Agile Day Twin Cities 2012

Last Friday, I attended the Agile Day Twin Cities conference. The conference was centered around building a discussion about agile software practices and the main theme this year was learning.

I want to share some of the most interesting and thought provoking statements that I heard from the day. Each of these could probably be an entire post on their own, but I think that these anecdotes and insights really give a picture of the discussion at Agile Day and the focus on questioning the status quo.

The first speaker was David Hussman, who did a great job at getting everyone to question why they are doing things. Here are some of my favorite quotes from his presentations:

“Ask why. Why are you changing the process? Could you be doing something more valuable?”
“Minimize output, Maximize impact”
“Transition from thinking about how big something is to thinking if something is too big.”
“One sign of a maturing agile team is that they stop talking about the code and they start talking about the tests that they need”

Stemming from David’s talk, there was a lot of discussion on why we work in iterations and what life would be like if we moved beyond iterations.

“Why does it matter if you don’t get done what you committed to in the sprint?”

Another session that I attended was focused on pair-programming practices. During that session the speaker made a really good point about testing:

“What is the next test that you should write? The test that tells you the most about the system.”

This point really hit home for me. I have been trying to transition to using more Test Driven Development (TDD) practices, and I think this could really help guide me in choosing the next test to write.

Throughout the day, I heard a lot of controversial statements about process and tools such as:

“JIRA is where stories go to die”, and “Project Management is a symptom, not a solution”

There was a lot of support at the conference for sticky-note driven workflow, and a lot of backlash against project management tools. I think that was one of the things that I most disagreed with. I have really seen a huge benefit when using a tracking tool to share info about stories among a large team.

The last quote that I found really interesting was from one of the open-space sessions. The speakers described a really great technique that runs counter to a lot of teaching for gathering requirements (e.g. 5 whys):

People do not respond well to being asked, “Why?”. Instead, ask “If that happened, then what?” or “Pretend you had that, then what would you do?”

Overall, I thought the conference was really good, and I appreciated the focus on continuous improvement throughout the agile process.