Great Value for Time & Money: Lean Agile Scotland

5 minutes

I fell in love with Lean Agile Scotland on my first visit, and it’s now a must-attend conference for me.  As ever, it was thrilling from day 1, absolutely chock a block with so many of my favourite agile people.

What made Lean Agile Scotland so good?

I adored the inclusivity that was evident last year, and they had built upon these strong foundations.  This year they had somehow managed to do even better than last.  This time at registration, attendees could choose badges to display our preferred pronouns. (he/him, she/her, they/them).  This tiny thing sent such a huge signal about the events culture – as did the number of delegates who chose and wore one of the badges.

Lots of the talks and workshops were specifically designed to challenge our thinking on all sorts of diversity.  From Sallyann Freudenberg‘s keynote on ‘Inclusive Collaboration & Neurodiversity’ to topics such as: ‘Is reading a privilege?’ at one of the informal lean coffee sessions.  Adam Yuret facilitated these at the unearthly hour  of 7.30am, but they were well worth the early start.

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Additionally, the panel interview with Dave Snowden & Simon Wardley (facilitated by Jabe Bloom) was a stroke of genius.  (We joked that it will become like the Nixon/ Kennedy debate:  “Where were you when the Snowden / Wardley interview took place?”)

What made Lean Agile Scotland different?

Talks

In the past I have referred to this conference as being one for ‘grown up agilists’.  As an experienced agile practitioner I struggled to choose between great talks every time.  Whilst this was an exciting dilemma for me, I was aware there was less content for people starting out on their agile journey.

Perhaps the Lean Agile Scotland crew recognised this.  Perhaps it was in the spirit of diversity & inclusivity. Whatever the reason, the wise folks at Lean Agile Scotland have introduced a new ‘Introtrack’.

Now there is genuinely something for everyone, and that’s got to be a great thing.

Introtrack isn’t just a great idea.  The execution was where the genius bit came in. The Introtrack was populated by wide-ranging talks from experienced agile practitioners.  I’d have attended Seb Rose‘s introduction to BDD workshop if it hadn’t clashed so harshly with other excellent options!

15 minute sessions

Gitte spoke for 15 minutes on the Imposter Syndrome - here shown with out her travel) Jedi robe

The other new thing was the introduction of 15 minute talk sessions.  I have mixed feelings about these, and not just as an attendee – my session was one of these too.

On one hand, I love the opportunity it gives for new speakers.  To be able to contribute to the conference in a marginally less intimidating way may encourage more people to submit in future.

(left) Gitte spoke for 15 minutes on the Imposter Syndrome  (here shown without her (travel) Jedi robe ;)).

It also gave the opportunity for small talks to focus on specific topics or offer tasters of more complex ideas (like mine).   I thoroughly enjoyed quite a few of these 15 minute talks, however….I did miss some talks too.  And that’s one of the big down sides I noticed to hosting 15 minute talks.

So, not everyone runs to time.  If this happens, or if tech issues etc delay the start of a talk, it is easy to slip out of sync by a whole talk slot.  This has a knock on effect so that you can miss another talk happening in a different track because they no longer line up time-wise.  This happened to me a couple of times.

It is only fair to mention this did have the serendipitous effect that I caught talks which were excellent, but that I hadn’t planned on attending.  It’s very hard to complain about that with a clear conscience! 😀

Who did I see speak?

I saw all the keynote speakers.  Every one of them was great, and a varied selection of topics.  If you can, watching the keynotes are a great investment of your time.

I shan’t list everyone I saw talk, but if you only have a short amount of time, these are my top 3 videos not to miss. (It also doesn’t matter where you are on your agile journey when you watch them – they are good regardless.)

Unfortunately for you (but great for me) was the number of workshops that were available.  These weren’t recorded I don’t think, which is another great reason to attend next year.

Tim Ottinger's workshop: Software is...PEOPLE was particularly good

Tim Ottinger‘s workshop: Software is…PEOPLE was particularly good

Everybody was talking about….

The big talking point was the 30 people who got to build prosthetic hands for land mine victims.  They did this in teams of 3 people, in total silence.  I will leave details about ‘The Silence Experiment’, run by Sal Freudenberg and Katherine Kirk, for someone who was actually there to write about. (I’ll insert a link as soon as I find one).

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Sal (just about in shot above) showing off the first verion of her book.  Katherine relentlessly nudged her to write “The Inclusive Collaboration Experiments” which you can find on leanpub for free.

I wasn’t one of the lucky lottery winners (yep, thats how you got a seat for that workshop).  However, I did get a chance to talk with Katherine over dinner & watch some video she had taken.  It was so cool – I’m such a geek!

What did I learn?

So many things.

There is one thing I have come to realise in the last few days since I came home. It is the spaces between the talks where magic happens. Between all these wonderful workshops and talks, I chatted to attendees, sponsors and speakers indiscriminately.  We talked about the challenges of hiring great scrum masters.  We shared good resources for learning when you are a new scrum master (yes, I did suggest they look here :).   I caught up with people I see often, and people I haven’t seen in person for nearly a decade.

Adam Yuret facilitated lean coffee at dawn for whoever wanted to show up.  Those conversations were some of the most interesting and informative of the conference.

Chris Corriere teaches Wardley Mapping
Chris Corriere teaches Wardley Mapping

On Thursday I discovered Wardley maps – I had never come across them before.  I am grateful to Chris Corriere for kindly doing an imptomptu demo for myself and Vicki, a brand new agile practitioner.

photo-05-10-2016-16-26-08My point, (which may have got lost in my enthusiasm here), is that we also taught and learned in small pockets and in tiny ways.

This is quite separate from the huge amount of knowledge and learning that the conference itself gave us.

Just having this many people with varied experiences & specialties, together in one place, and happy to share, was the magic bit.

Roisi Proven summed this up in what is probably the best quote of the entire conference for me:

Poking a kitten

Roisi Proven summed up the LASCOT16 community perfectly, thanks to @drunkcod for capturing it on twitter

What had I expected?

I’ll be honest, I expected A LOT from Lean Agile Scotland.  It’s 5 days out of my life (including travelling).  You need to approach it with something of an endurance-race mindset.  Chris, Lucy and Marc (not forgetting the wonderful support team, who were amazing) raised the bar yet again, and a very long way up it went too!

That’s the thing about continuous improvement; you know you will improve, you just don’t know how yet.  I look forward to next year, to see how exactly they make that happen.  I know they will.

I am so hopeful that Marc was serious when he invited me back to speak again for next year.  I can’t thank them enough with words alone.  I want to contribute to the magic 🙂

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