Agile 2012 Day 1 Review

Agile 2012With a bit of last responsible moment planning, I made the trek to Dallas (well actually Grapevine) in Texas, USA for the Agile 2012 conference. This year I was once again a reviewer on the Testing and Quality Assurance stage. This was the first year in four years that I did not have a submission accepted, however with my role as an Agile editor for InfoQ, part of my journey was to interview interesting Agile folks on camera (how cool is that!)

When somebody says that things are always bigger in Texas they are not kidding! The Gaylord Texan Hotel and Conference Center is huge, in ways that cannot be explained without seeing it. Everything is accessible without really needing to leave the enclosure (which is great because you don’t need to experience the 110 degree heat outside.

From Agile 2012
From Agile 2012

Here are my notes from the sessions that I attended on day 1.

From Agile 2012

Bad-Assed Double-Loop Learning: From Judgmental to Good Judgement

This was a workshop led by Derek W. Wade and Susan Eller. Susan comes from a medical background while Derek has experience in health care and aviation. Their presentation is available here.

From Agile 2012
  • 70% of health care errors happen due to lack of communication, similar numbers for aviation
  • transparency is starting to be accepted as a given, but still opaque in communication (people apply filters)
  • the “core protocols” help transparency
  • people in health care often perform non-health care scenarios (for a scenario that is unfamiliar to them)

We were then given a clinical scenario to watch in which a doctor is giving a medical update to a parent.

  • we observed that: the doctor gave out a broad range of data, the senior doctor fled the scene, the doctor was not looking to the parent at eye level, there was lots of technical jargon
  • our coaching advise to the doctor would be: sit down, don’t be alarming, wait for a response from the parent and address any  concerns, focus on the more likely data at the moment, know the patient, get the senior doctor to introduce the new doctor and stick around for the discussion, ask the parent if he has any needs

We then launched into talking about feedback:

  •  judgemental feedback – “I wouldn’t have done that”
  • non-judgemental feedback – sounds like you are being nice, but are actually statements that make people defensive, “the wolf in sheep’s clothing”, “do you think you could have done better?”
  • frames (mental models) – context is king, match our context to the other person and determine what frame they are in
  • ladder of inference – we can observe data and experiences as well as the actions, but everything else is within, are you basing conclusions on something observed or something inferred (The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook)

Ladder of Inference

  • you need to check in with yourself – are you using observable or inferred data
  • like the donkey’s balls vide, you need to have a WTF moment – what is your cue? Ask “where’s that from” when you have a mismatch rather than rage with WTF!!!
  • single loop interaction – inferred frame, “why we think they did it” (do something and get an outcome, repeat) as opposed to double frame interaction asking “why they did it” (do something, get an outcome, learn from the interaction on why)
  • not all about how you did it, but the way you deliver the message, need to bring to the attention of other person what you saw (your frame), need to understand why they did it
  • uncover your own thinking, use lots of “I” statements to remove defensive stance, “here is what I noticed”, “here is what I do”
  • data -> advocacy -> inquiry
  • balance with inquiry
  • as a coach if you understand the appropriateness rather than just telling them, you are doing double loop learning
  • you have a level of knowledge, so you need to understand but still use good judgement
  • “I noticed…”, “why did you do that?”, “I observed you were polling for status at the scrum… Why did you do that?” In this case, the answer was respecting the time box. Responded, “I understand that…”, “but it is my view that…”, “what do you think about that?”
  • can also do this with your spouse, teenagers (gets through the pain quicker), can also do via email, it’s not the medium it’s yourself (are you genuinely curious)?

The debrief stages are:

  • reaction – not “how did that go”, but “how did that feel”, chance to vent about any feelings
  • description – ensure we are all asking about the same problem, can you give a summary of what happened
  • analysis – use advocacy / inquiry and ask how that related and expose frames
  • generalisation – look for outstanding examples, how can we apply this learning to reinforce

Finally, when you hear yourself thinking “WTF!”, balance that with “What’s that from”

Agile Inception Deck – 10 Questions You’d Be Crazy Not To Ask Before Starting Your Project

This workshop was led by Jonathan Rasmusson, author of the Agile Samurai. Much of this workshop was common sense and very close to the Concept process I have been using and teaching for the last few years. His presentation is available here.

From Agile 2012
  • we start projects thinking we are aligned, but often we are not
  • ten questions – good for 1-6 months of planning, should take a couple of days to a week to complete
  • the last thing executives want is the team asking for more money – they prefer a larger number up front
  • at the front of a project is the time to ask the hard tough questions
  1. ask why we are here – why are we spending shareholder money and capital on this, most projects skip this, if you can go and spend time at the client site
  2. create an elevator pitch – in 30 seconds you have to be concise, in Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore there is a template for an elevator pitchfor (number one customer constituent)
    who (the problem)the (name of the project)
    is a (type of project)
    that (the intent)
    unlike (competitors)
    our (differentiation)
  3. product box – what would it look like, what are the features and the related benefits – a list the benefits; b) create a slogan; c) draw your creation
  4. create a not list – focus on what we are not going to resolve – in, unresolved and out of scope
  5. meet your neighbours – your project community is always bigger than you think ,core team -> people to start building relationships with -> then everyone else, stakeholder map
  6. show the solution – pick your architecture when you pick your team, be aware that people bring baggage, knock together a high level architectural diagram, show the challenges to the sponsors (eg. no test instances), also show the out of scope and unresolved architecture, understand gaps of licensing, etc…
  7. what keeps you up at night – risks worth taking and those that aren’t
  8. size it up – we don’t know how big – estimate in month-ers, go through the master story list, it’s a guess, not a commitment, think small, no project should take longer than 6 months
  9. be clear on what’s going to give – the secret of agile is that it does the same thing you do when you have too much to do and not enough time, dropping agile is just dropping cost (“or just sending the problem downstream to another manager” as per someone from the audience), the furious four, agile likes to bend on scope, use trade-off sliders, if they don’t want to make a decision you need to remind them that at some stage someone will make a decision, do other important stuff on a separate slider
  10. what’s it going to take – be clear on your team (who do you need, what skills, make sure you have your stakeholders on there as well to be clear on commitments), clarify who is calling the shots (especially when you have multiple stakeholders) and who will make the final decisions from a customer stakeholder point of view (who is the person with the goal), come up with a rough back of the napkin budget
  • should be 10 slides in PowerPoint or keynote – clarity, creative, drives conversation, easy to participate

Here is the deck that the table I was working with created:

From Agile 2012

A blank deck and summary is also available. Jonathan also posted some notes and pictures of the session.

Jonathan also made some time to speak to me briefly on the podcast below.


Finally, I recorded a short audio podcast for The Agile Revolution wrapping up Day 1 of the conference, including a short interview with Jonathan Rasmusson.


2 thoughts on “Agile 2012 Day 1 Review

  1. Pingback: User Experience at Agile 2012 - Day 1 - Quietstars | Quietstars

  2. Pingback: Episode 40: Agile 2012 Day 1 plus The Agile Samurai | The Agile Revolution

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