Agile2006 report

This will be a long entry reporting on my experience at the Agile2006 conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota July 23-28. Attendees of my Talking Head presentation Monday afternoon titled Demonstrating Responsibility: The Mindset of An Agile Manager, please look here for the items I promised.Saturday. I missed the Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN) board meeting on Saturday, July 22, as I didn't arrive until Sunday. Some excellent discussions and decisions emerged from that meeting. I think the most important was the board's vote to make the new member dues good for a life membership. The reasoning is simple, to stop the questions — and expectation — about what APLN has done for you lately. We're not here to build services for members so that members will fund the association. We — the board and founders — are out to change the world of project leadership, so if you too wish to do that, then join for life, roll up your sleeves, and get to work alongside us. Oh, and new officers were elected for the year. I'll serve as Secretary this year.

Sunday. Got to the hotel just in time for the icebreaker. That's the opening party where everyone can meet and greet and eat and drink. I found myself looking for all my friends and found a bunch of them. I also kept planning to excuse myself and go to bed early, but instead I stayed a little while. Thanks to Ole, Lowell, and Corey for the balloon ride! And thanks to organizers Karen and Liz for the tickets!

Monday. After a long walk through a downtown park, I donned the first of my three Responsibility Process t-shirts (this one said “Ask me about using the other 90%” on the back) and went downstairs. The long lines for the breakfast and lunch buffets signaled the 60% growth of the conference this year over last. Lots more vendor booths too. I checked in at three booths I was connected with:
+ the Valtech booth where my Knowledge Team Leadership 3-day seminar in Dallas, September 26-28, was being promoted alongside Craig Larmon's Certified Scrum Master training,
+ the Cutter Consortium booth promoting the work of the Agile Project Management practice which I'm a part of, and,
+ the APLN booth where the founders and board members were rotating shifts telling folks about this exciting network.

The APLN booth looked great considering our budget (next to nothing I think) for a booth. Kent McDonald, Pollyanna Pixton, Ole Jepson, Todd Little, and Jim Highsmith deserve a bunch of credit for the contributions they made in preparation for this conference.

Monday afternoon was my session. I had a blast. There sure was a lot of energy in the room. As predicted, there were people who had been in my sessions at the previous two Agile conferences as well as a whole bunch of new folks. We had fun. I gave away a bunch of copies of Teamwork Is An Individual Skill, Responsibility Process t-shirts, Responsibility Process badges, and Get A Grip gift certificates — something like $400 worth of stuff! You can see it all in our store.

Tuesday. I took another long walk, this time through the sculpture garden next to the art museum, then down Nicolette Mall (street) a ways where I found Dunn Brother's coffee. The espresso-meister offered me an extra shot and I accepted. Thanks! Donned t-shirt #2 (“Real Agilists Face Reality”) after cleaning up and went in search of a plate of fruit. I sampled sessions by Todd Little (lots of cool video of bull riding and more) and Ken Schwaber.

Note to self about the need for Responsibility Redefined. Ken Scwaber and Kent Beck are major leaders in the agile movement. They both tend to end their presentation by saying that agile is really about personal courage, i.e., doing the responible thing (I don't believe in the right thing, but in the responsible thing). Responsibility Redefined instills courage rapidly in individuals, teams, and organizations by showing them how and why to confront the truth when things go wrong. I'm looking forward to joining Kent and Ken in some agile consultations and include Responsibility Redefined.

Wednesday. The APLN Leadership Summit all day long. Very exciting. The morning featured two excellent presentations by Tim Lister and Jim Highsmith. Tim explained that he had a problem with the language of the Declaration of Interdepentence — English — so it was up to him to interpret it for the Leadership Summit. Tim did this with his usual courage and aplumb, especially since about 2/3 of the DOI co-authors were in the room! Jim presented his research on the need for a new performance management system for agile environments. It spawned quite a bit of discussion. The first commenter stated that Jim had thrown down a gauntlet and that we should all pick it up. The second commenter didnn't seem to hear that. He asked Jim to show him the successful case studies to prove his point!!

It only got better with the lunch panel. Four enterprise executives practice agile on a large scale. One of the executives was client Steven Ambrose from DTE Energy Corporation (ask me for a case study of our work there). It pleased me and other participants to hear how similarly these execs were thinking about and dealing with the organizational challenges around agile.

While the presentations and panel were going on, other leaders went to other rooms reserved for Think Tank activities organized by Ole Jepson. The told, interpreted, and captured stories of agile leadership.

The afternoon included some experience reports on agile leadership. I think I missed something important in one titled “Leading from a Position of No Power” by the COO of a small games company who reported on her role as COO and customer for an internal dev project. And the day ended with a reception for all APLN members and the annual meeting of the APLN. There was also a large party that evening for the entire conference thrown by Google.

Thursday. I sampled presentations by Ken Scwaber (standing rooom only), Pollyanna Pixton and Esther Derby, and Ole Jepson. Then I did a really bright thing. I ran into Jim Highsmith and Ken Collier, both cyclists from Flagstaff, AZ and fellow Cutter consultants, and we decided to rent bikes and stretch our legs. The temperature was in the high 90's but that didn't stop us from riding I-don't-know-how-many-miles around some beautiful small lakes and along the Mississippi River. Ken and I tried out recumbents. We both decided we'll not be buying 'bents soon.

I got cleaned up just in time for the closing banquet. I sat in the back with Tim Lister and friends and couldn't hear a thing happening on the podium — a sure sign that this conference has grown very large.

Posted in Uncategorized on 08/05/2006 09:40 pm
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