XP Day London

XP Day LondonI’ll be presenting the “Toyota Way” session at XP Day London

See for the full list of interesting sessions. See you there!


XP Days Benelux. Looking back (2).

What happened on friday?

A few people less on Friday than on Thursday. The majority of those who only participated in one day of the conference chose to attend only thursday. I don’t know why this is. Maybe it has to do with the fact that we scheduled more introductory sessions on Thursday. One day at XP Day is a great way to get a taste for the different agile methods and meet other interested people.

At the opening, we again have “official one minute presentations” (OOMPs) to briefly try and convince participants to come to our session. Today I have two sessions.

Friday morning

Immediately after the opening, I presented “The Toyota Way of managing“. This “zen” presentation explains the 14 management principles of the “Toyota Way” that readers of this blog are familiar with. For each of the principles I try to give the equivalent practice, principle or value in agile methods. Many of the process ideas are very similar. This is no coincidence: many of the founders of agile methods have read the “Lean” material. I also include some anecdotes and stories, to bring the story more to life.

Participants in this session seemed interested, but also a bit overwhelmed by the pace of the presentation. I go through some 125 slides in 50 minutes, condensing a 300-page book and my experience. I hope the participants got the overall ideas. I gave them a separate handout (a presentation is not a handout!), with a summary of the principles and a list of references where they can find out more. Those who are interested can look deeper into the Toyota Way. I just hope I stimulated some people’s curiosity. There were a few question during and after the presentation. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time for questions and discussion, because the session was in a 60 minute timeslot. When I’ve given this presentation before, there were always a lot of questions and a lot of discussion afterwards.

I will give this presentation again on Tuesday at XP Day London. Again in a 60 minute timeslot, unfortunately. But the session is followed by a case study of a company that used Lean Software Development.

Next, I went to Sven and Vera’s Continuous Integration session. This was an introductory session. I liked the anecdotes that were told to illustrate some point. I had the feeling that most participants didn’t expect an introductory session but wanted to get to the bit with the difficult issues in implementing CI and how to solve them. We got there in the end and had some lively discussion about a huge legacy system with extremely long build times. I could see some resistance growing between presenter and participant. Luckily, there was a session about dealing with resistance later on.

Friday afternoon

After lunch, a session I had been looking forward to: Lasse Koskela’s “Resistance as a resource” workshop. In this session, we examined a situation where someone resisted something we proposed. The workshop was structured as a little game that allowed only four moves:

  1. Describe a change that was proposed
  2. Describe how this change was resisted
  3. Put yourself in the place of the resistor, assume that they are honest, intelligent and well-meaning. Describe why such a person would honestly resist the way they did.
  4. Understanding the reason why the person resisted, how would you respond?

I especially like the third step, put yourself in the place of the resistor, try to imagine why they would oppose the change. As the Coldcut song goes:

Walk a mile in my shoes.

Before you abuse, criticize and accuse,

walk a mile in my shoes.”

I see (and take part in) the escalating resistance pattern a lot. We propose a great change and encounter resistance. We think “What a #{@^! idiot!” and try to “sell” our idea even harder, generating even stronger resistance. Stopping and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes helps. Explore the reasons for the resistance to come to a mutually satisfying solution. The Toyota Way practice of Nemawashi (taking decisions by consensus) is exactly about that. Decide only when the proposal satisfies all stakeholders. If you rush or force the decision, you risk a lot of unspoken, undercover resistance.

The session started quite well. The four simple rules gave us a useful framework to focus on the subject at hand. After two rounds, the discussion drifted more aimlessly. The “see it from the resistor’s eyes” part was lost, as we all focused on ways to “overcome” the resistance, without really knowing its source. Part of the problem was caused by moving the groups around: we ended up with a problem that none of the participants was familiar with. Therefore, most of our discussion was theoretical and not grounded in the reality of the situation.


The last session of the day was Presentation Zen, hosted by Vera and myself. We showed a few clips of presenters with different presentation and delivery styles. The participants discussed what they liked in each style. Then it was up to the participants to make their own “Zen” presentation, using the techniques they just saw. The topic of the presentation had to be “A funny thing happened to me at XP Days Benelux”.

Each group gave a presentation tryout and got feedback from the other participants. They could then update their presentation and delivery. The presentations and, especially, the way they were delivered improved a lot between the two runs. Tip for would-be presenters: do a tryout and get some constructive feedback!

“By accident”, this session was scheduled in the room where the plenary closing would take place. “By accident”, we didn’t have enough time in the session to let the teams present their final presentation. As a workaround, the participants gave their presentation during the plenary closing. During each day’s closing the participants can tell us what they thought of a session, “User Official One Minute Presentations (UOOMPS)”. During Tuesday’s closing, participants were somewhat hesistant to “jump on stage”. Part of this was stagefright, part of it was that the room layout made it quite difficult to get to the front.

By “tricking” the participants of the session to give their presentations during the closing (with their permission), we tried to lower the barrier for other participants to also get on the stage. We laid out the room differently, so that people could get to the front without having to climb over the furniture.

The other hidden goal of the Presentation Zen session was to show the participants that being a session presenter is not that hard IF you have an interesting story to tell. Hopefully some of this year’s participants will be next year’s session organizers!


Lots of smiling faces at the closing drink. Unfortunately, many people had to leave before the drink to catch trains, planes or avoid traffic jams. The organizers first cleaned up the conference and then sat down for a well-deserved drink and chat.

A few of us went out to a local restaurant to discover what crocodile and kangaroo taste like. Belgians eat the weirdest things!

And then… off to bed. Get some rest to be ready for XP Days London. See you there!


XP Days Benelux. Looking back.

XP Days Benelux is over

The 2006 edition of the XP Days Benelux was a success: the conference was sold out, lots of people from all over Europe (Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Finland, Switzerland and Poland), lots of people frowning when they had to decide which session to attend, lots of people smiling during and between the sessions.

We’ll post session materials and results on the conference program page and you can read what people are saying about XP Days Benelux, but it’s not the same. You had to be there.

What happened on wednesday?

Philippe De Bruycker took Matteo, Uberto and me on a tour in Brussels. I’ve lived and worked in Brussels for many years, but I discovered some things I didn’t know. Thank you, Philippe!

We went out for a pre-conference dinner in Mechelen and introduced our guests to the excellent “Carolus” beer.

And on the first day of the conference?

I arrived a bit late due to traffic (and maybe the effects of Carolus…). We set up the session materials and the WIFI internet connection. This didn’t go very smoothly, we couldn’t access the network. Later on, Hans Keppens managed to get us access by some “unorthodox” reconfiguring of the router 🙂

After the opening, Vera and I presented the “3 XP loops“, an introduction to extreme programming. The presentation is structured around a picture of XP with three nested loops: the release loop (where you decide what you will build and evaluate if it’s ready), the team loop (where the team daily coordinates their work) and the coding loop (where pairs work on the code). I think the anecdotes and jokes went over ok, but the session could have been more energetic.

In the afternoon, I attended Vera’s “Is JUnit overdesigned?” session. This was a mixture of presentation and workshop, where we evaluated the unit testing framework one of us used to see which features we wanted from it and which were supported by the framework. The results were quite similar across teams: most of us used the basic features, didn’t use the more advanced stuff and missed features related to reporting, history of test runs or coverage.

The last session was Rachel Davies‘ “Agile Factors” workshop. Rachel had put the XP practices, two by two, on flipchart sheets. We had to add post-its to each practice, with questions and variations about the practice. We did this in several rounds, moving from group to group, from practice to practice. In the end, all of the sheets were covered with post-its with questions. Upon which someone exclaimed “And they told me XP was simple… This is anything but simple!“. In the XP loops session, we did tell people that XP was simple. We also said that XP wasn’t easy.

The questions were really of two types:

  • tailoring parameters for the practices: e.g. if you do standups, how often? Who takes part? Where? How long can it take? What are we expected to say? These are the “agile factors” the session was about, the things you should agree on before the project starts and keep on updating as you progress.
  • what to do when things go wrong, when there are difficult situations: e.g. what do you do when people don’t turn up at the standup? What do you do when someone doesn’t follow the rules? That’s a whole different topic, that’s where leadership, team dynamics and coaching come into play. Luckily, we had several sessions about those subjects.

Relay race

The day ended with drinks offered by Sabine from Atmoz Consult (no Carolus this time, but Westmalle) and dinner, with a lot of discussion and some weird beer mat folding. More about that later.

More on Friday’s session tomorrow…

And now, we pass the baton to XP Days Germany.

Maybe I’ll see you in London or Paris, the next stops on the “European XP Day tour”.


XP Days Benelux 2006

XP Days Benelux 2006
Mechelen, Belgium
16-17 November

Team at War! Tried out.

Last week, I attended the “Help! My Team is at war!” tryout at the XP.BE meeting organized by XPlore.

Yves and Ignace Hanoulle have again (after the “Leadership Game“) created a great simulation, where you learn something about yourself.

I won’t tell everything, that would spoil your surprise when you attend this session. The session had two parts. In the first half we formed trios and had to try to convince another participant to do something. Each in turn took the role of convincer, resister and observer. Most of us failed to complete the task. A few had spectacular results: they could convince their “opponent” in a very short time.

Ignace then explained the model that forms the basis of the session: the “Rose of Axen”. Yves and Ignace acted each of the different stances. We then had to replay the same game and try to take the stance that we had the most difficulty with, the way of dealing with conflict we would normally not use. This was not easy, but it turned out to work in my case. This exercise taught me two things:

  • You don’t have to accept self-imposed limitations. Even if I don’t feel comfortable taking a certain stance, that doesn’t mean I can’t apply it effectively when I need it. This reminds me of the way I feel about MBTI results: they tell me what my preferences are, the way I will act if I don’t think about it. They are not my limitations.
  • What’s the right way to deal with a situation? It depends. There is no one right way to deal with conflict. The Rose has different stances, we have to choose the one that fits the situation and the people we deal with. In the short exercise, I went through three stances in response to my “opponent”‘s response. This lesson also came out of the Leadership Game.

After the break, we had another simulation situation, this time with the whole group. Half of the participants acted out a situation, with cue cards provided by Yves and Ignace; the other half observed how the players dealt with the conflict. The simulation ran for two rounds, with a debrief and discussion after every round. The simulation was great fun, especially for the players who had to resist the leader. They evidently relished playing the “evil” role and opposing the leader.

Some of my colleagues are still acting their evil role, up to this day. Or are they acting…? 🙂

Another fun session where I learned something about myself. It’s not every day that happens.