Archives for the ‘SimBlogging’ Category

SimBlogging: XP Days Benelux 2008 Retrospective

SimBlogging‘ offers a his-and-hers viewpoint as Pascal and Portia timebox-blog simultaneously

‘Fun, Learning, Sharing, Smiles and Laughter’

These five words best describe my first and last impressions of XP Days Benelux 2008.

The conference opened with a warm welcome from the organisers Pascal Van Cauwenberghe, Vera Peeters, Nicole Belilos and me. Next up were Day 1 presenters who promoted their sessions as OOMPs reduced to 30 seconds (pronounced ‘oomps’ aka Official One Minute Presentations).

The conference hall shuddered with laughter as the mini-marketing exercise transformed previously mild and quiet presenters into creative and boisterous marketeers. A few members of the audience even shrieked with delight at the mention of fairytales and the search for happy endings.

Close of Play

Another unique feature was 30 second OOMPs from participants as part of the closing on each day.

Participants stood up to share their thoughts and lessons learnt as Pascal called out the title of each session of the day.

Behind the logistical scenes were the ever resourceful Rob Westgeest (another of the great conference organisers) and Olivier Costa, flanked by a rotating set of volunteers ready to help whenever help was needed. Now that’s what I call a self-organising team.

Fun and Games

One example of F-U-N in action was the Persona Game where each conference participant identified themselves with a particular conference participant stereotype. To win a prize, each participant had to form a team of different persona types to deliver a team OOMP.

Another example was the Games Night where more than 30 grownups played board and card games until the wee hours of the next morning (2:30 am to be precise).

Session Favourites

Critical Chain by Christophe Thibaut and Olivier Pizzato – Mecanno experience is hard to come by, but we can deliver value if we share our knowledge, expertise and tasks

Seeking to Perceive More Than to be Perceived by Emanuel Gaillot and Bernard Notarianni – Where we learnt about three more tools to add to our Better Communication Toolkit: “Investigate Protocol” (from Jim and Michele McCarthy), “Soft Focus” (by theatre director Tadashi Suzuki) and “Emic Interviewing” (from American anthropologist Marvin Harris)

The Business Value Game by Pascal, Vera and me – Learning how the game can be scaled up to 6 teams of 6 participants with 3 facilitators while preserving the quality of learning and gaming experience

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall… Why Me? – Amusing 33 grownups with the retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves Tarantino style

Working with Resistance by Olivier Costa and his Sensei – Where we learnt about the importance of exercising the body with the mind by doing some basic Aikido exercises. Many participants left beaming and reinvigorated by the experience before heading to the bar

Cultural Remarks

  • A Dutch road slows down traffic with a “verkeerseiland” or “slowing down / traffic island” instead of a speed hump (aka “sleeping policeman“)
  • Dutch quiches are served in blocks and cut up into cubes of cheesy goodness instead of being round tarts or tartlets (as served in the UK and in France)

Final Thoughts

What immediately struck me about XP Days Benelux was the spirit of inclusion, instead of exclusivity as seen at so many of the other conferences I’ve been to in the past. XP Days Benelux is a unique gathering because it’s based on what you want to know instead of who you know.

One Nice-to-Have echoed by several people would be more sessions for more seasoned Agile practitioners. I would like to see how this would be implemented next year.

I regret missing the Werewolf Game this year so I’ll be sure to participate in next year’s Games Night!

Many thanks to the wonderful photos by Xavier Quesada. Cheers Xavier!

SimBlogging: AYE 2008 Retrospective

SimBlogging‘ offers a his and hers viewpoint as Pascal and Portia timebox-blog simultaneously

What Went Well

Journey to Arizona: My AYE adventure started at Terminal 5 where I met up with Pascal to fly to Phoenix, Arizona. Thanks to Julie, a Senior Customer Service Agent from British Airways, we both got upgraded to World Traveller Plus. I’ve gained considerable insight into the airline industry having worked in the industry for the past 6 months. Working with people with a passion for airplanes and travel has allowed me to experience air passenger travel with new eyes since.

Beautiful Arizona: The November weather in Arizona is glorious. The skies are a bright, clear blue and the sun simply glows. I found myself sitting outdoors in shortsleeves, basking in the shade to avoid being burnt to a crisp. Now that’s something that’s never happened to me before. Another striking thing about Arizona is the strips of carefully tended green grass. Back in London, it rains a lot by comparison and so the grass is mostly green. Here in Arizona, I find myself scanning the landscape for grass and appreciating each strip because I know someone decided to plant it there and have continued to look after it since.

The Folks at AYE: My biggest takeway from AYE is the high concentration of open and friendly participants. The number of participants was capped to 75 which gave us a chance to really mingle with the 5 organiser-trainers, Don Gray, Steve Smith, Esther Derby, Johanna Rothman and, of course, Jerry Weinberg. Most important of all, the smaller-than-average conference gathering gave the participants a chance to get to know one another better.

Agile Fairytales at AYE: Following on from Don’s friendly suggestion that we run the Snow White and Seven Dwarves Game as a Birds-of-a-Feather session at the conference, over 23 people attended the session. Pascal and I continued to play the game with other participants over the course of the conference after lunch and during dessert. It goes to show that playing at the dinner table is no bad thing!

People, People, People: For me, going to a conference is all about meeting people. My write-home-on-a-postcard characters have to be: Evan the Standup Comedian (who played a key role as the protagonist in the chaotic, yet triumphant Satir Change Model exercise), Jeremy the Magician (with his scented marker and chameleon playing cards), Chris the Aspiring Dog Whisperer (with understands dogs AND people) and Cheryl, Rob and Mark from Team Blackberry (who get to develop funky tools to help us better manage our time and ourselves).

Session Highlights:

Cultural Day Out: Of course, no conference adventure is complete without a visit to the environs. On our last day in Phoenix, Pascal and I visited the Heard Museum where we learned about the different Indian tribes in the Arizona region. We had first come across this aspect of the sad and turbulent history of America on our visit to Toronto at Agile 2008. It reminded me of the importance of learning from history because it’s only by learning from our mistakes that we stand a chance of breaking the cycle of misunderstandings and atrocities. Esther demonstrates how retrospectives are a great way of transforming our experiences into lessons learnt.

Complaints With Recommendations

  • The AYE sessions I attended encouraged audience participation, but the session takeaways remained vague. It would be great to make explicit the learnings and actions from the discussions, as a group, to reinforce the lessons learnt so they can be applied more easily.
  • Day 1 saw the introduction of the Myers-Briggs Indicator Type (MBTI) with everyone identifying their type. Unfortunately, some people wrote their type on their name badge and started saying things like, ‘I’m an introvert, that’s why I’m not very good at networking’. It would be more useful to emphasise a preference is just that rather than who you are. That’s because we can all learn the less preferred behaviour to become more congruent.
  • The only session to hold a retrospective was the Agile Fairytale Mirror, Mirror BoF. It would be great to apply the Agile practice for all sessions as a way to get feedback from participants to help improve them.
  • I wish I’d spent more time chatting and sharing with other participants outside of the sessions. I could start or continue a conversation by email of course!
  • I wish I’d seen more of Arizona and its exotic fauna – nothing beats a bit of funky cacti against blue sky. I suggest hiring a car and doing a bit of a road trip next time!

SimBlogging: Agile 2008 Toronto Visit

SimBlogging‘ offers a his and-hers-viewpoint as Pascal and Portia timebox-blog simultaneously

Rough Guide to Toronto

  • Darwin at the Royal Ontario Museum – the story of Darwin as a curious young man seeking to better understand the world around him which has helped us to better understand ourselves
  • Casa Loma – a dream come true for one man whose wife was the Head of the Girl Scouts
  • Niagara on the Lake – where shops like Just Christmas are frequented by locals and tourists every day of the year
  • Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls – THE best wet ride I’ve been on in one of Nature’s most beautiful amusement parks

Agile 2008

  • Bimbo Slides‘ – for describing presentations that look good but have a conflicting message when the volume’s turned up
  • Lego Moment‘ – describes a moment in time when you realise a missing piece in your experience you never knew you lacked or needed to complete a task at hand

Chilling Out and Staying Cool

  • Chez Gino’s – an impromptu home-cooked lunch in the red light district served by a charming Belgian Agile coach in Toronto
  • Potted Canadian history in 30 minutes – a compelling account of 400 years of Canadian history in 30 minutes on indigenous people from Allison over a tasty sushi lunch
  • Pairing on Mission Dress Smart – where two Agile coaches practice giving feedback to one another on the most subjective and volatile of topics
  • Dinner with Ben – meeting Christophe Thibault’s other half (binĂ´me) at a restaurant called the Queen Mother’s

Looking into the Mirror

  • Strangers to ourselves – where we ask: Mirror, Mirror on the wall – if I can only change myself and everyone has value, how can I become better?
  • Playing with strangers – Playing Snow White and the Seven Dwarves game as a fun networking exercise where everyone gets to take a good look at themselves in the mirror
  • Learning about business value – Learning to see where the value is and prioritising the backlog using various strategies by playing The Business Value Game

Les Neuf Cases aka The Nine Boxes

  • Running a session in French and EnglishLes Neuf Cases (The Nine Boxes) helped bring together participants with a common interest in learning how to get the questions right in order to ask the right questions
  • Bilingual session preparation – in which Pascal and Portia have fun preparing for a dramatisation of what happens when folks discover the customer’s need by asking the right questions

Value-Driven Presenters

  • Ice cream and tasty cupcakes – meeting people who are passionate about learning new things and know that the best way to learn is through fun and games
  • Show me the money – helping out at the sneak preview of the Business Value game created by Pascal and Vera, the pair who brought you the ubiquitous XP Game
  • Doing not just talking – the best sessions at the conference were those offering practical techniques such as Mike Cohn’s ‘Prioritising the Product Backlog’ and Christian and Christoph’s ‘Conflict Resolution Diagram’ from the Theory of Constraints Thinking Tools
  • Mini celebrations – whenever participants found our sessions useful and relevant so that everyone can become a little more agile every day