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!