Agile in the City, Bristol 2016 – The First of Many

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This was the inaugural Agile in the City Bristol conference, and at less than an hour’s commute from home it felt a lot like a holiday!

What Was Great?

I deeply loved both key notes by Katherine Kirk and Portia Tung.  I’d not heard Portia speak before, and it was a welcome opportunity for me.  I wasn’t disappointed by either keynote.

photo-03-11-2016-10-21-21Katherine spoke about the ‘Dark Triad’.  An idea where skills of influence and persuasion might be used to manipulate, rather than enable someone.  As ever from Katherine, a very thought-provoking piece from somewhat left-field.  Just the kind of thing I love!

Portia spoke about the importance of play in our everyday lives.  She certainly persuaded me to think more carefully about where I could introduce a little more fun.

Science suggests that little and often, rather than batched big chunks is best.  Does that remind you of anything else that works that way too?

 

Who Else Did I See Speak?

I loved Jenny & Pete’s session on death by user stories.  They chose an unusual format of half workshop half talk.  I thought it worked very well.

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I also got to completely geek out at John’s talk on anchoring and biases, which was a happy surprise for me.

The biggest disappointment of the day was that Emily’s session on retros and standups was so packed that I couldn’t even attend!  Reports from those who did tell me it was great.  As ever though, everything is a learning opportunity.  In this case, I learned to get there early for each session for the rest of the conference!

The 2 guys from Auto Trader had a great talk too.   They talked about how they were using A3 thinking as a planning and evaluation tool at Auto Trader. This isn’t how they described it, to be fair, but I especially liked their approach.

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They happily admitted at the outset that this is still a work in progress for them, and they are a long way from ‘done’.  This was pleasing to me as I find it can be hard to relate to a new tool or idea that someone else presents as fully finished.  I find the struggles people overcome whilst implementing something new just as important as what they learned in the end.

Special mention to the charming David Evans too, whose talk immediately followed mine, and who kindly assisted with my minor tech hiccup.

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My Favourite Bits

As ever with agile conferences, there were delicious side conversations around the conference itself.  I had a fab dinner with the clever and passionate Emily Webber before the conference. Emily explained very patiently why the word ‘guys’ is a poor way to address a group of people.  I had always thought of it as gender-neutral, but after talking with Emily, I can’t see it that way at all now.  High time for me to change that language habit!

I was particularly enamoured with the social event in the evening between the 2 days.  Jackie persuaded the lovely gentlemen from the “Chance & Counters” Board Game cafe in Bristol to join us.  They brought some of their (vast) stock of table top games to the pub and facilitated some games.

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This meant I had the pleasure of playing several board games with people I hadn’t even met at the conference.  We were united behind a common purpose:  a pint of beer, a slice of pizza and the rules of a board game.  This is a really fun way to spend an evening taking the first step turning strangers into friends.

Did Everything Really Go Perfectly?

There were inevitably challenges during the event – there always are. For example, one of the rooms in particular could have doubled as a sauna at times, but mostly these were minor.  As ever though, it is not the presence of challenges, but the way they are handled that shows the organisers mettle.

photo-04-11-2016-12-29-36-1The venue hosts saw the live retro time line Emily had put up and started regularly checking the feedback posted on it.

They responded to all the feedback that they could, as soon as they could.  For example, a note asking for soya milk at the first break meant it was there at the next break.  Several people commented to me how great it was that the venue found and understood the purpose of the retro board.  It was a nice reminder for why we use these tools everyday: because they work & are intuitive to use.

John Clapham and Aino Corry did a great job of comparing.   Everything about the event felt relaxed and fluid, yet I know from experience how much work goes on just to give that impression.

This was a great job guys:  a balanced collection of talks and some lovely social opportunities.

I am already looking forward to next year 🙂

Helen.

P.S.  A few other people have written up their opinions of Agile In The City Bristol, so try these too:

Lizzie Darville: 10 great things: Agile in the City Bristol

Scott Fulton: Highlights from being with agile enthusiasts for 2 days

Emily Webber:  The Realtime Retrospective

There are plenty more on the Agile In The City Bristol Twitter timeline too.

 

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