XP Day London 2006. Day two

Tuesday keynote

Unfortunately, we arrived in time to attend the keynote. Before the keynote, some music boomed out of the loudspeakers. What with previous night’s drinks and the loud noise, most people quickly darted out of the hall. When the keynote started, the presenters started to rap, shout and generate feedback with their mikes, accompanied by more music and slides about modernists who thought they knew all the answers. We now know they didn’t and created some monstrosities (just check out some of the “machines for living” on the outskirts of French or Belgian towns). The presenters held forth about post-modernism. I must have missed the joke or the irony, but I found the presentation irritating and left. Nice try to be original. If there was a message there, it got drowned in the sound and fury of the presentation.

I had a chat with Gill, Mike and Sue about their case study of Lean Software Development. I was going to present the theory of Lean in my “Toyota Way” session, after which they could talk about applying these ideas in the real world. They seemed a bit nervous about doing their presentation and they thought I wasn’t nervous because I had done this presentation before. If only they knew. The only difference between an experienced presenter and a new presenter is that the experienced presenter doesn’t show his nervousness. An experienced presenter knows he’s not going to die on stage, but he still feels like he’s going to 🙂

Real options

The first session was led by Chris Matts. He introduced us to “Real Options” as a way to manage uncertainty and risk. We hate uncertainty, therefore we want to take decisions as quickly as possible. A bad decision is better than no decision. Real Options are all about taking decisions at the latest responsible moment, when we have the most information. Most of the time, we’ll have to pay something upfront to be able to postpone that decision, just like with stock options. Most importantly, we aren’t always able to decide as late as we’d like. It’s up to us to create the situation where we can decide later. The best example is Lean or the Toyota Way. By making changeovers (for example from one paint color to another) really fast, Toyota can delay the decision about which color to spray the car very late, when they have the order from a customer. Thus, they don’t have to speculate what color the customers will want and risk being left behind with a lot of unsold cars in a color few people want.


All this led nicely to my own session on the Toyota Way, where “deciding at the latest responsible moment” is just one of the myriad techniques. Like at XP Day Benelux, the audience seemed very interested but also a little stunned. There were only a few questions and a little discussion. This is in sharp contrast with the sessions I ran in Paris and Geneva. In those two cases it was hard to bring the discussion to a close after the session, because people kept on asking questions and discussing the Toyota Way.

Case studies and courage

In the afternoon, I went to the case studies track. The Lean Software Development case study went over well. The other case studies were interesting too. We like to hear how real people have overcome real problems on real projects and see that the theory works in practice. Most of the presenters were first-time presenters in front of a large audience and they did very well. I’d like to invite them to a “Presentation Zen” session for a few tricks and pointers. Especially Jamie Dobson. Jamie, stop putting bullets three levels deep, in unreadable 12 point font on your slides! Just tell us your story! That’s what Dave Nicolette did: no slides, no music, just him telling us a story about two different ways to adopt agile methods in two different organisations.
The last session was another goldfish bowl, this time about courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is what you do, despite being afraid.

And then, back to Belgium. Alas, no time to spend an “Extreme Tuesday” at the pub.