I attended the Agile Business Conference in London this week and presented on Tracking Project Performance. I missed this conference last year and so it was especially good to catch up with people again and hear what they have been doing. Also, after working in London for six years, but then living in Canada for the last nine years, it is always interesting to see how things have changed since my last visit. This year it was video screens replacing all the paper billboards going up and down the escalators on the Underground that caught my eye.
The conference was very good, and had the general theme of “Agile Grown Up”, focussing on the organizational impacts of using agile. This may not have been as much interest to technical people, but was right up my street. On Tuesday there was a great session about agile at Nokia where 1800 software developers are using agile to develop the Symbian mobile phone platform. They are using a version of Dean Leffingwell’s “Agile Train” approach for scaling agile to such a large team and most agile practices, but not pair-programming or emerging architecture. However, the main emphasis was beyond the technical process scaling and more on the ongoing coaching, mentoring and training that is required for such a large undertaking. In a discussion with the presenter Simon Buck after the talk I learned that they aim for one full time coach/trainer for each set of 5 Scrum Teams (each about 7 people). Quite the undertaking.
On Wednesday the highlight for me was Stephen Carver’s “Fear of Flying” presentation that drew analogies between projects and flying. It was funny, engaging, and painfully true. Fortunately, aviation failure rate are much lower than project failure rates since the stakes are generally higher. What was interesting was the multiple layers of back-up used in aviation to try and prevent failures, and how they rely on people to manage complexity not systems or processes. Accompanied by videos such as a day’s worth of air traffic over Europe, water landings and planes landing with only one wing, it was fun, illuminating and thought provoking.
This year, Cornish pasties, conker trees, and pork pies were all reminders of England that we don’t get in Canada. It was good to be back, and I hope to attend again next year.