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Agile Cymru or "To Cardiff and back again"

Agile Cymru or "To Cardiff and back again"

I am finally sat down at my blog screen after 2 days of information overload at Agile Cymru and what an amazing 2 days it was. I managed to catch up with a lot of colleagues from over the last 10 years or so, all of whom are still taking the never ending agile journey. People laughed, cried, played games and, above all learned. This is why the agile journey never ends, because it's all about learning, about being better. It's not about being the best, just a little better than you were the day before and helping those around you to be better too.

Earlier in the year I'd attended another conference and was, frankly, quite disappointed. Agile Cymru was everything that the previous conference was not. It was full of people who really understood the spirit of agile and servant leadership, who really wanted to make people's lives better. We all owe James Scrimshire (@Scrimmers) and his crew a big thank you for organising such a wonderful event.

The Talks

Unfortunately for me, unforeseen circumstances meant that I missed the early morning of the first day so I missed the opening keynote by Kitrina Douglas, but I was told it was superb - I shall be trying to track down videos later.

I got to the Millennium Centre just after lunch in time for Paul Goddard (@PaulKGoddard) from Agilify to start an excellent talk on Telling (User) stories, where he broke down the nature of the concept of Stories from how they are used in software development to the bare bones of story writing techniques using examples for children. This was most enlightening as it became clear what power a story has to convey information and how important it is that story writing doesn't become a formulaic process. The act of constructing the story is what conveys the information that often gets lost in technical writing. This started setting the tone for me on a selection of very open minded and psychological pieces throughout the conference.

I finished off day 1 with a short interesting talk from Leanne Page from MSLGroup. Tasked with organisational transformation on a massive multi-national scale, she talked us through how she used long term observation techniques and Trello to capture staff feedback from different parts of the organisation so that good practices in one part of the organisation could be replicated into sister companies through a slow inspect & adapt cycle.

Day 2 started with a truly inspiring opening keynote from former policeman and current QI 'elf' Stevyn Colgan (@stevyncolgan) who talked us through how he took an alternative approach to his 30 year policing career that proved the value of preventative methods over statistics with examples from shelters to football fields, bins and dog shows. His book, 'Why did the policeman cross the road?' is now on my reading list.

I took a break from the lecture hall for my second talk of the day and went to see Aislinn Green (@AislinnHolmes), who was running agile games. Our team worked through an introduction game and a really revealing creative thinking exercise involving random words being used to help provide solutions to a defined problem called 'forced analogy'. We discovered that, although the game allowed you to specify objects, places and people, people came with a lot of associative baggage that made it hard sometimes to make them fit the problem. As we thought through this we realised that this was a human associative behaviour that we were experiencing that was directly related to our own experiences or opinions.

The penultimate destination of the day was back in the main hall with Nigel Baker (@nigelebaker) from Agile Bear. Nigel had us in stitches for a good half of the presentation, which is always a good sign but, more than the fun and the laughter, the underlying message was very powerful. Nigel's presentation was on the Patterns, Tactics, Widgets & Pivots with Scrum. The highlight for me was the beginning of the presentation when he started pulling apart the Scrum framework to look at the organisational patterns (Jim Coplien's book on this has now jumped right to the top of my ever growing list) underpinning each piece of the framework. What was interesting was to see how, as you pull back the layers how less restrictive Scrum becomes. This talk resonated with me with the work that I am currently doing in getting the Pragmatic Agile Community bootstrapped. There was so much information in this presentation I still haven't digested it all.

The day wrapped up with Gez Smith (@Gez_Smith), talking about servant leadership. I was looking forward to this talk after seeing Gez do an interesting lighting talk earlier in the year comparing agile and religion. I wasn't disappointed. Gez is a truly talented thinker, mixing elements of academia, spirituality and real world experience of servant leadership into something both unique and inspiring.

The End

I was sad to leave Cardiff on Wednesday night - I was tired, but yearning for more. I am looking forward to Agile Cymru 2017