Agile: it’s not just about the development team

Last week Andy Longshaw and I ran our “Agile: It’s not just about the development team”¬†workshop¬†again, this time at XP2016. You can read Andy’s report, and see the posters created by the participants, here. This time we had 90 minutes, which felt a lot less rushed than the 60 minutes we had at AgileManchester last year (read Andy’s report of that run here).

Workshop in progress

Workshop in progress

We have run this workshop four times now, twice at conferences and twice as in-house training. Each time generates great discussion around how the non-software parts of the business need to change their strategies in order to support, cope with and capitalise on a highly agile development team.

links for my agilenorth 2010 session

At AgileNorth last week I was asked at the last minute to fill a vacancy left by a speaker who couldn’t make it. I cobbled together a session about “flow”, one of the underlying principles of Lean Thinking, and therefore also of agile software development. Here are a few links to materials and references I should have given at the time:

  • My slides are now up on slideshare. Sorry, there are no notes.
  • I talked a lot about The Goal by Eli Goldratt; this book is pure genius, and a must-read for anyone interested in improving the productivity of their organisation.
  • We discussed the idea that the flow of value through an organisation is limited by exactly one constraint. A wonderfully simple illustration of this can be found in Kevin Fox’s short Blue Light story. Well worth a read.
  • I talked a lot about Kent Beck’s paper Continuous Deployment Immersion, which I mistakenly titled “You’d Have to be Crazy to Try This”. I think this is a really cool idea — not because you need to deploy each line of code separately, but because you need to be good at deploying and good at slicing your market offering thinly.
  • I mentioned various practices of eXtreme Programming, including YAGNI, OnsiteCustomer, FrequentReleases and ContinuousIntegration; all of these are needed as you attempt to increase the flow of value by reducing your development batch size.
  • I mentioned MMFs — “Minimum Marketable Feature-sets” — as being one way to work with the market to define your smaller batches.
  • I mentioned that one of the key difficulties in reducing the software batch size is the acceptance and understanding of emergent design.

I talked about a lot of stuff; please let me know if I’ve missed anything important here.

I’ve also set up an agilenorth2010 tag on to collate the online materials from all the other speakers, as I find them. Please tag anything you find that’s relevant from the day, so it’s all in one place.

“from chaos to kanban” now online

I recently co-authored a paper with the developers at Codeweavers Ltd in which we describe their two-year journey from complete chaos to a highly evolved kanban-style software process. The paper has been accepted for XP2010, and you can now get the PDF from the Codeweavers developer blog. Well worth a read, because it shows in detail the team’s gradual transition using simple inspect-adapt steps. (Paul and Craig also presented the paper at AgileNorth2010 and received a lot of interest and positive feedback.)

the naked agilists’ preview of Agile2008

The latest edition of the Naked Agilists virtual magazine is a little different this time around — it’s a preview of this year’s Agile2008 conference. Adrian Mowat has done a fantastic job interviewing various members of the conference’s organising committee, and has put together a series of podcasts previewing what you can see on some of the many “stages” there. (Thanks also to Clarke Ching for kindly hosting the podcasts — again!)

(Sorry this is very late. I know the conference has now started, but I’ve been away on vacation with no internet access.)

Naked Agilists podcast now available

Clarke Ching has now published the podcast of last Saturday’s Naked Agilists conference. You can download it by following the links from, or get it directly from Clarke’s blog. It’s a great 90 minutes of presentations and discussions, and the Naked Agilists website has links to the slides so you can follow the presentations along with the speakers.

We had five 10-minute presentations:

  1. Servant Leaders — Nancy van Schooenderwoert
  2. — Laurent Bossavit
  3. Fit4Data — Adrian Mowat
  4. Shared data for unit tests — Paul Wilson
  5. Let them Eat Cake — Brian Marick

And after each little session we had 5-minutes of discussion and Q&A. Also taking part in these discussions were Clarke, who chaired the whole thing expertly, me, and Willem van den Ende, who helped put the show together (as did Brian Marick).

Join the Naked Agilists mailing list to find out when the next event will be — and help us find an inexpensive technology that will make it live and interactive!

tonight’s naked agilists will be a podcast

Since our last great adventure in April 2007 it seems that Skypecasts have gone down the toilet somewhat. In fact, during our tests for tonight’s conference we never successfully managed to get more than one person in the Skypecast! So while we look around for decent technology for next time, tonight’s event will instead be a closed call, to be recorded and podcasted later.

We have a great line-up of speakers doing 5- or 10-minutes slots: You can see the programme at, and that’s also where we’ll post the podcast after the event.

Our deepest apologies if you were hoping to attend “in person”, but that’s just impossible this time around. (If you can help us find reliable technology and a reasonable price, please join the discussion on our mailing list.)

return of the naked agilists!

Do you wish you could attend the Agile conferences and XP days, but can’t get the funding or the travel budget or the time off work? Well there is one agile event that you can even attend from your own bath — the Naked Agilists!

Last year’s event was so successful that we’re running another. And you only need Skype to be able to attend. Save the date now:

Date: Saturday 19-Jan-08
Time: 20:00 GMT – 21:30 GMT
Venue: Your place, or mine

The event format is a Skype conference, supported by chat, and a website hosting slides and stuff. There’s also a mailing list where you can find more details of what happened last time, and loads of feedback on the event itself.

The event will be chaired by Leigh Mullin, who did such a great job last time — particularly to keep out the inevitable “tourists” who were hoping the “naked agilists” all had webcams! Please join the mailing list and propose a session. This time around we’re hoping to run with two different kinds of session:

Experience Reports
Lasting 2, 5 or 10 minutes. Think of these as mini blog posts — your chance to share a quick idea or observation with the rest of us. Last time, most presenters prepared a few slides to support their session, and most were also followed by a few minutes of Q&A, discussion and Skype chat.
Open Questions
You’ll get 1 minute to ask the group a question, and then there will be 10 minutes of discussion. This is your chance to tap into the experience and expertise of the assembled agile experts.

If you would like to present or table a question, please join the mailing list and post your suggestion there. We’ll put the programme together early in the New Year, so please get your
entries in early. Detailed intructions for participating in the call itself will only be posted on the mailing list, so even if you simply want to be in the “audience”, join the list now to avoid disappointment.

first agile skypecast a great success

The first joint AgileScotland / AgileNorth mini-conference via skypecast happened last night (April 16th) and was a great success! We had 12-15 attendees for the whole two hours, and we were entertained by seven short and very varied sessions, four of which were supported by “slides” via HTML.

Aspects I liked:

  • Some sessions provided visuals by means of HTML “slides” hosted by Paul Wilson; this was a good format, easily accessible to all, and helped to overcome the lack of other visual cues.
  • The presenters put their photo on their first slide, which really helped me visualise who was speaking.
  • Having a number of very short sessions made for a lively and varied evening.
  • Leigh Mullin did a great job of chairing the evening’s activities, and sent encouraging chat messages to the presenters during our sessions.
  • Everyone put themselves on mute during the presentations; the levels of discipline and courtesy were extremely high.
  • During and after each session the group sent questions over Skype chat to the speaker, which the speaker could field as he wished; I kept mine in a queue and answered them at the end, but others did differently, and both approaches worked well.
  • Charles Weir opened his session up as a discussion, and that worked surprisingly well too.

Some areas in which we might learn from the experience:

  • Some speakers (me in particular) took a lot longer than their advertised time; next time it might be worth trying fixed-size 5-minute slots, plus 5-minutes for discussion, and rigorously enforcing that timetable.
  • Two hours is a long time, particularly when one has no non-verbal feedback; perhaps 90 minutes would be long enough.
  • It was hard to follow those speakers who hadn’t provided visuals; we should probably make them mandatory.
  • During the planning stages we had floated the idea of holding open some kind of chat room, but in the end we relied solely on one-to-one chat messages; in future it might be beneficial to enable all attendees to see the questions being asked.

(You can read other attendees’ comments on our mailing list – NakedAgilists)

Overall this was a very enjoyable evening, and I’m very much looking forward to our next one. Hats off to Clarke, Adrian, Paul and Leigh for brilliant organisation.

agilenorth / agilescotland skypecast tomorrow

Tomorrow night sees the very first joint AgileScotland / AgileNorth mini-conference via skypecast! We have almost a dozen short 2-10 minute presentations in a packed 90-minutes – including my retelling of a testing dilemma and developing a sense of urgency from this blog. See the NakedAgilists Yahoo group for joining instructions.

thinking at SPA2006

This year my stay at SPA2006 is limited to only one and a half days. Nonetheless I plan to attend some interesting sessions, and in the next few posts I’ll describe my impressions of them. The first of these was Thinking for a Change:

In this 3-hour workshop Pascal van Cauwenberghe and Marc Evers led us through the construction of two of the five Theory of Constraints Thinking Tools. We divided into groups, such that each table comprised one “customer” – someone who had a problem to be solved – and a number of “consultants”. The objective was for each group to build a Current Reality Tree for their customer’s problem, and then to build a Future Reality Tree for a possible solution. The problem on our table was set by Emmanuel Gaillot, who wanted to understand some specific behaviour of the managers in an organisation he had worked with.

Now, I had already read the book Thinking for a Change, and frankly found it quite disorganised. Pascal and Marc had also found the same, so for this workshop they had picked through the book and defined a step-by-step process for building CRTs and FRTs. They took us through this process just-in-time, at each stage showing us the next step using their worked example, and then giving us 5 minutes to perform the step on our own problem. This made for an absorbing three hours, in which we actually got to try the whole process from end to end on a real-life situation.

Unfortunately our group got a little bogged down at various times, mostly due to our particular problem being way too large to solve in a dozen 5-minute chunks. Nevertheless we had fun, and we gained practical experience of building a CRT and a FRT.