Agile 2011 Day 2 Review

Agile 2011Day 2 at Agile 2011 in Salt Lake City kicked off with Todd Little advising that the conference this year had 1604 attendees from 43 countries and from 968 submissions we ended up with 268 sessions. Here are my notes.

Keynote – Why Care About Positive Emotions

Barbara Frederickson led with a keynote, but unfortunately I didn’t get to stick around for much of it as I needed to prepare for my session following. Two brief notes I picked up were:

  • positive psychology is about resilience, the closest concept in psychology to agile
  • positive emotions open us – we are more creative and can see more in the periphery, we have more resilience to bounce back, better performance on exams
From Agile 2011

The Speed To Cool: Agile Testing And Building Quality In

The session that I presented with Adrian Smith from Ennova was close to a full audience and was also one of a handful of sessions that was chosen to be recorded. We received lots of great feedback. The slides are available in a separate post. The following pictures were Adrian and I outside the room prior to the session:

From Agile 2011
From Agile 2011

Agile Coaching Self-Assessment – Where Do You Stand on the Competencies?

This session was limited to 32 participants, so it was with good luck and planning that I was able to sit in workshop facilitated by Lyssa Adkins and Michael Spayd.

Coaches are energy shifters and are tuned into the atmosphere of the room. We were invited to walk around the circle and reflect on the following areas:

  • agile-lean practitioner – people who know the tools and practices
  • business mastery – know what the business needs
  • coaching -professional coaching
  • mentoring – help people access what they already know
  • technical mastery – help people create great software
  • transformation mastery – help people change
  • teaching – teach people what we know
  • facilitating – neutral assistance to a group
From Agile 2011

We were then invited to walk around the circle and land at:

  • the area of strength where I am drawn to
  • area of nervousness
  • area that would make the most difference in your role

and we discussed and shared out thoughts with others standing in the same quadrant as well as the rest of the group.

We then reflected on where we stand right now and where we want to stand, before pairing up with another participant for a short one on one session.

Finally we reflected that the coaching stance and catalyst leader are the heart of the wheel.

This was an awesome session and something I look forward to running with some of my colleagues as well as reflecting on my strengths myself.

Refactor Your Wetware

Andy Hunt (of Pragmatic Programmer fame as well as Agile Manifesto signatory) delivered this session based on his latest book Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware. Here are my notes from the session:

From Agile 2011

Software is written in our heads, that is where the problem starts!

Context patterns neuroplasticity:

  • context – need to not look at a whole object but how it fits into the whole system
  • patterns – in pair programming, the navigator can see patterns because they are not concerned with the symbols and syntax, pattern matching is the key to expertise
  • neuroplasticity – humans can grow new neurons, but not sitting in a cage or a cubicle, work with enlightened people or in a sensory rich environment you will grow new neurons, but if you don’t use parts of your brain it will get rewired

If you study in an artificial environment you will get artificial results.

Skills – the Dreyfus model – rules –> intuition, consider everything –> relevant focus –> detached observer –> part of system

  • novice – no experience, accomplish a goal, want to get it done, don’t know how respond to mistakes, only way to be effective is to have contact-free rules (ie working in a call centre, following a script), need recipes to follow, can’t get much productivity from this level
  • advanced beginner – start trying tasks on your own, don’t want the big picture
  • competent – build conceptual models, troubleshoot on your own
  • proficient – want to understand the big picture, want to understand why, frustrated by oversimplified information, self correct previous poor task performance (retrospectives are a good example of why they need an experienced coach), learn from previous experience, can understand and apply maxims
  • expert – primary source in their field, continually look for better methods, work from intuition, world does not really work on rules it works on experience
  • second order of incompetence – know what you don’t know and admit to it
  • nursing practice shares a lot of similarity to software development – you need to solve problems then and there – need to become outcomes-based, importance of the individual, keep experts in practice, pay based on value added to the company
  • South American monkey trap is like the tool trap – confuse model with reality, de-value traits that cannot be formalised, legislating behaviour that kills autonomy, alienated experienced practitioners, demand for conformity of tools, insensitivity to contextual nuances
  • brain is not a computer – made up of L mode and R mode and we switch between them – spinning girl exercise – creativity and intuition works better in R mode
  • image streaming – pose a problem to yourself, close your eyes for 10 minutes and then for each image that crosses your mind describe it out loud, image it with all five senses and describe it in the present tense
  • free form journalling – first thing in the morning, write three pages long hand, uncensored, don’t skip a day – way to get it out
  • Thomas Edison used to take a nap with a cup of ball bearings and when it dropped he would wake up and write down what he was thinking about
  • whack on the head – look at problems from a different point of view or the opposite – a good tool is the Creative Whack Pack iPhone app
  • ten mental locks – the right answer, that’s not logical, follow the rules, be practical, avoid ambiguity, ……
  • you need to keep track of your ideas, otherwise you will stop having them – everyone has great ideas, fewer keep track of them, even fewer act on them and very few can pull them off
  • carry something with you all the time to record notes – tools like The Pocket Mod or Evernote
  • mind maps
  • we miss things that change slowly – this happens on projects on all the time
  • 90 cognitive biases that people suffer – memory stinks – every read is a write that can create false memories, anchoring, fundamental attribution error, need for closure (agile estimation) – we will take any information even crap information for closure – in agile we want to keep things open ended, exposure effect, Hawthorne effect, relativity
  • ask yourself how you know what you know
  • your age group changes the way we view and understand things
  • some people need auditory, visual, kinetic
  • how to read – SQ3R – survey, question, read, recall, review
  • how to take notes – make a mind map, the sensory of pen and paper is better
  • use a wiki – has a category
  • use affinity mapping with post it notes – Behind Closed Doors describes this in more detail
  • get your ideas out there and blog it, tweet it, present it
Warnings:
  • multitasking – when you get interrupted your memory is blown, constantly checking email is an IQ drop of 10 points, three times as much as smoking a joint!
  • send less email and you will receive less email – pick up phone, walk down the hall
  • choose your tempo for an email conversation
  • don’t context switch – scan queue once, put things into piles, no mental lists (GTD)
  • set cues for task resumption when you get interrupted, leave a quick mote in code or on a notebook – gets back to resuming task much faster
  • set team interruption protocols – most teams say this is the happiest times they have coding
  • second monitor is a 20-30% productivity gains – ALT-TAB in windows is context switchin
Change is hard:
  • start with a plan
  • avoid inaction not errors
  • new habits take time (3-4 weeks)
  • belief is physical
  • take small next steps

This was a great session with so many techniques to look (and re-look at). As a result I think I will also add this book to my reading list (especially given that The Pragmatic Programmer in one of may favourite books). Finally, Andy reminded everybody that the Pragmatic Programmers also have a free magazine that is worth checking out.

After Dark

Tuesday night is typically the night that most of the vendor parties happen. I managed two invites – one to the Atlassian Drink-Up (which unfortunately due to talk preparation I ended up missing) and one to the Celebrate with Rally party which I was able to make for a couple of hours at the end.

Podcast

Finally, I recorded a short audio podcast for The Agile Revolution wrapping up Day 2 of the conference.

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