Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Back from the Agile Day 2007

Quite a busy decade, I just came back from the Italian Agile Day in Bologna, and I started preparing myself for the following Java Day, so I didn't have so much time left for blogging.

I was pretty satisfied with the Agile Day overall. The idea of "open" conference, with free subscriptions or Paypal donations, but no official sponsors gave the whole conference, a cozy feeling. Paying for lunch allowed for the best buffet ever seen in a techie meeting (and this is heavily related to the conference location).

I attended Tim McKinnon speech, and I liked the idea of the Star tasks. Too many times good ideas from the team are dropped or censored because "we've got to finish the job", ignoring possibilities to just finish earlier. Antonio Terreno presented eventually another type of "Star Ideas", like the definition of a meta-engine to handle all the workflow in the application Antonio's team was working on, but in this case it was one of Martin Fowler's on a ThoughtWorks project, so censorship it's a little bit difficult to apply. But basically the underlying problem it's the same: the balance between doing one thing over and over, or finding a way to do the same thing fast is often too biased towards simply doing. Making job not only tedious and frustrating, but also less productive.

I then was in a small Open Space lead by Luca Minudel, about self organizing teams, where he dropped some hints about where to learn more. Marines are an example of a self organizing team (you can't wait for orders when you are behind enemy lines), and surprisingly Luca showed a book I had at home about how to raise kids by saying "no". Actually, my wife is reading it. I'll be next shortly…

Francesco Cirillo from XPLabs pointed out that many teams are focusing too much on Agile practices, ignoring that fundamental skills are needed. He challenged the audience with his no-if campaign, backed up by T-shirts. I couldn't agree more. A vast majority of companies focuses on training only on the language side, asking for "Java Programming" or "Java Web Programming" and completely ignoring the OOP side. Unfortunately, agile practices, such as refactoring, require strong OO skills that neither university or a Java class will ever provide. As an architect, I suspect that Object Orientation is a complicated stuff, so we've got to acknowledge that we can't have complex systems completely OOP, but some procedural part will always be there. As an "agilist", I do agree that a heavy OOP shakedown is sometimes probably better that playing with the process.

Probably the most intriguing happening was the "Futurespective" held by Marco Abis, which was demonstrating a twisted way to handle project retrospectives by shifting them in the future. This creates a shared metaphor that reduces team and self-censorships allowing for more ideas and suggestions to emerge which was pretty effective. All was held with post-it with an Agile/"lo-fi" feeling, that actually eased spontaneous comments. "Paper Agile" was also one of the topics of Tim McKinnon's speech. This boosted some ideas in my mind, more about that in the next posts.

Apart from being in Bologna, and being cheap. It was absolutely a valuable experience. Given that half of my job is teaching, I have to look for all the possible chances to learn new things and this was definitely worthwhile. Thanks to all.

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