I had the opportunity to attend and present at TriAgile 2016. It was my third time attending and my second time presenting.

Details of my presentation are here.

As always it was great to be among so many thought-provoking speakers and engaged attendees. I think there were around 650 attendees, which was a new record for the conference.

One of the things I love about this conference (and Southern Fried Agile) is the affordability. Advance tickets are around $100 which makes it easy to self-fund your way to the conference. Or if your company is paying, they can send a lot of people for very little money. These conferences provide an exceptional cost-to-value ratio.

Here are my highlights…

Keynote: Jurgen Appelo

Jurgen Appelo gave a great keynote using material from his newly released book Managing for Happiness.

Key takeaways:

  • He used to think of developers as “computers on legs, with hair”
  • Work for mental closeness on your teams, not necessarily physical closeness (distributed teams are not an excuse to fail)
  • Personal mind maps to bring teams together
  • Delegation boards as a way to be more explicit about what teams can/should decide for themselves and what should involve a manager. Basically enables self-organization in a structured way.
  • Acknowledging the good and thanking people. Very similar to what I covered in “Find the Bright Spots” (h/t to Switch) in my presentation this year.
  • “The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.” - Gruenert and Whitaker
    • He prefers to flip it around and have the leader amplifying the best behaviors
  • Merit Money, an alternative way to handle bonuses. Not much detail on the page but the summary is this:
    • At the beginning of each month, each employee gets 100 points
    • They can thank coworkers by giving them some of their own points
    • Leadership sets aside a pool of merit money per month
    • At the end of the month someone rolls a die and if it comes up as a 6, the team gets a merit bonus for that month, divided among the team proportional to the number of points they have
    • If a 6 isn’t rolled, the money rolls over to the next month, so the pot grows
    • What I like about this:
      • It encourages fair generosity because the only way to enrich/reward someone else is to take it out of your own pot
      • It is unpredictable, making it more interesting and making the team less able to plan for the bonus which in turn helps it feel like “extra”
  • Don’t celebrate failure. Celebrate success and celebrate learning. Failure without learning is no cause for celebration, but learning from failure is.
    • I think the celebration grid might be a great tool to use in a retrospective for a team

“Why Agile is Failing” - Rob Annis

Key takeaways:

  • When you look at the stages of the product life cycle (Introduction, Growth, Maturity, Decline) where is agile today? Where is waterfall?
  • We can use agile to improve agile
  • In the middle of the presentation, Rob created a new variation on the Agile Manifesto:
    - _**Being Agile**_ over doing Agile
    - _**Coaching and mentoring**_ over lecturing and teaching
    - _**Demonstratable product**_ over advertisement
    - _**Inclusion**_ over exclusion
    
  • Looking at the manifesto again had me thinking about using the manifesto itself in a retrospective (to ask, what did we do this sprint/release to focus on customer collaboration?, etc.)
  • We are “agile custodians”
  • The presentation had me asking “what is my personal backlog for improving the state of agile?”

“Product Owners Need Love Too” - Arjay Hinek

Key takeaways:

  • Addressed the belief that “more people will make us faster” using the analogy of a team making peanut butter sandwiches
    • We believe that every person on the team can make the whole sandwich
    • What if one person can only do peanut butter and the other can only do jelly?
    • What if we also make the peanut butter and the jelly, what complexity does that add?
  • Introduced us all to Roman Pichler’s blog about POs. He highly recommended we check it out.
  • Strongly advocated for small iterations
    • This had me thinking: which is easier, the first release or the second? Clearly the second is easier, so what we should be doing is trying to get to the second release as quickly as possible (by doing the first release sooner).

“Self-Organize and Take Responsibility” - Christopher Avery

Christopher Avery took us through his Responsibility Process. It was a great introduction to the concepts.

Key takeaways:

  • Blame is hard-wired into us
  • When we justify (blame external circumstances) we aren’t taking responsibility for improving things. We’ll say things like , “That’s just the way it is around here.”
  • Obligation - don’t want to, have to
    • Will do just enough to get the job done and no more
    • My thought: this is compliance, not engagement
  • Shame - “I lack”
    • We’re harder on ourselves than others
    • We have to learn to realize that we don’t have to stay in this phase
  • We need to help others see in a mirror
  • If we let ourselves and those around us stay in these phases, we may get stuck and unable to get out
  • The Responsibility Process only works when self-applied, you can’t (and shouldn’t) try to tell other people what stage they’re in

Closing Keynote - Andy Hunt

Key takeaways:

  • We must choose to inspect and adapt, otherwise we choose to accept and suffer
  • Accidental complexity is killing us (separate from essential complexity which is part of the domain itself)
  • Tells the “5 monkeys” story about “communal reinforcement” and then lets us know that the study itself wasn’t real but the point is valid
  • Indicates that a “closure bias” may drive us to have answers (estimates) even if we know they are wrong. We’d “rather have a known wrong answer than be left hanging”
  • “Don’t get better at estimates, stop relying on fortune telling”
  • “Don’t make software maintainable, make it replaceable” (microservices, etc)
  • He sees “Pest Practices” rather than “Best Practices”

All-in-all, a great conference. Looking forward to next year!