Two days of lightning talks and open space. A great concept inspired by the “Smidig” conference in Norway. On Monday the 8th and Tuesday the 9th, the second annual Agila Sverige conference was held in Stockholm, and I was of course there.
The conference is held during two days, and each day starts with three blocks of 10 minutes long lightning talks. Each block contains several lightning talks and is run in two separate tracks, leaving you with about 30 different talks to choose from per day. Since each talk usually is packed with information, you are quite worn out after half a day. During the afternoon there are no lightning talks, but instead the participants are invited to create there own content for a big open space. Open space is run in three blocks on Monday and two blocks on Tuesday, leaving the last block on Tuesday for a big conference retrospective.
What did i learn?
There where of course a lot of stuff during the conference that I found great, but a lot of the talks did not put anything new on the table. Mattias Persson of Telia Sonera held a talk where he reminded us all that the user is often forgotten in agile methods, something that has been a subject for numerous workshops and tutorials at conferences in the past. However, he ended his talk with a picture of a super hero character called the “Agile User” and stated that it is in fact the user that needs to be agile, and unfortunately the user will in time be enough agile to switch to another product that will give him or her a better user experience. I think Mattias is right. Great way of putting it!
I have heard at several occasions at different clients that “the problem is never the people, but the process”. I am however not so sure that’s the case. I believe that hiring highly competent people for the job is the key. On two different occasions at the conference, once during an open space with Marcus Ahnve of Thoughtworks and once during a talk held by our very own Joakim Ohlrogge of Agical, I heard stated that if you want to make sure that you get to hire competent programmers, don’t use Java or C#, but some obscure language like Erlang or Prolog. Why? Well first of all there are so many really lousy programmers out there, and since half of them know C# and half of them know Java, you are bound to get a few of these applying for a job at your project. There are however not that many Erlang programmers, and the ones that have spent time learning Erlang are usually quite good and/or motivated. Most of them probably know Java and C# as well. This is a very interesting hypothesis. Wonder if it works. I believe you will get your hands on some great programmers this way, but I wonder if these people are the best agile developers?
Erik Lundh held an interesting talk called “Why going Scrum is not (good) enough”, and I attended an open space on the same theme. It was called “F”k Scrum” and was organized by Christian B Hauknes one of the few Norweigans on the conference. He stated that in his experience Scrum has done more harm than good to the agile community. This is because it is so easy to implement, that companies have implemented scrum without actually implementing the real agile values behind it, and since they already have implemented scrum, the managers are not interested in going even more agile. They don’t need to, since they can already tell their customers they are using scrum! This is an interesting point, but as the open space found, it is hard to find the real problem behind this. Is it scrum, or the scrum master certificates, or something else? Would these companies be more open to agile adoption if scrum would not exist? The discussion got very interesting when Henrik Kniberg, author of Scrum and XP from the Trenches showed up. Having certified over 1000 scrum masters himself, Henrik aggread that the title Scrum Master is a problem since it sends a signal that you are done when you are certified. He suggested the title Scrum Beginner instead. But noone would pay the same amount for the title of Scrum Beginner right? That would be bad for business!
Anyway, I am already looking forward to next years conference. This year the conference had 170 participants (last year about 140). Maybe next year it will be even bigger and hopefully some more PM’s and PO’s will be attending…