Monday, November 05, 2007

Agile Bazaar Deep Lean Trip Report

Deep Lean was a 2-day event held at MIT, organized by the New England Agile Bazaar, and sponsored by AccuRev. Speakers included Jeff Sutherland, Nancy Van Schooenderwoert, and Mary & Tom Poppendieck. Here is a quick overview of the weekend.

Day 1
What a great first day at the Agile Bazaar's Deep Lean event. Jeff Sutherland started the ball rolling. All of the speakers were excellent (all weekend) at stopping right at the allotted time.

Broken Development – Jeff Sutherland
First Jeff showed us what a mess traditional development really is. Then he started to show us how Scrum can help. He didn't get through all of his material due to all of the questions from the audience, which was fine because the discussion was riveting.

Thrashing – Mary Poppendieck
According to Mary, even when development teams are doing Agile well, there is almost always one problem remaining: thrashing. Thrashing is when you are spending more and more time to do less and less. She showed us the root causes of thrashing which include excessive context switching. For instance, if you have two tasks and keep switching back and forth between them to show progress to multiple stakeholders, you will actually finish both slower than if you had focused on one and then the other. My favorite part was seeing a video of how the Toyota Type G loom could stop itself when it detected a defect in the fabric it was producing… without modern electronics!

Lean Principles and Scrum – Jeff Sutherland
A very straightforward subject which was well presented. Basically, Scrum overlaps with much of Lean by default and a deeper understanding of Lean will improve your experience with Scrum.

Value Stream Mapping – Mary and Tom Poppendieck
During this talk there was a point at which the audience broke up into teams to try value stream mapping on real world examples. While this was a great idea in concept, I don’t think there was enough time allotted to make it worth it. Considering this was one of the very few (only?) hitches in the whole weekend, I really didn’t mind. Besides, it is well covered in their first book on Lean which you should just go out and buy anyway.

At the end of the last session about 25 of us went to the nearby Cambridge Brewing Company for dinner and conversation. The CBC is a local favorite for the tech crowd and well worth checking out if you are ever in Kendal Square for an hour or more.

Day 2

Coming of Age of an Agile Company - Nancy Van Schooenderwoert
Nancy observed that Agile adoption has a high mortality rate. That is, well intentioned projects start up but then fail. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart because part of my mission is to help make Agile mainstream. That is, to get Agile to the point that any team anywhere working on any project can pick it up and be successful quickly.

Nancy used a number of (painful) stories to illustrate her points. One of the things that struck me about the circumstances was that there were many problems which had nothing to do with Agile, but rather just plain old good development practices. For instance, don’t use your production environment to test code whose only claim to fame is that it compiles!

Leadership in Software Development – Mary Poppendieck
Mary took us through a fascinating tour of leadership and management styles and methods from the early 1900s to the present day: from Taylor to Charles Allen to Taiichi Ohno to Deming to Kaoru Ishikawa.

Real World Experiences in Creating Agile Companies – Jeff Sutherland
Jeff showed graph after graph on Scrum benefits. The only thing keeping me from being hypnotized by the rapid succession of graphs was Jeff’s take-no-prisoners style. Summary: Scrum works.

Panel Discussion
Lots of great Q&A too numerous to summarize here.

In summary, this event was a rare treat and if you have the opportunity to attend one of these events in the future, I highly recommend that you go. As both a sponsor and attendee, it was well worth it.

No comments: