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‘Soft’ skills or dealbreakers?

A few weeks ago the Australian sales team headed down to Sydney to attend Agile Australia 2011. They had a busy couple of days meeting and talking to Agilests from all over the country and noticed a common theme. Lots of companies have adopted the practices of Agile without accompanying them with the necessary cultural shift that they needed to make things actually happen. Anyone working in software development will have heard that story before and it always makes me wonder why we still use the term ‘soft skills’. Soft skills are not a small, unimportant or unnecessary thing to consider, they are the crux of your organisation’s ability to succeed. If you can’t talk to people, listen to them and work together you’ll never get anything done!

With regards to Agile, in order for projects to be successful you need support from your business and investment in training and coaching so that all staff members come along for the ride. The processes of Agile and Scrum are important, but without understanding why you are following these processes it’s going to be almost impossible to make anyone do them (which is the reason SoftEd’s Agile training courses focus on awareness as well as process).

What else did they see at the conference? First of all keynote speaker Alistair Cockburn talked about Agile UX Design as an ‘up and coming’ area of interest. They listened to Rob Thomsett‘s presentation on whether your business is ready for Agile According to Rob, “implementing Agile practices is a disruptive cultural revolution” and Agile business models are based on simplicity and transparency. Daniel Oertli, who has made big changes at REA Group, promoted the value of planning (not plans necessarily, but the actual planning process) and of being customer centric rather than customer driven (an important distinction I think, after all you can’t and probably shouldn’t do every single thing that every customer requests, but you need them at the heart of your organisation to make sure you’re going in the right direction).

According to Michael Bromley Agile isn’t the point, better is the point, and his organisation (NBN-Co) believe that Agile is radical and will take time to develop, but the only way to make this happen is to get started and go for it because you learn Agile by being Agile. Just as you learn, fail and improve in Agile projects you must learn, fail and improve at doing Agile itself, “Agile is a way of thinking”.

There were a few other things you see at most conferences nowadays: panel discussions, game playing (the marshmallow challenge) and the usual buzz-word bingo (everyone has their favourite terms!) which keep us entertained over the two days. Thanks Agile Australia!

And just one last thing, we at Software Education run conferences as well: SDC, focusing on business analysis and Agile and STANZ, our testing conference. We are really proud of the calibre of international speakers who present at these events and the high quality of the event, the material and the discussions which is always reflected in the feedback we get so if you’re interested in coming along, or want to know more about us in general please go to www.softed.com. Thanks!

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Posted by on July 1, 2011 in Agile, Culture

 

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