Agile Cymru (meaning Agile Wales) ran over 2 days at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff from July 5-6. It focused on the best practices of working in an Agile way and provided many opportunities to learn from the key figures working in the industry as well as the chance to share your thoughts with others. Here are my highlights from the conference:
Welcome Keynote by Dr Katrina Douglas
Dr Douglas has a Sports Science background and was a professional golfer for a number of years. More recently she has dedicated her time to research, broadly exploring identity development, physical activity and mental health.
She told many stories about how an individual may tell a story. This didn’t have to be a work related story, in fact, most of what she talked about was related to tales of professional golfers, and how they viewed themselves.
The main points from her talk was how your upbringing may have affected how you see the world and how this can influence your outlook on life in general. This then can translate into the work place – one person may tell a user story as a goal driven process where the only thing that matters is achieving results, whereas another may be more focused on the wellbeing of the team and the sense of achievement that is gained from great teamwork. Both of course have their place but it’s important to take on views of all of the team when creating and working on user stories.
Katrina was also keen to stress that you should challenge the perception that you have to do things in the same way all of the time, and that people do not have to comply with the stereotypical view of the world. For example, until recently it was very difficult for members of the armed forces to admit that they were suffering from post traumatic stress. This is because this is not the stereotypical view of the armed forces – they must be strong and mentally tough at all times. Admitting that they are suffering is challenging the stereotypical view and until recently that would have been seen as weak.
In summary as Dr Douglas quoted “There is more than one way to climb a mountain” – a view that we can take into the workplace.
Kanban – An evolutionary approach to Agile through Lean by Jon Terry.
This talk outlined some of the benefits of using the Kanban approach as opposed to the Scrum methodology. There were many ideas described by Jon and one of the key principles to this approach is limiting the work in progress (WiP) – an approach that I think we can take forward to the Scrum methodology too, if I can in my day to day work.
With Kanban, Jon explained that there is less of a focus on the individual and what they have achieved as opposed to Scrum, where there is typically focus on what each member of the team has achieved and plans to achieve each day. Kanban is more about what the team has done and will do.
My best moment of the Conference was a quote delivered by Tom – “Stop starting and start finishing” meaning that we should focus more on completing tasks and stories before taking more work on.
Scaled Agile frameworks by Bethan Thomas
This was the first of my workshop sessions, introduced to us by Bethan and then we were encouraged to talk openly in a small group about how to scale agile and what frameworks we had used.
Many frameworks were mentioned but it seemed that the most popular was the Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) framework (https://less.works/). This seemed to be in use by a lot of people in the room, but opinion was divided about whether these frameworks should be used at all. Personally I got something out of this session but not as much as the others I had attended. My overriding opinion after attending this session is that frameworks are good at providing you with ideas about how to scale, but they are certainly not the answer to all of the problems that you may encounter when faced with this challenge. A lot of people also thought that they were just used to provide the business people, who may have no agile background, with the reassurance that since a process is in place that everything will be ok in the long run!
Empathy from Agility by Marcelle Duarte
Marcelle talked about how to look at things from other people’s point of view whenever you can. To quote Marcelle: “Developers must show empathy with the business users and business users must show empathy with the developers”. What this means is that many developers look at things from a technical point of view without really appreciating why they have been asked to do things a certain way and what benefits the business are getting out of the work they do. Similarly, business users do not always see the developer’s point of view. By having more empathy within your teams, you can develop better working relationships, which in turn will result in better, more efficient delivery.
Let’s do Kado analysis of Agile Cymru by David Grant
Kado analysis is a method which can be used for understanding what features your customers expect, are excited by and want more of.
In this workshop we did a Kado analysis of the Agile Cymru conference and we came up with all sorts of features that Agile Cymru had (both good and bad), for example a great venue or strong coffee. Then we ranked these features according to how we would feel if they were each great, bad, or non existent. Free, superfast Wi-fi is one such expected feature, so if the feature was not there, or just not at the level we expect then how would we feel? Features were grouped into features that we expect, those that are pretty standard and those we’d get excited by, such as the satellite view from Google Earth when it was first released.
At the end of the workshop I could see, that if you are struggling to identify which features your customer really wants, then Kado analysis would certainly help with this.
Listening with your eyes by Helen Lisowski
Body language, or non verbal communication is the hidden way of getting your message across to your audience, but how many of us realise what secrets our body gives away when we talk to someone?
Helen ran through the main areas of how we can improve out communication with someone just by looking out for tell tale signs, such as blocking movements.
Examples were given of how each of the four main body parts (legs and feet, torso, hands and arms, and head and face) can give away so much about how someone is feeling.
The benefits are obvious – if you recognise these signs then you can do something about them. For example, if you identify through body language, that someone is not comfortable with what you are saying then you can ask if they’d like any further information or clarification. If you are working in a team and you spot friction between staff members then you can take steps to remedy this before the situation deteriorates.
This was certainly a useful session for me, and something that I will be learning more about in my spare time.
Agile Cymru 2016 was well run, located at a great venue and was a pleasure to attend. I would recommend future events to anyone wishing to learn more about how Agile can benefit you in the workplace.