The premier agile conference in the State of Ohio; that is a powerful statement! It doesn’t hurt that Ken Schwaber, one of the original signers of the Agile Manifesto has a home and business in Columbus, Ohio, the city that is hosting the conference. Now, for the commercial: The Path to Agility conference was developed to further COHAA’s mission to inspire creativity and innovation in the delivery of value. COHAA has engaged national and regional Agile thought leaders to provide session content focused on a mix of business, technical, and/or management topics. Whether you are well along the path or just starting out, this conference will help guide you in the right direction. My synopsis of some of the speakers is below.
One of the keynote addresses was provided by April Wensel, a veteran software engineer and technical leader whose varied career spans such fields as education (Zoodles), research (User Testing, Carnegie Institution at Stanford), healthcare (Cognoa), and entertainment (Sony, Playdom). She has also mentored and led workshops with diversity-focused organizations like Hackbright Academy and Black Girls Code. She spoke about compassionate coding; that software projects are failing, not because of technical reasons but due to people reasons. She spoke about awakening compassion at your workspaces, know your key values, and remember the 3 steps: slow down, empathize, and remove suffering while you do your IT jobs. In short, understand the ‘Why’ in ‘What’ you do and make sure it aligns with your personal values.
The next speaker was Allen Bennett, scrum coach with Tata Consultancy. He spoke about the 6 views of the agile manager, which are: empower teams, energize people, align constraints, develop competence, grow everything, and improve competence. He also discussed the 7 levels of delegation: tell, sell, consult, agree: make decision with the team, advise: influence the decision, inquire: ask for feedback, and delegate: let the team work it out. His emphasis was on the responsibility of the agile manger as it relates to overall agile team development. The agile manager must learn to trust, empower, and delegate responsibility to the team so the team can grow beyond its limits.
A former colleague of mine, Dan Rice, discussed agile and continuous delivery. What I liked about his presentation was one, it wasn’t a sales pitch; and two, it was framed very clearly on what continuous delivery is, why a holistic and principled approach is needed to ensure that the organization or department is going in the right direction with their software development and deployments. He gave a story about how at Rally Dev: a customer raised a defect; that defect was replicated as an incident in the development tool the Rally developers were using; a scum team with available capacity, picked up the defect, validated it, and pulled it into the sprint backlog; remediated the defect and checked it in to a code repository; automated unit test scripts were ran against it and passed; once passed, the code was automatically checked into the test environment where automated test scripts were ran against it and passed; then the code was automatically checked into the staging environment where automated test scripts were ran against it with dependent services and APIs; it passed. The fixed code was deployed to production where automated production test scripts were ran against it; passed, and the ‘bad’ code was removed from the production environment, replaced with the ‘good’ code. This occurred in 45 minutes…WOW! That’s what I want my continuous environment to resemble when it grows up. One major constraint with agile software development teams is the missing continuous deployment architecture component that can take advantage of the quick remediation turnaround performed by the agile team. Until that is resolved, companies will continue to have agile-fall frameworks.
My dear friend and colleague at Cohesion, IT Consulting, Sam O’Brien, discussed taking your team to new heights using agile. At its heart, she discussed trusting and respecting the team to perform in ways that they never could have imagined. Be a leader and not a manager. Listen with your eyes, not just with your ears. The agile team needs to embrace the concept of successful failure and encourage new ideas and creative thinking. Her talk focused on whole team development that both the product owner, scrum master, and agile project manager should be aware of when they collaborate with the entire agile team to achieve successful and predictable delivery.
An agile coach and even a scrum master should always guide the team using the agile manifesto as a guide while also understanding, clearly, the environment you and the team are residing in. Scrum software development, or project management, is not structured to be ‘by-the-book’. By its very nature, Scrum is a constant journey of inspection and adaptation. But there comes a time when it’s a good idea for an Agile team (mature or not) to take a step back to review and relearn the foundation principles and practices of Scrum. In other words, have a team “reset” (Nennessy, 2012). A good coach understands presence, be in the moment with the individual, team, or client. Coach the individual, not the problem. If you coach the person they will solve their own problem. Mentoring is coaching the individual but also offering advice, providing resources , telling stories about one’s experience, teaching of models, (selecting from options) (Adkins, 2015).
I hope this provides you with insight into my experiences at the conference. Your comments are welcomed.