SimBlogging: AYE 2008 Retrospective

SimBlogging‘ offers a his and hers viewpoint where Pascal and Portia timebox-blog as a pair on the same topics simultaneously

What Went Well

I finally got to see Heathrow Terminal 5, where I met up with Portia. We got an upgrade on our ticket thanks to the friendly British Airways lady at the checkin desk. A good start.

10 hours later, in Phoenix, the heat, sun, blue skies, pools, palm trees and cacti are a bit of a shock after grey, dreary and wet Brussels and London.

Our “Mirror Mirror on the Wall… Why Me?Agile Fairytale BOF was met with enthusiasm and we kept playing the game during dinner and drinks, resulting in plenty of “Aha! moments”.

We played the “Quality vs Speed” game that looks at the tradeoff between releasing early and finding/fixing bugs. We managed to win thanks to our clear, simple and adaptive process built upon our shared team principles of “Quality AND Speed”. We might have done better if we had collaborated with the other teams, but at least we shared our process with the others. During the retrospective we discussed if the model of the game is still relevant to Agile projects. When we work with short timeboxes and give priority to DONE stories (without known bugs), the main tradeoff is one of time vs scope. And then we can apply the Business Value principles, which is another game altogether.

Several other sessions provided new learning or illustrated material I already knew:

  • Experiencing the coping stances and congruence by sculpting the stances.
  • Selling ideas to management (or anyone else for that matter) where we experimented with different techniques to sell ideas to a manager. I got to play the manager, which is always fun. I tried to be helpful and sympathetic to the person who came to me with their idea, but I failed to help the “seller”. Clearly, management is not as easy as it sounds.
  • In the “Just Enough Leadership” session we got to experiment with the “wisdom of the crowds” to see if a team came up with better rankings. The session included collected metrics, including one measure of correlation between individual and team scores that might indicate who led the team. We didn’t go very deep into the metrics, but correlation does not mean causation. In our team, we switched leader very quickly. We led by example: someone said “Lets…” and the others followed. If you have a good idea, there isn’t any need for endless debate to come to a consensus. Go for it and see if you’re followed, because a leader is defined by their followship.

Although “I’m an Introvert”, I enjoyed the many discussions and talks with photographers, magicians, testers, jokers, would-be Evil Queens, managers, bloggers, stars and coaches from many countries that make up the audience of the AYE conference.

We ended our travels in Phoenix with a visit to the Heard Native American museum, where we learned more about the Inuit and Pueblo people with their “Katsina” and scary ogres.

Complaints with recommendations

The AYE “conference“, is a 5 day training course with 5 trainers. Either make it a conference with a set of diverse presenters who bring different perspectives or call it training.

The conference kicks off with the warmup tutorial (also known as the “Steve and Don show”) which explains the basic tools and terminology and MBTI types. Many participants wrote their MBTI type on their nametags. Is this a way to advertise “this is how I am and want to be treated”? The emphasis on MBTI types throughout the conference is a bit too strong for my taste. I see MBTI types as preferences, not something “that I am” and that can’t be changed. I would recommend:

  • ensuring that there is a clear disclaimer about MBTI, that these are preferences, that this is a default that we will fall back on when we are stressed. Our MBTI type is not a fixed pattern that determines how we work and act.
  • working with mixed teams, instead of by MBTI type, so that we can be more effective by exploiting the diversity of the team, one of the lessons of the “Mirror Mirror on the Wall… Why Me?Agile Fairytale.

SimBlogging: Agile 2008 Toronto Visit

SimBlogging‘ offers a his and hers viewpoint where Pascal and Portia timebox-blog as a pair on the same topics simultaneously

Rough Guide to Toronto

We visit Darwin, one of my heroes, at the Royal Ontario Museum. The Casa Loma fairytale castle on the hill with its stunning library and conservatory put us in the right mood for some agile fairytales. Fred the friendly busdriver took us to the quaint, quiet rivertown of Niagara Falls so that we could buy bells in the Santa shop, where it’s christmas 364 days a year as they’re closed on christmas. The ‘Maid of the Mist’ is a natural thrill-ride: up close and personal with the power of the Niagara Falls you get extremely wet.

Agile 2008

Coming across ‘Bimbo Slides’ is really confusing: the slides look great, like a super-model, but the accompanying text doesn’t fit. Playing with the Leadership Legos, we experienced a few ‘Lego moments’, where you realize that someone else has lived some experience that we can never experience in the same way.

Chilling Out and Staying Cool

After Gino offered us an excellent improvised lunch, Portia thinks that all Belgian boys know how to cook, but she’s only seen 2 out of 5 million, so her conclusions may be premature. Our other Torontonian friend, Allison, told us 400 years of Canadian history in the time it takes to eat a Japanese lunch. We can share our passion for Agile by extending it in ways that were never envisioned (or intended) by the originators of Agile: test-first, paired, iterative and incremental, timeboxed clothes shopping. Consequently, we look sharp as we go out to dinner with Ben, Allison and Gino to discuss scary ideas in English with a funny French accent.

Looking into the Mirror

The “Mirror, Mirror on the wall… Why me?” session contained an agile retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to help the participants find actions to improve their collaborations and to be more aware of team composition. The Snow White Kanban cards we handed out to everyone we talked to where a hit: the dwarves sparked everybody’s imagination and the cards spread across the conference.

Les Neuf Cases aka The Nine Boxes

We subtitled the French-speaking “Neuf Cases” session in English to create the first and only bilingual session of the conference, so that participants learned to interview and improved their English/French skills; now that’s value for money! The preparation for the session, writing the subtitles in pair with bemused conference participants passing by, was almost as much fun as the session itself.

Value-Driven Presenters

As the conference went on, more and more people came up to us to talk about our games and to tell us how they had extended and used our games. Unfortunately, Vera couldn’t be here to share in the talks about the XP Game and to see how well the first tryout of our new “Business Value Game” went. In between all the talks and fun, there were some sessions that presented techniques that we will apply from now on, like the Conflict Resolution Diagram presented by Christian and Christoph or the 4.5 techniques to assign Business Value and prioritize out backlog presented by Mike.

To relax and reward ourselves for all the “hard work” and to keep the pace sustainable, we built in small treats and celebrations to the hectic touristic and conference schedule.