Agile 2011: The Rest of My Notes


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I think I was pretty lucky with my choices for sessions this year at Agile 2011 as I was able to take a number of things of interest from almost every one of them.  I’ve summarized talks by Christopher Avery and Stephen Denning in other notes, as well as some additional books for my reading list. This posting includes the remainder of my notes from the conference.


Why Care About Positive Emotions?




The Power of an Agile Mindset

  • co-author of Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas
  • talk drew heavily from work of Carol Dweck, particularly Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
    • Fixed Mindset: people who believe that intelligence and talent are fixed qualities
    • Growth or Agile Mindset: people who believe abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work
  • the most significant takeaway from this talk is the pattern
    in society that reinforces fixed mindsets in young girls and encourages
    growth mindsets in young boys (greatly simplified below)
    • girls are often praised at a young age for doing good work and for
      being smart, reinforcing the concept fo intelligence as a fixed
    • boys are often more exploratory and unfocused, thereby getting more attention and explanation to help them discover solutions
    • instead of praising results, we should explore the paths that arrive at the results and focus on aspects of that journey
  • the original Malcolm Gladwell article, which is still the most-read article on his site
  • misc notes:
    • this woman is perhaps more attuned to her own mortality than anyone I’ve ever met
    • book: Self-theories


Fluency over Proficiency: Accelerating Agile Learning and ‘Hunting Fluency’

  • interesting session about accelerated learning techniques that are used to help preserve dying languages
  • instead of attempting to understand languages, Willem
    attempts to gain fluency via games using American Sign Language as an
    intermediate form
    • seeking fluency is faster for spreading the language
    • seeking fluency preserves the essence and culture of
      language; e.g. Irish does not have words for Yes and No so translation
      would lose this
    • fluency allows a group to possess more knowledge collectively very quickly
  • interesting takeaways
    • fluency can be the initial goal when bringing someone into the team; deeper understanding can follow with time
    • capability for a large number of things can be broken into 4 levels: novice, intermediate, expert, superior
      • it is only possible to extend yourself one level above your current
        level; e.g. you cannot answer an expert-level question that is posed by
        a novice
      • you need to have people at all levels in order to pull people through to higher levels
  • misc. notes
    • define: nested compentency
    • define: fluent fool
    • lookup: risk-adjusted burndown
    • lookup: learning out of order
    • read: Proficiencies of Planning blog post by James Shore and Diane Larsen
    • when presenting a session again, always have an experiment to try; you already know how to do what you did yesterday
    • an excellent blog post about being language hunted at Agile 2011

Applying the Lean Startup Model to the Enterprise

  • discussed ways to apply lean startup concepts of minimal viable product and rapid learning to the enterprise
  • lots of overlap with dev-ops movement where agility is
    extended from engineering into operations so that solutions are deployed
    and operated more smoothly
    • do less
    • build quality in
    • deliver continuously
    • measure value delivered
  • misc. notes

Design Thinking

  • definitely related to lean startup movement and emphasis learning loops
    • once you’ve implemented a solution, you may need to redesign to handle information you discovered when building
    • once you’ve implemented a solution, you may find that you
      didn’t understand the original problem and need to go back to the
      customer to learn
  • discussed three approaches to design, any one of which may be valid in your situation
    • military: ‘collaboration and dialog incorporating critical thinking and creative thinking to make sense of complexity’
    • data-based: discovering what customers want by asking questions and examing data
    • ethnography: go to the source and understand how the product will be used: IDEO, OXO
  • lots of examples of design thinking in organizations, with
    discussion on ideal team size (150 people per factory at Gore, two
    pizzas at Amazon)
  • misc. notes

Continuous Delivery

  • discussed concepts on continous delivery and benefits that it provides
    • shorter time to feedback
    • value delivered faster to customer
    • reduced risk of release
    • releases tied to business needs, not technical needs
  • misc. notes

Lightning Talks

  • Leading the Agile Release Train Description Slides
    • techniques for co-ordinating large numbers of agile teams
  • How to Save Your Industry $1.9B Using Agile Methods Description
    • applying agile methods to quickly mount a political activism website to block passage of a healthcare bill in Australia
  • Agile Management: Creating a Culture to Help Your Team Succeed Description Blog
    • excellent lightning talk about core cultural principles that she uses to build a happy and productive team
  • Get to CMMI ML3 Using Agile Development Processes for Large Projects Description Slides
  • The PO Role – Can You Hear Me Now? Description Slides
    • testimonials about how product owners are able to better do their jobs and help build the right products
  • Making the Most of Testing in a Quality Focused Agile Team Description Slides
    • discussed QA at Atlassian where developments build many automated tests; key takeaway: QA = Quality Assistance
  • 5 Key Numbers to Gauge Your Agile Engineering Efforts Slides
    1. how long until you see feedback from a test after writing or changing a line of code?
    2. how many one-line changes can you commit and push to test in an hour?
    3. how many people on your team can explain the details of any particular section of code?
    4. what percentage of your team members did you pair with in the last two days?
    5. how many manual steps does it take to get a build into production?

Lean Startup: How Development Looks Different When You’re Changing the World

  • very well attended talk on lean startups and how they are agile development at lightspeed
    • purpose is to learn as fast as possible in order to arrive at a viable business model and product
    • scaling only occurs after ideas have been validated
    • something has only been delivered if its value has been verified with the customer
  • learn -> build -> measure: repeat as fast as possible
  • customer discovery – > customer validation -> customer creation -> scale company
    • cycle at every step along the way to learn
  • the unit of progress for entrepreneurs is learning
  • quote of the day on initiating change: “show lean startup
    ideas to your enterprise and it will frighten them into accepting agile
    development as a compromise”
  • misc. notes

Beyond Planning Poker – The Planning Poker Party

  • one big takeaway is Affinity Grouping,
    which is a technique to quickly places stories into groups of similar
    size and then estimate what each group represents (e.g. all stories in
    this group are 5 points)

Telling Better Stories Using User Story Mapping

  • extremely well attended workshop on using story maps to show how
    stories in a release relate to each other, to determine dependencies,
    and to determine if everything flows correctly
  • the excellent blog article explains the core concepts
  • I was unable to participate fully in this one as I arrived late from an excellent lunch at Pakistani restaurant across the road from the Grand America