The weather forecasters said we were in for days of rain but Saturday, the day of the conference, would be fine. Friday saw a deluge and soaked everyone to the skin. Surely the Agile on the Bench conference wasn’t going to be a wash-out? But we always have sun. Even in autumn and winter.
Sure enough, Saturday saw decent weather and we didn’t feel a drop of rain. Chris Young and his 8 year old son, Elco Spong, opened the day with a simulation regarding delivering a product that meets fitness criteria. What does an 8 year old know about fitness criteria? If the product he wants is a catapult to destroy a cardboard castle that he and his dad have made, then quite a lot. Of course, Elco stole the show from Chris and we were off to a cracking start in true Agile on the Bench style.
Next up was Ilona Brannen who surveyed approaches to learning, with examples of how children learn and how people approach job applications and bonuses. But Ilona’s closing demonstration on how aggregated estimates is what many will remember: guess the sweets in the jar. Although none of our individual estimates was correct, the group managed to get 99% accuracy once their estimates were aggregated.
After all this fun and maths, Rifa’s session took a completely different direction as we stepped into the world of meditation and mindfulness. When was the last time you went to a conference and were encouraged by a speaker to close your eyes, sit back and breathe? The room descended into silence apart from the odd rumbling stomach.
But that didn’t last for long. After 15 minutes of mindfulness mediation, Rifa brought the session to a close and we all tucked into enough food to feed an army.
After all that food, how were we going to get through five speakers?! Certainly not by sitting back and listening to someone droning on and pointing at Powerpoint slides. Remember, Agile on the Bench is no-tech and the conference was continuing that rule. It was Cara Bermingham’s turn and she asked teams to write instructions for creating an origami animal. What they didn’t know was that someone else, who hadn’t seen the original picture, was going to have to make the animal from their instructions. It was a great exercise and hopefully one which Cara will blog about shortly.
Another change of style followed, with Aidan McGuire telling us about the Humanitarian Data Exchanges use of agile to be able to help the UN in disasters. How do you find out where the nearest medical supplies are when an earthquake happens? How do you know which roads are passable? What’s the best way to get emergency supplies to Ebola-stricken communities. A grounding reminder that agile has serious benefits.
Christina Ohanian then gave us her thoughts on management and how we fear the term ‘manager’ due to its old-school connotations. Christina explained how she had implemented her style of management over the last two years without falling into the traps that destroy teams.
In light of Christina’s session, Dan North changed his. Dan gave us an outline of his current project that he’s been working on with Chris Matts: delivery mapping. It’s a mixture of skills mapping and skills liquidity (what skills are needed and which are available), but looking at what is needed, what people have and how much they want to do it.
Finally, Dan Ashby used a child’s picture book to show us how vital communication is. I’m going to borrow the approach he used, so I’m not going to tell you any more about this
The intention was to have open sessions after the pre-arranged but, because it was a nice day outside, we decided to head over to the campsite for this part, along with drinks and the destruction of Elco’s castle. A few Brew Dogs later and the campfire was burning, the barbecues were out and the conversations were in full flow. A few hours later, the situation was much the same.
Thanks to everyone who was involved: you all made it an amazingly enjoyable day.