Agile Australia 2012 Day 1 Review

Agile Australia 2012 was held a few weeks ago at the Hilton on the Park Melbourne in front of a record (and venue busting) 850 attendees. This year I had the privilege of being a plenary session host and speaker, present at two workshop sessions and be an MC at a number of different sessions.

Furthermore, I was a member of the advisory committee with the role of program overview along with the usual duties of reviewing and shepherding conference speakers. This year the review process was open to comments and voting from the community and overall I think we ended up with a good mix of proposals.

With all my duties I was quite busy this year, but here are my notes from day 1.

Keynote: When The Stakes Are High

Dr. Fiona Wood, Plastic Surgeon and Director of the WA Burns Unit, was the keynote speaker and undoubtedly for many people was the highlight of the conference. The advisory committee (and particularly Martin Kearns) had been aiming to get somebody from the medical profession for a couple of years, and her talk was nothing short of inspiring.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • you either engage in the landscape or whine about it
  • we need to enjoy what we do, but it is our passion that drives us
  • when you see what you think is the answer, step back and look for the rest of the jigsaw
  • learn something from everyday, so that tomorrow is better
  • time is precious, understand what is out there rather than reinventing the wheel, start in front of the start line
  • had to look for nozzles to spray skin, ended up using Italian mouth freshener!
  • you need to articulate the vision so that the team will get it, passionate leadership alone won’t bring people along for the journey
  • no better way to manage a disaster than having planned for it first
  • how can we mould our resources to deliver at a better level
  • leadership has to be very flexible
  • respect those people that have changed your life, if you realise it say thank you, you may miss your opportunity in the future
  • nobody does anything in life in isolation, need to communicate well so we can contribute
  • why can’t we celebrate being the best we can be every day
  • criticism is essential, but criticism and walking away is a total waste of time
  • I use energy to find better solutions to the patients I treat rather than waste that energy arguing with somebody
  • we access our thoughts by communicating, facilitating and shaking the tree
  • today is not as good as it gets, that’s what gets me up in the morning
  • it’s not get to the top of the mountain and stick the flag, it’s the journey
  • “who am I not to dream”, dream but anchor it in reality

Keynote: Agile: Looking Back, Looking Forward: Adapt, Innovate, Collaborate & Deliver

Following on from Dr. Fiona Wood was a tough act, but in front of 850 I took the stage with Nigel DaltonDavid Joyce and Simon Bristow to deliver this session. The slides are available in a separate post.

From Agile Australia 2012
From Agile Australia 2012

Mainframe Test Automation Within SCRUM – How Did We At The BNZ Get It To Work?

Bram Surti and Rob White from BNZ delivered this session. Essentially I was interested to see if they did anything different to what I had already tried myself in this space. Sadly, I didn;t learn much new, but I was pleased to see they were using a lot of the same tools and approaches that I had used myself in this space. Their slides are available here.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • needed a Java expert to help with the writing and debugging of tests
  • used Concordion – developers instrument the tests and used JUnit under the covers
  • used Jenkins for continuous integration
  • COBOL is a dinosaur, it is scary and big and hard
  • used stored procedures to inject messages – could be dropped and tested on the mainframe and invoked from any language
  • used Concordion Logging Tooltip Extension to get the debugging output
  • used FreeHost 3270 to drive the green screens, old software that needed some upgrading
  • got buy in from mainframe developers as driving green screens was very useful for upgrades, got exposure to another language
  • took 30% longer to write test than originally thought, but testers said at the end it saved 50% of their time
  • isolating data for the test suite was imperative

What Happened To People Over Process?

I was MC to this session by Sarah Taraporewalla from ThoughtWorks, her slides are available here.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • we don’t spend enough time understanding people
  • as a leader we don’t have all the answers, but we know we can do better
  • Kinder Surprise in relation to people – wrapper is the actions of people, but it is a thin layer, peel off the actions you get to the attitudes that govern what we do, apply a bit of pressure and you get to the values, open up the inner canister and you get to people’s belief system
  • don’t really understand our belief system until you are challenged by somebody else’s – a good example of this is people and their attitudes to attending meetings – you may need to understand what drives people
  • there is a lot of literature around this!
  • transactional analysis – Games People Play (Eric Berne) and I’m OK – You’re OK (Thomas A. Harris) – at any given state we have a mental state of an adult, parent or child
  • child – react to world around you as if you were a child (when I grow up, I wish, I want)
  • parent – react like a parent based on imprints of how our parents reacted (should, ought, could)
  • adult (analytical side – who, what, why, I think)
  • even if you know yourself, you don’t know jack! – people talking on the same plane have harmonious discussions, they break down across the positions (what people know about the world)

Practical Kanban for Software Development

I was MC for this session delivered by Perryn Fowler from ThoughtWorks. I had high hopes for this talk as Kanban is still not well understood in the wder community. It covered a lot of good topics (and, as he stated at the top, the talk was the thoughts of Perryn), but it fell victim to running out of time for the meaty stuff and unfortunately was a little rushed at the end. Furthermore, his slides do not seem to be available either.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • Kanban is not just cards on a wall, even though literally it is a visual indicator
  • Kanban is not an entire methodology, it is a technique
  • Kanban is a tool to tackle particular situations and problems, we often treat these situations as normal, but there is a better type of normal
  • limiting your WIP, the manageable level is probably a lot lower than you think
  • Kanban dots – stick them on your wall to indicate WIP
  • Kanban is about stop starting and start finishing
  • utilisation is not throughput, high utilisation damages throughput
  • Kanban is working as a team
  • business goal burnup – when do we start making revenue – keep your eyes on the prize
  • we are trying to achieve flow – Kanban will make poor flow visible
  • layered teams (multiple technologies) – technical layer stories don’t make sense and teams get out of synch, use task cards for the work and put WIP limit on the cards
  • reduce WIP to learn about your process
  • bugs and rework – it counts towards WIP, can put in the development or test column, whatever you are most comfortable with
  • blocked is nothing we as a team can do anything with – does not count towards the WIP limit
  • people will cheat – the rules aren’t important, it is the principles you want to achieve
  • use a green sticky for done rather than a done swim lane
  • small cards gives us good flow
  • Kanban will feel like it is causing problems, it is just making it visible

Value and Culture OVER Practices and Processes – Driving Agility at Bankwest

I was MC for this session delivered by Sandra Dalli and Sarah McAllister from BankWest. I really enjoyed this session. They kicked off the session with a great video with music and time lapse pictures (unfortunately it does not seem to be available publicly). Most enjoyable was their honesty about their journey and this mistakes they made along the way (they started by spending three months in a cubicle writing a document about Agile!). It also appears that their slides are not available currently.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • apply Agile principles to your transformation
  • you don’t have to be on an Agile project to be Agile – agility can be applied to everything
  • people drive the change
  • executive sponsorship is really important

Failure: A Love Story

I was MC for this session for Tom Sulston from ThoughtWorks. The highlight of this talk was the fail cake! His slides are available here.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • fear can be a motivator, but it is not useful
  • flight or fight – flight is the default response
  • systematic desensitisation – common technique for getting rid of fear
  • we always plan to succeed, so we don’t plan for failure
  • failure is a really great learning tool – if you made the failure you know it, the hard part is sharing with the team
  • taking fear of failure to the brink that you don’t know what to do is really bad
  • retrospectives give you a coping mechanism – share with others and make it better
  • continuous integration – fail early and stop the line
  • automated testing – removes doubt, they fail for a good reason
  • showcases – we find out we are going to fail early
  • sustainable pace – a failure because we still get a crunch at the end of the project, allows us to build slack because you can’t run at 100%
  • it’s about learning not winning
  • continuous delivery – you can go to production at any time, remove the fear of go live
  • aim for simplicity and feedback
  • fail cake – if you break something, you need to buy cake for the team, nobody is afraid of cake, nobody can yell at you with a mouthful of cake!

Safe To Fail

I was thrilled to be MC to Phil Abernathy (he was my MC last year and I have worked alongside him for a number of years). He had a great set of slides at the start of this talk to illustrate his experience. Given I knew the content of this talk quite well I did not take any notes, but I did like his analogy around the $100 strategy (for every $100 spent, where did it go – pull the strategic levers to figure out where you can change, these become your strategic programs). His slides are available here.

From Agile Australia 2012

Other Stuff

At the beginning of the day, IBM sponsored a speakers breakfast, and they recorded an Agile song called “Wake Up To Jazz” (video and audio).

At the same time, Renee Troughton and I took the opportunity to record a conference kickoff podcast for the Agile Revolution.

Some of my colleagues presented talks on day 1 including Dipesh Pala (Easy Ways to Break Up) and Renee Troughton and Paul Watson (Panel: Agile Governance – The New Disinfectant).

The night wrapped up with a student event called Activate Agile. I sat in the back of a number of presentations, with the standout for me being being an overview from Andy Sheats about their journey at