SPA 2009: a retrospective

Back from SPA 2009.

What I liked

  • Running the conference as a non-residential conference in the heart of London. Staying in a hotel literally around the corner. Morning running along the Thames.
  • Interactive sessions like “Pitching Agile” and “Pairing: Beyond Programming” which challenge us to put our ideas to the test. Both sessions gave good opportunities to work in teams and reflect on what we value. And, of course, lots of Post-its were used to brainstorm, plan and explain 🙂
  • Meeting old and new acquaintances inside and outside of the conference.
  • Running the Business Value Game including a workshop with Vera and Portia. The game was designed to help our customers think about how they prioritise the project. The game doesn’t give answers, it raises questions. More about the workshop and its results later.
  • Preparing and running a tryout of “The First Five Steps to Become Really agile“. A big thank you for the 7 intrepid players who gave us plenty of feedback to improve the session.
  • The conference closing with concrete actions to follow up on the conference. I’ll have to write about cost and value estimation and about incremental funding and real options.

To make it perfect, I would

  • Like to have a bit more room in the sessions and during lunches and breaks. The size of the venue was ok for the number of participants, but only just.
  • Put some shorter sessions into the program. Two sessions a day (+ a keynote or BoF) doesn’t give much variety.
  • Let presenters and organisers work together to improve their proposals collaboratively, like we do it for XP Days Benelux. The quality of the sessions and proposals improve a lot, even those from experienced presenters.
  • Give session (and BoF?) presenters some time to pitch their session to help us to select the session with the most (business) value.
  • Improve the Business Value Game presentation, so that the game is clearer from the start.
  • Ask more concrete questions, set more detailed goals for the follow up workshop.

Vera, Portia, Laurent and I will improve the Business Value Game with the feedback from the participants. Next games: Mini XP Day Benelux (in English) XP Days France (in French).


XP Day Suisse 2009 – Retrospective (version anglaise)

What went well?

  • Present a session in French with Portia.
  • Running and walking in the Jardin Botanique, along the lake and in the old town.
  • Drawing, cutting, making placards with bits of string and paper to prepare the “presentation” and games the night before the conference.
  • Great organisation by the Swiss team.
  • Dominic Williams offers us the red or the blue pill, weaving philosphy and methodology together. Vive le dĂ©veloppement hĂ©doniste!
  • Doing an instant retro at the end of the session to take participants’ feedback into account. Not just talking about Agile Values, but applying them.
  • A great night out at “Les oubliettes” in restaurant “Les armuriers” with raclette, cheese fondue, cool white wine and great conversations ranging from “the relationship between Plato and class-based object oriented languages” to “the (lack of) style of conference goodies bags”.
  • Meeting old and new acquaintances from Belgium, France and Switzerland.

What went wrong?

  • We didn’t do a full tryout of the session before the conference, so we weren’t sure about the timing. We removed some explanations because we were afraid of going over our 60 min timebox. In the end the session went faster than expected. We could have taken the time to explain each item more.
  • The session was a bit crowded because more participants than expected came to our session. Most of the games scaled well, though.
  • We rushed the start of the session and didn’t do a proper introduction, which left many people wondering “who are they? Where do they come from?” Answer: Portia and Pascal from London and Brussels.


  • What is the state of agility in Switzerland? We know some companies (like Hortis) have been applying it for some time. Most participants seemed to be new to agile.


  • Tryout! Tryout! Tryout a new session!
  • Philosophy can be fun and useful.
  • The Erlang session brought back lots of student memories: CSP, Lisp, Prolog, FP,….

XP Day Suisse 2009 – Retrospective (V.O.)

Qu’est-ce qui s’est bien passĂ©?

  • PrĂ©senter une session en français avec Portia.
  • Courir et marcher dans le Jardin Botanique, le long du lac et dans la vieille ville de Geneve.
  • Dessiner, couper et crĂ©Ă©r des cartes avec des bouts de ficelle et du carton pour prĂ©parer la “prĂ©sentation” la veille du congrès.
  • La très bonne organisation de l’Ă©quipe Suisse.
  • Dominic Williams nous a offert la pillule bleue et la pillule rouge, mĂ©langeant la philosophie et les mĂ©thodologies informatiques. Vive le dĂ©veloppement hĂ©doniste!
  • Faire une rĂ©trospective Ă  la fin de la session et prendre en compte les retours des participants. Ne pas just parler des Valeurs Agiles, mais les appliquer.
  • Manger dans “Les oubliettes” au restaurant “Les armuriers” avec de la raclette, fondue, du bon vin blanc et de bonnes conversations sur des sujets qui allaient de “la relation entre la philosophie de Platon et les langages orientĂ©s objet basĂ©s sur les classes” jusqu’Ă  “le (manque de) style des sacs offerts aux participants”. Le style est important!
  • Parler avec des anciens et nouveaux amis de Belgique, France et la Suisse.

Qu’est-ce qui ne s’est pas bien passĂ©?

  • On n’a pas fait une rĂ©pĂ©tition gĂ©nĂ©rale de la session, donc on n’Ă©tait pas sĂ»r du timing. On a enlevĂ© quelques explications par peur de dĂ©passer les soixante minutes de la session. A la fin, on s’est rendu compte que la session allait plus vite que prĂ©vu. On aurait pu prendre le temps pour mieux expliquer quelques points.
  • Il n’y avait pas beaucoup de place dans la salle, parce qu’il y avait plus de participants que prĂ©vu. Par contre, la plupart des jeux marche aussi bien avec des grands groupes qu’avec des petits groupes.
  • On a Ă©tĂ© un peu trop rapide au dĂ©but de la session et on a oubliĂ© de nous prĂ©senter. Certaines personnes se sont demandĂ©es “Mais qui sont ils? D’oĂą est-ce qu’ils viennent?” RĂ©ponse: Portia et Pascal de Londres et Bruxelles.

Des questions, petites et grandes

  • OĂą est-ce qu’ils en sont avec l’agilitĂ© en Suisse? On sait que quelques sociĂ©tĂ©s (comme Hortis) appliquent les mĂ©thodes agiles depuis un bon temps. La plupart des participants nous semblait avoir peu d’experience.


  • Il faut toujours faire une rĂ©pĂ©tition gĂ©nĂ©rale!
  • La philosophie peut ĂŞtre amusante et utile.
  • La session sur Erlang m’a rappelĂ© de bons souvenirs de mes jours comme Ă©tudiant: CSP, Lisp, Prolog, FP,….