Why this title? You have the full right to ask. Because we did a real retrospective of #ABE14 on workshops “Agile Kaizen - Better retrospectives” by bursting with energy Ángel Medinilla aka Crazy Spaniard. Great workshop as well as the whole conference. It is going to be my personal review of the conference however strongly enriched with conclusions of 25 people participating in the retrospective.
Was it a good conference?
Professionally I produce software for conferences so I have a pleasure to participate in a number of very well-organized conferences, specifically prepared by professional companies. Most of them are prepared by great people with big hearts pampered by program directors.
I'm participating in marketing, technical and startup events. I have to admit that conferences related to the Agile Software Development, and certainly this year's #ABE14 beat other events due to the very good networking atmosphere. I have a feeling that this year in Warsaw I saw more than 300 people who highly respected and liked each other. They came to feel the energy and to share knowledge and experience gained from their projects. Congratulations to the organizers who consciously maintained a casual style and led the conference in the right direction.
Agile By Example 2014 took place in 4 spots in the center of Warsaw. The main part, two-day talks were held at the Cinema Wisla. I think that it is a very good idea to organize conferences in the cinema, because for the full two days we were dipped into "our agile world" and separated from the unnecessary distractions. The speakers gave the presentations in front of a high-quality screen and often they Twitted that it is the biggest screen they've used so far.
I have to add that something not played well with the sound system, especially in the large hall. I have the impression that the speakers were left unattended with technical issues. Although old foxes calmly sorted that out, novice speakers had some trouble with sound.
Networking event took place in Warsaw clubs. In a relaxed atmosphere, there was a chance to talk with the speakers and other participants. It is nice to see and share experiences with different people each year.
Content! What was said and what did we learn from it?
I noticed a very interesting trend among Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters, Product Owners and Developers. Almost all of us are masters in the theory of agile project management. We gained a lot of experience during the last few years, we read so many great books, methodology is going towards maximum simplicity. As a matter of fact we all know what to do.
In spite of this, every time one of the Speakers, especially Key Speakers did a poll from the audience, asking if we honestly practice agile principles in our projects and carry them out with 100% focus on the customer, only a few percent of the people honestly raised their hands.
We all know very well that we have problems in our projects. Every day we meet obstacles that tend us to use shortcuts. Finding an answer to the question 'What to do to stay Agile', to be really agile-minded was the main lesson for me and a few other people who I spoke with. Conference speeches were very inspiring. Sometime they forced us to think about the conditions of our project, our way of management.
Everyone probably has their own favorites. On our retrospective table we agreed that the great speeches were taken by: Mary Poppendieck, Ángel Medinilla, Kate Terlecka, Bob Marshall and Dave Hussman. And we have not seen them all, because of multi track division.
This year the organizers decided to split the conference into tracks. We had Main Track, Product Owner Track and Beginner Track. I heard opinions that this is a good division. I was concerned that Beginner Track would be directed only to beginners. Luckily it did not happen because it was very well led by high-end speakers. Congratulations to Marek Kirejczyk who conducted a lecture introducing the other speakers and Michał Parkoła, Kate Terlecka & Beata Nowakowska, Tomasz Łasica & Mateusz Srebrny, Matt Harasymczuk and Łukasz Szóstek. Probably there were more good lectures but it is impossible to be at 2 spots at the same time.
This path along with Product Owner Track convinced me the conference can proudly bear the name - Agile by Example. Finally we saw some examples.
What should be improved
After each retro we should definitely come out with proposals, ideas of what should be changed and how we would do it. It has been claimed that few lectures were just boring. Of course not because the topic was not interesting. More often it was the lack of ability to interest the audience by the speaker. The organizers decided on the 20 minute speeches, so to make sure we won't think of any "excessive philosophizing".
Due to this situation there was even an idea to allow conference participants to vote on the speakers, that they would like to see on #ABE15.
Some people said, that Speakers were talking about the same things. Personally I think that organizers did a great progress from #ABE13, when it was possibe to find almost 2 the same presentations. This may lead to a conclusion which we discussed during #ABE13 with Wiktor Żołnowski. Is it possible to organize any conference using only Agile methods? I mean all speakers and organizers working on the same goal, to satisfy their participants. Not to repeat the same subjects but to cooperate as one team. I do not have an answer for that question yet...
Extra points for
It is worth to mention that I have not noticed any lecture, which presented the so-called "Sponsors bullsh*t".
Agile by Example was not just lectures. We had the opportunity to:
- "borrow a speaker" for a private question answer session,
- propose our own topic and briskly discuss it with interested conference participants,
- participate in Dojo Day,
- take a drawing lesson
Everything fresh, well wrapped and served in a understandable form.
At the beginning of the second day organizers found some time for Polish Agile Communities. They had a chance to tell the world what they are doing and what are their plans. I heard nothing but good things about these short presentations.
Celebration moment in Retrospective
At the end of every retrospective should appear "Celebration moment". Do not forget about it! It was underlined by Ángel Medinilla on the Agile Kaizen - Better retrospectives workshops. He did it by saying Thank you to his buddy from "Polish Vodka Night"
Thank you for the energy with which I return to my projects. #ABE14 was the perfect place to recharge the batteries so let's go home full of new ideas!