My experience at #AgileIndia2012 – Day 2

by Sampath Prahalad

I have been attending the 3 day Agile India 2012 conference. Here is a brief write up of my experiences of Day 2 and is a sequel to ‘My experiences on Day 1‘.

Handpicking from the many lectures that were going on, here are the ones that I attended.

  • Agile: Not the easy way out, but it works by Rebecca Parsons, the CTO of ThoughtWorks.
  • Distributed Agile: Making it work by William Rowden of Solutions IQ
  • The continuing adventures of Yahoo’s Agile transformation by Keith Nottonson of Yahoo.
  • A Retrospective of Retrospectives. A discussion facilitated by Chirag Doshi of ThoughtWorks.
  • Workplay: The gamified future of Agile development by Matthew Philip

Below, I shall list few main points that I walked out with from each session. A couple might lead to separate blogs, but I will save that for later.

Feel free to scroll down to the one that appeals to you the most.

Agile: Not the easy way out, but it works by Rebecca Parsons, the CTO of ThoughtWorks.

My Takeaways:

  • Agile is all about feedback and continuous improvement
  • The Agile principles give rise to the practices.
  • Agile practices of Software Development are Disciplined, Sustainable (No heroics needed), Grounded in Reality and Effective.

Distributed Agile: Making it work by William Rowden of Solutions IQ

My Takeaways:

Issues: Communication and collaboration, Low Information flow, Lack of trust, Time zone issues.

Some possible solutions

    • Initial and regular co-location: Get the team together first before they start working from separate locations. Also,  get them together once a year, maybe for a week.
    • Rotating Guru: Key architect / developer / test engineer traveling to the other location once or twice a year for a brief period. More face to face time.
    • Extended ambassador: A key person relocating to the other location for a year or two. Calls for some personal sacrifices but this works great.
    • A standard meeting time: The distributed team sets aside 30 mins to 1 hour each day for each other, and preferably uses Video conferencing for that meeting. No other local meetings at that time.
    • Use Always On group communication tools for questions and queries.

Lessons learnt from Yahoo’s Agile Transformation by Keith Nottonson of Yahoo

My Takeaways:

  • Implement solid engineering practices like coding standards, code reviews & automation.
  • Scrum is no silver bullet. Take the good practices of Scrum, XP, Lean and create your flavor. Don’t hesitate to ‘Inspect and Adapt’
  • Privacy is important: Be choosy about what you display on Information Radiators.
  • Coach deep, not broad. Get into the flesh of the issue and come up with solutions
  • Seek expert help. Build a culture where individuals are encouraged, not ridiculed for seeking help.

A Retrospective of Retrospectives by Chirag Doshi of ThoughtWorks

My Takeaways:

  • Always have a moderator who is a strong neutral facilitator.
  • Set ground rules. The intent is to improve the process and not to penalize anyone.
  • A good retrospective allows everyone to reflect openly, allows for anonymous feedback, recognizes the team’s achievements and comes up with few assigned and feasible action items. It energizes and does not tire people out.
  • A bad retrospective is dominated by a few individuals, has allegations flying, is noisy, goes on for hours and has no owners for action items. People end up de-motivated and tired.

There is a lot more on Retrospectives which I will save for a separate blog.

Workplay: The gamified future of Agile development by Matthew Philip

  • The average computer gamer is 35 years old. Games are popular with people of all ages.
  • Allow group games on the intranet preferably within a single team. These are great equalizers where people break open their barriers and jell as a team.
  • Games like Age of Empires simulate thinking and foster problem solving. No harm in having a set time and duration kept aside each day for team games.
  • These need not be computer games all the time. Could be ping pong, billiards or carrom as well.
  • No one size fits all. Some might choose to stay away. Find out what interests them and think of ways to get them involved.
  • Caution: This is a double edged sword and could cause tensions and dropped productivity if not handled properly.
  • Disclaimer: Not restricted to Agile development teams.

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