Highlights from 2016 Agile Prague Conference

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On September 12 and 13, I participated in the 2016 Agile Prague conference that MSD IT sponsors every year. Agile Prague, now in its sixth year, is rated as one of the best Agile conferences in Central Europe and many international speakers attend to share their insights and news from the Agile world.

Unlike previous years, the conference this year did not align to any particular theme. It seemed that many attendees were interested in scaling Agile (or Agile at scale, which is a different thing) and many of them were looking for a framework they could just put in place. Having already tried two of the scaling frameworks, LeSS and Nexus, my experience is that frameworks can provide some guiding ideas, but they are not a silver bullet.

Other group of speakers focused on another theme that is currently emerging in the Agile community – organizational change. This is only logical as the introduction of Agile is de-facto a huge organizational change affecting leadership and the way we both organize our companies and work with the people in them. To me, this makes a lot of sense, as Agile is not only about the scrum (substitute for your favorite Agile framework) team level, but also at the levels above it. We need to study our history such as the impact of Frederick Taylor (mentioned in several talks), to truly understand some of the behaviors we face at higher levels and the ability to change them.

The third key takeaway for me was our (lack of) focus on people. This was brilliantly shown by Angel Medinilla during his talk about performance reviews. Yes, they are evil. Why would we imagine people would work as a team if we incentivize them based on their individual achievements?

The conference, judging from the ratings attendees gave to speakers, was a success. In my mind, it also shows that we have two fundamental problems as the Agile community:

  1. As Ron Jeffries brilliantly put it, more and more people are talking about Agile, but only a few get the core of it. From that, my conclusion is that Agile has certainly not reached the mainstream, as at the core, it is still being pioneered by probably Early Adopters. Early Majority currently wants only the illusion of Agile – to have all the benefits, but not to make the necessary deep changes in their ways of working; not truly embracing the Agile mindset.
  1. We are reiterating the same simple ideas over and over again, each time burying them in more and more nice packaging and creating more and more rational arguments why our ways are better than those of the others. Unfortunately, we (humans) are not rational creatures and therefore these good intentions lead nowhere.

 

So, to conclude. I was happy that I was a part of the conference. I was really happy that people liked my short talk. And, I loved meeting some of my friends that I have not seen for a long time and having the chance to exchange ideas and discuss problems with them. I am looking forward to Agile Prague 2017, especially knowing that Linda Rising, who I greatly respect and admire, will be one of the keynote speakers.

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