"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change!" - Charles Darwin

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

An Agile Conference in the Heart of Europe

Last week I went to Agile Prague 2013 conference.
The conference was great and again I would like to share with you the most interesting take-aways I brought home from the sessions I attended.

  1. The first one is from Scott Barber’s keynote.
He had a point that, regardless the fact that we talk about SW engineering, we are not very much learning from other more “classic” engineering fields. For instance in SW industry many still doubt about the value vs. cost of testing and there’s a spread tendency of considering SW development like manufacturing instead of R&D. That’s different in Classic Engineering, which is by the way a far more mature industry:
- No one questions the value of testing: how could you put a bridge in production without producing a prototype and testing it thoroughly?
- The Team is both responsible and legally accountable for quality/safety
- “Go Live” decisions are (relatively) easy
So we would be well served to study “other” fields of Engineering, consider real R&D practices for new software development and forget titles, but be responsible and accountable as a Team.

  1. The second great insight was from Kevlin Henney’s keynote.
He started from the consideration that you’d better concentrate on what you can complete, because you learn by finishing things (as btw we are all taught by the Lean SW principle “Deliver as fast as possible”). So he introduced a theory from 1990, called Worse Is Better, of why software would be more likely to succeed if it was developed with minimal invention.
And yet we have not learnt this lesson in 2013!
The theory claims that it is far better to have an under-featured product that is rock solid, fast, and small than one that covers what an expert would consider the complete requirements.
This is all at the heart of Agile SW development, in contrast with the classical “The right thing” design philosophy and the failing ambition to define everything from the beginning. Ralph Jonson said: “Architecture is the decisions that you wish you could get right early in a project, but that you are not necessarily more likely to get them right than any other”. An empirical process control is what works best in SW development: properly gaining control of the design process tends to feel like one is losing control of the design process.

  1. David Hussman in his provocative talk “Renaissance, Reformation and NonBan” urged the need for a Renaissance and Reformation of Agile back to its original spirit and practices from what sometimes now became only yet another process. We should learn again from masters like Ward Cunningham, Alan Cooper or Jeff Patton. What’s old is new again and very much necessary: storytelling, pairing, test driven. We need for instance better discussions, not better documents. What other reforms are needed today? He proposed NonBan: the least amount of process adopted by very skilled persons with the most real and measurable value. Interesting perspective, isn’t it?

  1. Finally I found inspiring Andrea Provaglio talking about Dreams. He presented an organizational model based on 3 pillars: Dream, Order and Action. The Dream is about intent or vision, Order is about rules, functions and procedures, while Action is about production and skills. He mapped very nicely this model into Scrum: the Dream is the Product backlog, the Order are the Scrum ceremonies, while the Action is the Sprint, where a Dream-bit (a User Story) is actually transformed in a potentially shippable product increment. As counterpart of Dreams there are Needs, stuff that we need to do, like defects to fix. They fall into the backlog as well and it would be interesting to measure the Dreambits/Needs ration in our Product Backlog.

I gave my contribution to the Conference by delivering a session called “12 ingredients for a successful Agile transformation” which had quite a big audience and which is based on a series of posts I published on this blog (see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3).

You can find all presentations stored at this link.
Videos from all sessions will be soon available at this link.
If you like to get info on the progress, follow @Agileprague on Twitter.

After my presentation I got an interesting question: "Do you think that signatories of the Agile Manifesto had foreseen that all in 2001?"
I answered: " I do not know if they had envisioned this when signing the Agile Manifesto, but I challenge anyone to demonstrate me that you can really implement Agile values and principles without all that is needed to transform the paradigma of an organization".

Does anyone feel like accepting the challenge? :)
What's your opinion?