SPA 2006

Off to dinner

XP Day France is done. On to Great Britain to attend SPA2006.

The conference starts tomorrow afternoon. Before that, a few early birds are having dinner at a restaurant near the conference center.

I’m off to meet Rachel Davies, Andy Moorley, Willem van den Ende, Marc Evers and Norm Kerth. Norm wrote “Retrospectives”. If you haven’t read it yet, go out and buy it. Now.

As someone said: “If it doesn’t have retrospectives, it isn’t agile.“. I agree. Now, who said that?

Tags: SPA2006


XP Day France, day 2 (continued)

CMMI, the debate

As debates usually go, this one generated a bit of heat and little light. In my day-job I’m looking deeper into PMBOK, CMMI and ITIL. What are they good for, except for padding my bookcase and resumé? More about that later.

The afternoon

The standing lunch was a bit cramped. Lots of people came up to me to talk about the Toyota Way and my presentation. I think the sales of the Toyota Way, Lean Software Development and Retrospectives books will go up in the next few days.

Gery Derbier led a simulation of “specifiers and artists”, where we had to evolve (by way of retrospectives) ever more effective ways to explain what to do. In the simulation, we had to make drawings, based on the instructions from our specifiers. My team didn’t draw everything wanted, but got manyt of the requirements done in each of the three rounds. Consistent, but not much improvement. Another team didn’t get anything done in the first round, but managed to complete the second-round task completely, after making some major changes during the retrospective. Maybe they were motivated to change.

J.B. Rainsberger led a workshop on the role of testers in agile teams. First, we listed a few issues to discuss. Among them “the effects that tools have on the way developers and testers work together”, “the (lack of) respect testers get”, “what’s a tester’s job? Verification or validation?”. Joe sees testers as a third major role in XP, next to the developers and customer, helping the two other roles communicate. In our group we talked about the “respect” and “validation” topics. Testers are part of the “customer team”. They write the specification, the acceptance tests, they verify if the specification is met, validation. Gery uses the terms “developer tests” and “user tests”. Developer tests are all the tests made by developers: unit tests, integration tests… They are verification that it works. User tests are all the tests made in name of the user, by the customer and/or testers. They are verification that it does what it should do. Testers get a lot more respect if they act and are seen as ambassadors of the users.


There was a short closing. The conference was a success, people asked for more. Thanks to Laurent, Emmanuel and Christophe. See you next year!

Tags: XP Day


XP Day France, day 2

The night before

At the end of the first day, we had dinner on a boat touring on the Seine. I didn’t see much of the scenery, because we had a lot of animated discussion about Lean, Theory of Constraints, agility, books, dysfunctional organisations…

After that, we went for a (Belgian!) beer, where the conversation turned towards less serious subjects.

Friday morning

Start bright and early, because I have to present two “one minute presentations”: each session organizer explains in less than one minute why people should attend their session. I advertised my Toyota Way session and Johan Peeters’ Agile Security session, because Johan arrived “just in time” for the start of his session.

The Toyota Way session was in the first slot of the morning. Things were going well, I rarely stumbled speaking French and the audience seemed interested. Shortly before the end, we lost power. No more beamer. The audience self-organized to solve the problem: my portable (running on batteries) was put on a chair on the table, which allowed most people to see what’s on screen. Luckily, I used a “Takahashi” style presentation, with large fonts and big images.

After the presentation, I had reserved half an hour for questions and remarks. There were a lot of questions, lots of discussion, so it seems the presentation piqued people’s interest.

CMMi vs Agile

I’m currently attending a “CMMi vs Agile” debate. Hmmmm… there’s that “vs” word again. I feel an “Evaporating Cloud” coming on.


XP Day France, day 1

Day one of the first French XP Days

A brief train ride and I arrive in Paris, to be met by Christophe Thibaut, Marc Evers and Willem van den Ende. Off to the “Centre Hamelin”.

Laurent Bossavit opened the first French XP Days. Charlie Poole presented a brief keynote about “Extreme Value”. He urges us to understand the business and to explain (and show!) how we generate value. This is an interesting subject, but I would have liked to see a longer, more in-depth session. Charlie and some audience members mentioned something I’ve also experienced: it’s easy to speak about the value of XP/whatever you do with the top people. These people are used to making decisions about value, cost, investment and risk. Nothing extreme there: more value sooner; lower cost and risk; more control. It’s the “managers in the middle” that are harder to deal with. What are they motivated by; what do they want; what’s their problem? Answers on a post card…

Retours d’experiences

I’m attending the “retour d’experiences” (experience reports) track. In the other rooms, there’s a refactoring session and the “Leadership Game” session by Yves and Ignace Hanoulle.

What’s the common theme running through all these experiences? These are ordinary people, doing ordinary IT projects in ordinary companies. They’ve encountered problems. They have used agile methods. Some things have improved; most things have improved considerably. There are still problems to be overcome, but they like where they are now. They’ve come a long way and know that they will have to keep going further.

Another common element is “fun”. These people are passionate and love their jobs. Like in the case of Ardatis, they report that one of the indicators that they’re doing well is that teammembers are happy, that customers and users are happy.

Let there be pudding!

That’s the kind of real-world down-to-earth story that we need to get out at events and conferences like the Benelux XP Day. Whiz-bang, super-cool consultanty type things are fun and interesting. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Let there be lots of pudding!

It’s great to hear all of those success stories. But my inner sceptic wonders if this is due to selection bias? Who’s going to present a story of how they used agile techniques and failed? (Update: J.B. Rainsberger did exactly that: see the day 2 entry).

I’d like to hear such stories. I’d like to discuss such stories: what has gone wrong, what could have been done differently, what have we learned for our next project?

Call me

Who’s got a succesful agile project? Contact me. Come and tell us about it at a user group meeting, an open space conference or an XP Day.

Who’s got a failed agile project? Contact me. Let’s put together an interesting session a user group meeting, an open space conference or an XP Day.


Agile @ Ardatis

An afternoon off


Yesterday afternoon I went to a seminar on “Agile Development in the large”, organised by Ardatis. Johan Lybaert (Program Manager) and Jan Van Reusel (Development Manager) of Ardatis presented how their company has been using Agile Software Development techniques. They use a combination of XP and Scrum, modified to their own circumstances. Three developers gave a hands-on demonstration of extremely fast test driven development, not only of business objects, but also of their user interface.

Ardatis was assisted in the transition to Agile by Jutta Eckstein. Jutta co-presented the event, often in dialogue with Jan. As the team consists of 60 people, Jutta’s experience in large agile projects came in handy.


The presentation was very clear, with plenty of metaphors, funny bits and practical advice. I particularly liked the “Rules of the Game” sections. There were only a few, simple rules but these lead to complex behaviour. One of the key requirements for successful agile development they pointed out, is a high level of discipline in following these rules.

The presentation was interspersed with short video fragments. At the end, Jan seemed reluctant to show the last fragment. I’m glad he did. In this short video we saw the teammembers smile and laugh. They were having fun at work.

Enthusiastic about a methodology

Have you ever heard people talk enthusiastically about a methodology? I have, yesterday.

It’s happened to me a few times before. Customers who got more than they expected, in record time. CEO’s who quickly saw the results of their IT spending. IT managers who felt they really managed their projects. Sceptical users who, after using the system, asked to use the system sooner than planned; and “when can we have the next version?”.

I’ve never seen anybody get excited about waterfall, RUP or any other method. This only happens with agile software development. With non-agile methods, people were sometimes pleased about the result, but never about the way we got there.

It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing!

There’s a bit of discussion about the “watering down” of agile. Everyone is using “agile”. Agile is good. Agile is the new apple pie.

Isn’t there a danger that people will get confused? How can we make the difference clear between “real agile” and the pale copies?

It’s simple: look for fun, enthusiasm, happy people. You can’t fake that.

Agile Development doesn’t need any marketing budgets. Just make your customers, managers and teams happy and enthusiastic. And let them talk.

Who have you made enthusiastic today?

Tags: agile