Agile Tour Sydney 2011

Update – The inspiration from Agile Tour has turned into a mini-conference for Melbourne. I’ve written more about it, in subsequent posts.

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What does Sydney have that Melbourne doesn’t? Well apart from the Bridge and the Opera House, this year Sydney hosted the first Australian instance of the Agile Tour, a series of non-profit, independently organised events held worldwide between October and December. Agile Tour originated in France in 2008 and has since spread to many countries, with the stated intention to:

“communicate massively together, all agile people, in the same period of time to help all cities to promote the ideas around the Agile, a way to manage complex project [sic]. Since 2008, this idea continues to create new stories, new cities continue to join us around the world and we want to accompany them to understand and discuss their vision of the [sic] Agile wherever there will be projects and people.”

The inaugural Agile Tour Sydney was held on 9-10 December at the University of Technology Sydney and was labelled “By practitioners, for practitioners”. Two of its main organisers were Jeremie Benazra and Karan Jain.

I decided that I should go for a trip up to Sydney to see what transpired and see if we could use some of the ideas in the future, in Melbourne. Here is a brief write up and a call to action at the foot of this article!! I would echo Rowan Bunning’s tweet:

Agile Tour Syd turned out to be the most immersive Agile conference experience I’ve had in Australia. Thanks everyone.

Day 1

Around 50 participants assembled at UTS on Friday morning. For an overview of the topics that were scheduled on the first day, here is the agenda on Google Docs. In practice, some of the sessions were rearranged or omitted if there wasn’t enough demand. We started with a ball game icebreaker session and then moved into the three different streams, as we saw fit.

I participated in a couple of Rowan Bunning‘s sessions in the “Facilitation & Collaboration Stream”, as is my wont, including the one pictured above. “Are counterproductive games hindering your Agile adoption?”, outlined anti-patterns, based in part on the book “Games at Work” How to Recognize and Reduce Office Politics” by Mauricio Goldstein and Phil Read. You can get an idea of what they mean by “games” on the book’s website. Rowan also mentioned Rob Thompsett in this session.

Next up was an agile coaching session where we practiced using the GROW model and discussed differences between Pure Coaching,  Mentoring and Consulting. Once again this was facilitated by Rowan.

Lachlan Heasman ran an interesting teamwork game involving two teams with a long tent pole between them. Each member could only touch the pole with the top of their index finger. They had to keep a slip of paper that represented their “job” and each team had to lower the pole to the floor withour losing their “job”. This produced some interesting results. Rowan then ran a variation on the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

One session I missed but which by all reports, turned out great, was where the group devised an agile game from scratch. The result was a game where a picture was drawn using only verbal instructions, as opposed to one drawn with a photo as a reference. It turned out so well that one of the participants was going to use it at  her work immediately. In some ways this game was similar to the Requirements Planning Game that we played at the Melbourne Agile and Scrum User Group in August.

Lindy Stephens, Thoughtworks’ Professional Services Manager, gave some insights into issue surrounding fixed cost and agile. The main take away, for me was that TW are in the happy position to not have to do this very often!

Day 2 — Open Space

There were fewer people on day 2, owing to it being a Saturday, and possibly because it was organised along Open Space /unconference lines. The 20-25 people gathered for Day 2 to suggest ideas for sessions and self-organised to make them happen.

We were very lucky to have some surprise, illustrious attendees for part of day 2. Firstly, Linda Rising, co-author of the great book “Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas”, led a Q+A session.  I would recommend reading her book if you are involved in change in an organisation. . I had actually packed it to re-read on the plane, without realising that she was coming!

She talked through some of the patterns, some other general points and Q+A. She has an engaging, storytelling style, which was great to witness.

Also in attendance were Mary and Tom Poppendieck, thought leaders in Lean software development circles. They ran an animated Q+A session around the trends in Lean. Like a couple of other people who I’ve heard answer the “What’s next in agile and lean?” question, Continuous Delivery and Lean Startup principles again emerged as ones to watch.

The rest of the day had some valuable sessions that included:

Observations

The $50 nominal fee was a bargain. Sponsorship covered costs (I assume) and everything was well organised. The catering was good; I certainly didn’t go hungry. Kudos must go to the organising team.

It was also a coup to get Linda Rising and the Poppendiecks along. Credit must go to Rowan Bunning Jason Yip for organising that.

There was a good range of topics covered and a highly engaged and enthusiastic set of attendees. Most people had a decent amount of experience and so the conference lived up to its promise to be “By practitioners, for practitioners.” This was refreshing, because even though I like to discuss agile and lean with people new to the concepts, it was great to be able to get insights from other experienced practitioners and to herar their stories.

Melbourne Unconference

I think that we should look into organising an unconference style event, in the first part of 2012. Possibly a one day event of some description would be good. I certainly think there is the demand and level of expertise in the community, to be able to do so. It’s been floated at a previous Melbourne Agile and Scrum User Group meeting, but it would be good to discuss it again at the 25 January meetup. Who’s in???

2 comments to Agile Tour Sydney 2011

  • Nice write-up Ed. I think this captures the spirit of the event nicely.

    I can’t take credit for Mary, Tom and Linda’s involvement though. We should thank Jason Yip for that as well as a lot of other input into the event.

    Big thanks to Stuart Bargon, Martyn Frank, Karan Jain, Mark Turner and especially our ring leader who brought the whole idea to us direct from Paris – Jeremie Benazra – for making Agile Tour Sydney happen. For all that didn’t make it (or came on Friday but not Saturday), I’m sorry that your missed out on something quite special.

    Rowan.

  • [...] readers will remember my writeup about Agile Tour Sydney. That article had a call to action regarding doing something along the same lines here in [...]

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