been lost by divorcing those who design from those that build from those that use. The best example was Thomas Edison.

I also enjoyed Jeff Patton’s ‘Telling a Better Story’ presentation. It was truly standing room only. Look for Jeff’ Patton’s new book entitled ‘Story Mapping’ coming this Winter!  Jeff’s wisdom of starting the story telling / writing process at a mid-level of detail is one of the key techniques that makes Story Mapping so useful. I remember using similar techniques back in my OO analysis & design days where we’d model what people or other systems would do to accomplish they’re goals in a similar fashion and then create the abstractions. We’d also role play the objects to balance and give a personality to the objects / components on our models.

Folks interesting in story mapping should also look at the Interaction Design techniques in Alan Cooper’s books. I made use of these techniques while working at AOL and NetApp.

An unfortunate way of thinking about Agile and now Lean and especially Kanban that I still heard persisting was the view of these as an end and not a means to an end. This is indicative of the ‘Silver Bullet’ type thinking that has accompanied software method and tools since the CASE tools of the 80’s.  This type of thinking causes development organizations not to focus on whom they really should be serving, they’re customers and shareholders. It also impedes having a learning culture because most of what is learned and added to a team’s shared experience is tossed out when the next silver bullet is pursued.

Organizations that evolve to the next level learn, those that just quickly try something and when they don’t get immediate success throw it out and move to the next thing, don’t learn. This is especially true when a reorganization occurs with the change, resetting the mutual trust, unity and shared experience of the team.

I hope this type of thinking is on the decline and that by Agile 2012 I hear less of it.

I appreciate and am thankful for all the great minds and personalities there are in the Agile and Lean Community. We’re only beginning to peel the onion of the many benefits these philosophies can bring to the people in the different disciplines that collaborate to create value for those we serve.

I’m looking forward to peeling that next layer as an Lean-Agile Coach and Organizational Mentor.



About Mike DePaoli

Mike DePaoli has been contributing to the IT community for over two decades and practicing agile and lean approaches to software development since 1996 in roles from programmer to CTO. His evolved approach to crafting successful lean-agile software development organizations was forged by the meaningful challenges he undertook at prior employers and as an Agile Coach at companies such as eBay, Adobe Systems, AOL, NetApp, Disney, Boeing, EMC, and Trizetto. Mike’s area of expertise is helping organizations craft strategic change initiatives that educate on and establish agile and lean values, principles and practices at every tier of the organization. Mike applies systematic thinking with a multi-discipline approach to his work. Mike is a Certified SAFe Agilist, Certified Scrum Professional, Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). He is a highly-regarded speaker in the Agile community having spoken at Agile conferences in North America, South America and Europe. He is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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The Agile Horizon

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