Category Archives: Agile 2009

Agile Development: A Manager’s Roadmap for Success

Hi all,

I found this link  today on Software

Agile Development: A Manager’s Roadmap for Success: .

It makes lot of sense to me

Posted by John Watson


Agile 2009 Session Recordings

InfoQ has put together a number of articles and sessions from the Agile 2009 conference at 

Scott Ambler’s survey results are very interesting and Alistair’s keynote is great!

Posted by Shane Hastie

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Posted by on September 18, 2009 in Agile 2009


More on Agile 2009

I’ve made the long journey home from Chicago, 30 hours of purgatory in airports and airplanes; the only redeeming factor was it gave me time to contemplate the conference.

I was really pleased to see the comment from Alistair with the link for his slides – Thanks! (See his comment on Tuesday’s session for the URL).

The conference theme was “Making Agile Real” and I came away with the strong feeling that Agile is THE way of working in Information Technology today.  The conference tackled some of the significant challenges facing the Agile movement as we move from “small teams in small rooms tackling small projects” to organisation-wide adoption across indistries from government to manufacturing to financial services to medical systems. 

One of the impacts of this level of adoption is the need to tackle problems which had previously been considered to be outside the realm of Agile, including distributed team projects, very large teams, alignment with CMMi levels (up to Level  5), working in heavily regulated environments and life-&-safety critical projects.  The conference had sessions addressing all of these issues.

Another trend is recognition that some “design up front” is actually a good thing on many projects, and that most projects cannot afford to ignore architecture.  Finding the “just enough” point for architectural decisions – how much to do up front, and how much can be deferred until later, will be a key success measure in software projects.

Role and skill changes are also needed in the software testing area – testers on Agile projects need to have more technical skills, in order to contribute more effectively and utilise the tools for TDD (Test Driven Development to provide advice and input to developers building unit tests) and ATDD (Acceptance Test Driven Development).

All team members need to become more comfortable working across multiple disciplines and the “soft skills” of communication, empathy and collaboration will be more important to project success than purely technical skills.  The era of the lone programmer working in a cubicle without talking to anyone is fast coming to a close.  “T-shaped” cross functional skills are necessary for modern software development teams.

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Posted by on September 5, 2009 in Agile 2009


Leverage Differences

Another good day in Chicago, which feel more like Wellington every day – today it’s windy and raining.

This morning’s first session was Diana Larson and Sharon Buckmaster dealing with brain science, gender differences and working together effectively in teams. 

They presented an overview of current thinking in three areas:

  • Social Neuroscience
  • Positive Psychology
  • Imagine Science (and what it tells us about brain structures)

They started with a discussion of Social Intelligence (building on Daniel Gorman’s work on Emotional Intelligence) which focuses on intra-personal behaviour and group dynamics.  They then spoke about the importance of Mirror Neurons which are important in team motivation – we are more inclined to follow positive, happy leaders and why a cheerful disposition is contagious.  Positive Psychology or the “Science of Wellbeing” shows the importance of happiness and a sense of purpose to individual and team morale and measurable productivity improvements.

They pointed out the physiological and psychological differences between male and female brains and minds,  with a lengthy discussion of where the differences lie and the resultant behavioural patterns.

The discussions stressed that while there are very real differences in the workings of the male and female brain, there is no difference between the sexes in cognitive intelligence as measured by IQ.  Neither sex is “cleverer” than the other.

The results they presented were accompanied by the disclaimer that these are broad generalisations, and individual measures will vary immensely.

Some of the differences they identified include:

  • Male brains take regular breaks – men do sometimes really think about nothing; female brains are constantly working and don’t take these breaks.   When he responds to “what are you thinking about” with “nothing” he’s probably being truthful!
  • Men have 6 ½ times more grey matter than women, which is devoted to intense, focused thinking
  • Women have 10 times more white matter than men which provides connectivity between brain elements and enables multi-tasking.
  •  Women have two language processing centres, one on each side of the brain, whereas men have only one.
  • Men have a far less active hippocampus which results in less relationship between memory and emotions, women remember emotive content linked to events more effectively whereas men remember the facts of the event
  • Men have 20 times the testosterone which results in a worldview that can be described as “landscapes of challenge”
  • Women’s brains are flooded with oestrogen from birth which supports their multitasking ability
  • Women have 20% more blood flow in the brain, which results in the ability to more fully perceive context (emotion, body language, eye contact, tone of voice etc)
  • Men are more focused on content – facts, figures, diagrams and spatial experiences

The key message of the session was to understand the differences and be able to leverage an understanding of them to improve interpersonal and team communications.

Tomorrow I’ll post more about the other sessions.

Posted by Shane Hastie

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Posted by on August 28, 2009 in Agile 2009


An Agile Tuesday

Today was a good day at the conference. 

It started with the Keynote by Alistair Cockburn, in which he “came to bury Agile, not to praise it” – adapting Shakespear’s words to poignant effect.  The thrust of his talk is that it is time to get past Agile as a separate movement, the good practices that make up the various agile techniques are just that – good practices which form the craft of software engineering, and are largely the way our profession works today.

He made a strong point that the authors of the Agile manifesto did not invent these things, but cherrypicked a set of good ideas which had been around for a long time and put a brand around them.  The landscape today is more complex than that for which many of the practices were initially intended, and the challenge is how to make them scale beyond the “six people in a room building a product”. 

Once his talk is posted I’ll add the URL to this site.  There was a video camera recording his Shakespearian rendition and someone’s bound to post it online somewhere.

After that inspiring start I went to a session on scaling the adoption of Agile practices in organisations – “Crossing the Chasm”.  This looked at how organisations need to foster change to expand from pilot projects or gurella teams to full-scale organisation wide adoption.  Ahmed Sidky and Chris Sterling presented a useful change model which can help plan the organisational journey which is needed.

The afternoon was taken up with “First Kill all the Metrics” – looking at the evils that are perpetrated with inapropriate metrics and an investigation of what/when/how metrics can be useful in encouraging and supporting apropriate behaviour.

I ended the day with a session on Group Relations and Social Systems which looks at the dynamics of people on teams and how the unconcious “team survial” motive can result in disfunctional projects that continue when they should logically be closed down.  Quite a theoretical paper, but some very interesting stuff.

To show how far along the adoption curve Agile has come, tonight they are launching the PMI-Agile Community of Practice!

Posted by Shane Hastie

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Posted by on August 26, 2009 in Agile 2009


If it’s Monday this must be Chicago

Hi from the (other) Windy City.  I have had the weekend to recover from the travel shock (AKA jetlag) and see some of this great city.  Chicago is a really beautiful city – fascinating arcitecture and very friendly people.

To work you say – we don’t want to hear about your travels!

Day one of the Agile 2009 conference was great.  I attended two sessions:

Both were excellent. 

Mary related the fundamental principles of the Lean/KABAN approach as it applies to projects in general, linking the appoach to the way the Empire State Building was built in 1929/30.  She introduced the concept of Flow the theory of constraints, then linked it to the way work (should) flow through a software development project, focusing on keeping a steady pace of delivery and removing botlenecks.  This requres making sure that there is enough preparitory work done to ensure the team is able to start work as soon as the previous task is completed.

Elisabeth and Chris introduced the concepts behind simulation games, and over the afternoon each team we produced two usable games that can be used in the classroom to convey learning messages.

The attached photos show their key guilines. (Used with permission)

In addition to the conference sessions the evening was a networking goldfield.  It’s great to see how well regarded Software Education is in the Agile community.

Posted by Shane Hastie

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Posted by on August 25, 2009 in Agile 2009


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