Monday, 26 August 2013

My Agile 2013 Experience - Day 6 of 6


The closing keynote for Agile 2013 was "Why Everyone Needs DevOps Now: A Fourteen Year Study Of High Performing IT Organizations " by +Gene Kim, author of The Phoenix Project. (If you haven't read The Phoenix Project you can download a free 170 page excerpt here.)  This is the second time I have heard Gene give this presentation and I must say I was very pleased to discover that on this occasion it had been video taped and posted to the Agile Alliance website. 

Just in case you were considering not watching Gene's keynotes, let me give you a small taster of his findings:
  • High performing organizations deploy code 30 times more frequently, and 8,000 times faster than their peers, deploying multiple times a day, versus an average of once a month. Frequent deployments, coupled with faster change lead times, enable operational agility.
  • High performing organizations have double the change success rate and restore service 12 times faster than their peers. Fewer failures and faster recovery mean less risk to the business when changes are deployed.
The video of Gene's keynote can be found here.

And so my first Agile 20xx conference came to a close. It was sad to say goodbye, but I must confess I was ready to catch up on some sleep. Hopefully this blog series gave those who did not attend a taste of what the conference is like. For me the investment was well worthwhile, I heard lots of great talks, I met lots of great people and I had a great time! Bring on Agile 2014!

Friday, 23 August 2013

My Agile 2013 Experience - Day 5 of 6


De-Mystifying Kanban: Understanding Its Many Faces +Al Shalloway

Al provided a very thorough and complete explanation of the various flavours of Kanban. He covered:
  • Kanban as a signal
  • Kanban as a Team Development Process
  • Kanban’s Roots in Lean 
  • Scrum as a Manifestation of Lean
  • Lean Kanban University (LKU) Kanban aka The Kanban Method
  • Kanban Thinking or Lean-Kanban
  • Getting Started with Kanban
Al very kindly chose to record his presentation and make it available on his website. He also posted the slide deck here.

Gaining Support for a Sustainable Agile Transformation +Dennis Stevens and +Mike Cottmeyer 

Dennis and Mike believe Agile is about team and if you can't get to teams you fundamentally cannot get agile to work. When getting started with agile, figure out what is the right thing to form teams around.

When it comes to agile at scale, the challenge is how to coordinate multiple teams delivering output at the same time. You need to determine "what are the things that are shared, and what are the things that consume the shared stuff". At scale the performance of the team isn't as important as the performance of the corporation as a whole. Focus less on team velocity rather focus on cycle time at the program and portfolio level.

Dennis and Mike told us scaling is hard, because books tell us what it looks like but not how we get there safely.  You have to align the team, management and executive perspectives to create the safety for an agile transformation. If you are in a place where you don't have trust in the team it's probably because they haven't delivered because of the system around them. Overloaded teams will find it safer to say 'yes' and fail, than to say 'no' to more work.

When it comes to starting an agile transformation start by understanding the business drivers of the organisation, define the operational framework, introduce change incrementally, measure improvement and tie it back to the business drivers.  Most people in the face of good data won't make irrational decisions. Cultural shift is important but it takes time and requires safety, you have to create the operational model first. "You are not going to kumbaya yourself into an agile enterprise!"

The Language of Change +Esther Derby 

Everything touches everything. If we are trying to change one thing it always impacts another. How does language play into the success of change? How do people talk about change in your organisation?  Do they use words like: change management, drive change, create a burning platform, evangelize, cut the dead wood, clean house, roll out change, overcome resistance. When we use language it's not just the words that are active in our brains.  98% of our thinking happens at an unconscious level.

We are awash in metaphor everyday. It is pervasive, everywhere we go, in every conversation we have. When we use metaphor it kicks off a process in our heads, a frame, with roles and scenarios, therefore we need to be careful and intentional about the language we use. The way we talk about change, for the most part, masks the complexity of what we are doing. When we use metaphor and kick off that script, it makes it more difficult to engage. Every change is different . You have to start where you are and find your own road. Every time we have a gap between our values and actions, cynicism and fear fills the gap.

There is always an emotional element to change. Denying the emotion keeps it in play. You don't need to fix it you just need to acknowledge it. People eventually adjust to change and reach a new status quo. The best time to make a change is when folks have successfully integrated the last change. The worst time is when things are in a state of chaos.

When we change the structure of an organisation we impact identity, status and affiliation creating resistance. When there is resistance we push hard and the resisters push back and don't feel heard.
People resist for a number of reasons, they don't trust the person behind the change  or they might think its a really stupid idea. When people don't feel like they are being heard they hold on harder. The reasons people may resist change are mostly pretty legitimate - to save the things they value.

Changing organisations changes people, impacting identity, status and affiliation. You need to provide support, empathy and time to learn.  If we want to succeed in change it requires trust. Trust must be given (not earned). Trust is not binary, it is always contextual and bounded. Trust is one of the reasons that change fails. People don't resist change they resist coercion. We need to connect. If we don't connect we don't have trust.

Esther recommends the following reading material on this topic:
Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff & Mark Johnson
Facilitating Organization Change: Lessons from Complexity Science by Edwin E. Olson & Glenda H. Eoyang
Satir Change Model
Slow Ideas by Atul Gawande

Agile Business Intelligence & Data Warehousing Open Jam

Lean Cocktails
Organised by +Lynn Winterboer, the Agile Business Intelligence & Data Warehousing open space was an opportunity to talk with "esteemed authors" +Scott Ambler and +Ken Collier as well as a number of practitioners about the challenges specific to using agile in the data domain. The morning session was so successful it was followed up by "Lean Cocktails" at the end of the day.

Conference Party

Held at Nashville's Wild Horse Saloon the conference party was unlike any conference party I had been to before. Everyone was given a cowboy hat and bandana on the way in and it was not long at all before the line dancing started! While I chose not to line dance myself, +mia horrigan and I enjoyed watching +Matthew Hodgson join in the fun.

Read the next blog post in this series: My Agile 2013 Experience - Day 6 of 6

Thursday, 22 August 2013

My Agile 2013 Experience - Day 4 of 6


When NOT to Have All the Answers: Stop Giving Advice and Start Asking Questions +Judith Mills  and +Christopher Avery 

Judith started by telling us about her addiction to giving advice and her realisation:
"If I was going to be successful I couldn't be the expert I had to change the culture. Changing the culture isn't about imparting knowledge, its finding a way to tap into teams, have them take responsibility" and she immediately had my attention.

Together with Christopher, Judith walked us through the responsibility process and how we respond to problems; moving from blame, to justify, to shame, to obligation. This is how we have been conditioned. If you are not familiar with the responsibility process, which I must admit I wasn't, here is the link to a one hour video overview.

The main premise of Judith's presentation was that questions empower. When you ask questions you are engaging someone, asking them to be creative, and honouring their intellect. When you give advice you take choice away from your teams so they don't feel responsibility.  Technical people are used to being the smartest people in the room, they can be a little socially awkward and not wanting to draw attention to themselves or ask questions. Christopher says,  "We need to create the culture where we are able to be vulnerable". This of course struck a cord with me given my last blog post before Agile 2013 was about "Leading Through Vulnerability". 
"The cool thing about responsibility is you can't make anyone take it, all you can do is offer it and allow it" - Christopher Avery
In closing Christopher recommended reading. "Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter" by Liz Wiseman.

Scketchnotes by +Michele Ide-Smith 

Hiring (or Growing) the Right Agile Coach +Lyssa Adkins and +Michael Spayd 

Lyssa and Michael's session focused on the Agile Coaching Competency Framework and how it can be used as a tool for self development, developing others or even deciding what sort of coach you need and assessing the competencies of potential coaches.

Agile Coaching Competency Framework (

Lyssa showed a handful of videos of coaches she had worked with talking about how they had used the Agile Coaching Competency Framework which can be found here. I have posted my favourite of these by +Erin Beierwaltes below.

Agile Coaching Framework -- Erin Beierwaltes' Take

Enterprise Agility - A Practical De-Mystification  - Hendrik Esser, +Jean Tabaka and +Esther Derby 

Hendrik, Jean and Esther's presentation was very different to the other sessions I attended. The three of them perched on stools at the front of the room, having a conversation, reminded me of a fishbowl (without the extra chair for someone else to join the conversation). They undertook to provide the audience with three perspectives on achieving Enterprise Agility. Given the presentation used a more conversational style, my notes are reflective of this and hopefully I have attributed the comments to the right speakers!

Jean Tabaka's recommended reading list for Enterprise Agility
The first topic, Flow, was introduced by Jean Tabaka. Jean said, "I don't think agile is sufficient on its own to deliver value to the customer,... I don't think executives should be talking about story points or velocity,... Good executives pay attention to "intraprenuers". "The flow of value Agile" is the best way to learn quickly. We have to take a long view of the flow of value, start earlier than the team and look beyond effective deployment to the hands of the customer. In value stream flow we watch: customer, cadence, capacity, clogs, cost and collaboration.

Collaboration across all different parties is essential. You are not going to be enterprise level agile unless you are collaborating with upstream and downstream process.   Collaboration doesn't happen on its own, you have to help it. For Enterprise Agility we need to move from a language of cross functional to cross departmental.  Hendrik Esser commented that "you need to look at the whole product life cycle" and Esther Derby noted, "The way accounting works and the way people are rewarded is keeping things the way it is".   Esther also mentioned that the Agile Alliance is sponsoring an initiative to look at an agile accounting approach.

Hendrik covered the second topic, Collaboration and Decision Making.  Collaboration is about abandoning contract thinking between different parts of one enterprise. Esther echoed this, commenting that "We need to adjust our plans so we can satisfy our customer rather than "you missed the date you won't get your bonus". We need to visualise uncertainty if we want to embrace change for example provide a range of possibly delivery dates rather than specific milestone date. Jean gave the analogy of Neo choosing between the red pill and the blue pill in The Matrix.  "People willing to embrace a sense of uncertainty are taking the red pill". Enterprise agility requires us to have a new way of measuring success and failure, different metrics other than points and velocity. In Jean's view, the only useful metric is one the team asks for to help itself understand how it's doing.  Esther pointed out that this holds true not only for development teams. Hendrik added at Ericsson "We measure our performance not our people".

The third topic was Eco-system, lead by Esther. If you keep replacing the individuals and get the same results it is a clear indication there is a system problem. Trying to "idiot proof" through policy or procedure almost guarantees you will get "idiotic behaviour". "I find job descriptions often get in the way of people collaborating", said Esther. We have a legacy of thinking of organisations as machines. This is not the type of ecosystem that enables flow, adaptability and responding to change. Trust begets transparency and transparency begets trust. Without this, decision making and flow breaks down. Trust is contextual not binary, and to get trust at an ecosystem level you have to give trust. What people don't know they fill in with their own fears.

The subject of building trust, brought some of +Brene Brown's material from Daring Greatly to mind for Jean: "If you have shame and blame there is no possibility of innovation We are asking individuals to be vulnerable, to enable this the organisation needs to extend its vulnerability". Esther closed out this section with the following messages: "You need to start where you are. Trust grows incrementally. Once you start seeing systems, blame goes away. It's very powerful!"

KEYNOTE: Forty Years of Trying To Play Well With Others - Tim Lister

Tim's keynote was a journey through his 40 year career as told through nine stories. This one of the handful of sessions that were videoed and posted on the Agile Alliance website. So rather than try to summarise it, here is the link.

Music City Concert Tour

I know you are thinking, wow, she made it to Nashville and saw some live music, sorry to disappoint but the Music City Concert Tour was the name of the conference event, held in the exhibit hall, Wednesday evening. While I didn't see or hear any country music stars, I did get a free flashing guitar pin - which made brilliant "gifts" for my leadership team when I got home.

As with all the conference social events, it was another great opportunity to meet people, such as Hendrik Esser, and catch up with people I had met in Boulder earlier this year, including +Ronica Roth+Drew Jemilo and +Jennifer Fawcett

After grabbing some dinner at one of the hotel restaurants, I headed to a gathering hosted by the guys from Leading Agile+Dennis Stevens and +Mike Cottmeyer, where I scored a great (free) t-shirt. Thanks guys!

Read the next blog post in this series: My Agile 2013 Experience - Day 5 of 6

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

My Agile 2013 Experience - Day 3 of 6


Agile Metrics: Velocity is NOT the goal +Michael "Doc" Norton 

Doc opened by explaining that Velocity is a lagging indicator for a complex system and lagging indicators are good for monitoring trends but are poor predictors of the future. He advocated the use of standard deviation in forecasting velocity, noting: "The Business won't like this but it's the closest you can get to the truth with the data you have". Doc also warned against the use of velocity targets, "When you set a target for velocity you unintentionally introduce all sorts of problems into the system".

Next Doc talked to the multiple causes of variable velocity, that cannot be identified by simply looking at velocity numbers. He suggested the use of scatter diagrams to show correlation, at the same time reminding us correlation does not always equal causation. He also illustrated the value of using cumulative flow diagram. In summary, Doc recommends measuring many things, including "Team Joy" (a leading indicator) and remember "Metrics are not for managers, metrics are for teams!"

Agile at Scale at Spotify +Joakim Sundén and +Anders Ivarsson 

For me this was the session of the week. The story of scaling agile at Spotify is inspiring, growing in only three years from 30 developers in one location to 400 developers across four locations and offices all over the world.

For Spotify the single most important principle to maintaining speed at scale is Autonomy. Squads, the term Spotify uses for an agile/scrum team, are autonomous. They consist of  5 to 7 engineers and no more than 10 people in total. The are cross functional, have their own mission, they own a feature across all platforms (including maintenance) and they have their own team workspace. The squad chooses which process to use - Kanban, scrum or whatever else - based on what works best for them. The team is free to select its own work and set its own office hours.

One of the challenges with this model is defining the organisational structure to support the squads without decreasing autonomy. As the organisation grew to 150 engineers they found people didn't know each other anymore, so they created a smaller context, Tribes, made up of squads with a similar mission and of no more than 100 people (based on Dunbar's number).

To help with alignment across Squads within the same Tribes Spotify uses Chapters. Chapters bring together people with similar competencies, for example testing, on a regular basis to share challenges relating to their specific area of expertise. The Chapter Lead is the line manager for the chapter members and looks after the personal development (Spotify's term for career development) of the chapter members. Guilds are used for alignment of Chapters across Tribes.

There is great paper on this by Anders and +Henrik Kniberg, 'Scaling Agile @ Spotify', which provides a much better explanation on Squads, Chapters, Tribes and Guilds.  I also came across the below You Tube video of Anders talking about Agile at Scale @ Spotify at London Lean Kanban Day 2013. 

You Tube video of Anders Ivarsson at LLKD13

Be Agile. Scale Up. Stay Lean … & Have More Fun! +Dean Leffingwell 

Dean provided an overview of the Scaled Agile Framework, its roots in lean thinking, agile development and product development flow and the new material included in v2.5. He went on to talk about the power of 'ba', showing the New Zealand All Blacks Haka video as an example, followed by a very amusing set of video clips of teams he has worked with doing their own haka. The EDW Release Train hakas did not feature in the video montage, but embarrassment was only momentarily spared.

Unbeknown to me, Dean had created a slide from my blog post, The Power of Haka. When he reached this slide in his presentation, I was pleasantly surprised and went to take a photo to send to my team, when Dean asked if "Em" was in the audience. In hindsight, I'm thinking raising my hand was a mistake. I was sitting about 15 rows back, and there is no way he would have spotted me if I had just sat still. The next thing I know, he asks me to stand up, then decides its my story so I should speak to the slide, as he wanders through the room so I can use his lapel microphone.

Everything past that point is a bit of a blur, however I'm pretty sure Dean wrapped up his presentation by talking to a number of case studies (including the EDW Release Train) that have had improvements in employee engagement since the introduction of SAFe.

Continuous delivery? Easy! Just change everything. (Well, maybe it isn't that easy) +Steve Stolt and +Steve Neely  

Steve and Steve told the story of implementing continuous delivery at +Rally Software to a packed room. In May 2010 the engineering team operated in 2 week sprints and eight week releases, today they run Kanban and release features "when they want". They started the process of moving to continuous delivery by understanding their existing processes and removing the manual steps. Along the way, they learned that you need to monitor everything and you must be able to trust your tests i.e. you can no longer ignore tests that regularly fail.

For more detailed information on their story check out the paper by Steve and Steve here.

Tuesday Evening

My Tuesday evening was spent at Rally's Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Fest held where I got to, very briefly, meet newly published author, +Geoff Watts (check out his book Scrum Mastery: From Good To Great Servant-Leadership). While waiting in the drinks queue, I witnessed long time twitter buddies +Adam Yuret and +Jean Tabaka meet "in real life", which was amusing.

During the evening I ran into +Dean Leffingwell and took the opportunity to ask him to warn me next time he would like me to participate in a presentation. Looking back, I don't think I actually got him to agree, but I did at least get a thank you for helping him out, so I guess that is something! The "Bluegrass Fest" also provided an opportunity for me to catch up with guys from Boost Agile, +Nathan Donaldson and +Jacob Creech, who are doing great things with Agile in Shanghai.

Read the next blog post in this series: My Agile 2013 Experience - Day 4 of 6

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

My Agile 2013 Experience - Day 2 of 6


I missed Monday morning's keynote to attend the Executive Forum. In hindsight, the Executive Forum was not the best use of my time and hence I decided to spend the remainder of my day checking out sessions from the main conference.

The Keynote, "Coding for America: How Agile and Lean are disrupting government -- and why they need to", was videoed and can be viewed on line here.

The Agile Mindset +Linda Rising 

This session was definitely my highlight from Day 1. Building on a theme touched on by +Mary Poppendieck and +Torbjörn Gyllebring at Agile Australia, Linda explored the fixed versus agile (growth) mindset. This session was a sequel to her Agile 2011 Keynote, 'The Power of an Agile Mindset' which I can also recommend.

Linda's message was clear: mindset is not fixed, we are born agile and research has shown we can develop either a fixed or agile mindset. Stereotyping is dangerous, as those being labelled become believers in the stereotype (as illustrated by the "blue eye/brown eye" exercise). To foster an agile mindset, praise effort not talent eg. You worked hard on that! vs. You're so smart!". Failure is essential to learning.

Linda recommended the following books:

Creating Great Businesses Requires Great Empathy +Jean Tabaka and +Robyn Mourning 

Jean and Robyn's workshop focused on teaching techniques for using empathy practices to shape better solutions. They showed a powerful video of George Kembel from the at Stanford talking about how using design thinking resulted in a more child friendly MRI machine. (While not the video shown by Jean and Robyn, this footage of George Kembel telling the story can be found here - start from 4m45s.). The workshop provided an overview of the design thinking process used at +Rally Software: Empathise, Circumstance, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test, based on the process. The session left me with no doubt that "Guessing is easy. Empathy requires discipline".

For those interested in learning more Jean recommends the Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking by the at Stanford

DevOps isn't Enough for your Dysfunctional Organisation by +mandi walls 

Mandi helps companies implement devops but finds the problems that generally need to be addressed are less about technology and more about people and process dysfunction. She pointed to specialisation, prioritisation and conflicting incentives as the origins of this dysfunction. Tools she recommends to combat this include: goal setting, communication, self awareness and training.

When it comes to implementing devops, Mandi likes to conduct a baseline assessment of the current state and reasons for change by talking to everyone and she has some great questions she uses. My favourites included: "What is the most broken thing about the current process/project?" and  "Who is able to hold your project hostage?"

Mandi was kind enough to post her presentation on slideshare which provide a more details on her approach to implementing devops and some great questions you might want to use in assessing your project's current state.

Ice Breaker Reception

My original plan for Monday evening was to check out The Time Jumpers with +Lynn Winterboer+Erin Beierwaltes and +Ken Collier. Unfortunately, jet-lag got the better of me and I ended up taking an unscheduled nap instead! Waking up around 8pm, I wandered down to the Ice Breaker Reception, only to find myself embroiled in another round of "Six degrees of Jean Tabaka"! In this round I was lucky enough to meet +Gino Marckx+Brian Adkins,  +Jabe Bloom (@cyetain) and +Abby Fichtner  (@hackerchick). I really think there is a future in this game if I could only work out a way to monetise it - perhaps a certification would work! ;-)

Read the next blog post in this series: My Agile 2013 Experience - Day 3 of 6

Monday, 19 August 2013

My Agile 2013 Experience - Day 1 of 6

Having been back home for a week, I have spent a week being asked "How was Agile 2013? What were your key takeaways?" and answering "I haven't digested it all yet. I need to order my thoughts." In an attempt to avoid further embarrassment, I decided to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and order my thoughts in the best way I know, by writing them down.  And having gone to all the trouble of writing them down, I figured I may as well share my thoughts with the blogsphere...


Agile 2013 was my first time at an Agile 20xx conference and I wasn't sure what to expect. Having arrived Saturday afternoon and caught up on some much needed sleep, I was excited to catch up with friends from Colorado on Sunday afternoon. After meeting +Jean Tabaka at registration, I spent what must have been almost two hours in the main lobby of the conference centre being introduced to what felt like the who's who of Agile by Jean. In fact, have now seen how many people Jean knows in the Agile community, I was beginning to think it might be fun to invent a new game called "Six Degrees of Jean Tabaka". It has a nice ring to it don't you think?

After picking up our swag (cool t-shirt!), it was time to weave our way through the maze that is the +Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center to find somewhere for a quiet drink before the Ice Breaker event. On our way through the maze, Jean got stopped by +Lyssa Adkins and +Michael Spayd as we passed each other in one of the corridors. Lyssa says to Jean, "I have just published a blog by Em Campbell-Pretty..." and Jean points to me. It was such a strange serendipitous moment and a great way to kick off my Agile 2013 experience. (Lyssa featured "Leading Through Vulnerability" on her Women in Agile blog in July).

The Welcome Reception (i.e. drinks!) helped me reconnect with my Agile Data Warehousing buddies +Ken Collier and +Lynn Winterboer. I also introduced myself to fellow Aussies +Matthew Hodgson (whom I recognised from his Scrum Australia presentation) and +mia horrigan. The evening was topped off by a lovely dinner with Jean,  +Anders Ivarsson+Joakim Sunden and Jaana Nyfjord,. The conference hadn't even really started and already I felt the investment had been worthwhile!

Read the next blog post in this series: My Agile 2013 Experience - Day 2 of 6