Friday, August 05, 2011

Agile 2011 - Back to the Future!

Here are my thoughts on anticipating Agile 2011, filming Agile 2011, and reflecting back on the past 10 years of Agile.

Looking Forward to Agile 2011
I can't believe that Agile 2011 is upon us! A chaotic action-packed week mixed with being away from the family. And then after the event there is the week of withdrawal . No matter how wonderful and Agile your company may be, it can be jolting to move from "The Agile Future" back to whatever level of Agile you are currently at.

But I wouldn't miss it for anything. Every year there is a smorgasbord of sessions to choose from and this year is no different. Out of the literally hundreds of sessions, I've narrowed it down to 22. That includes the keynotes, and special events. If it is anything like last year, after I get over withdrawal I'll be drawing inspiration from those 22 sessions for months and hopefully it will fuel my Agile fires until "Agile and Beyond" and the Lean Conference in the Spring.

Filming Agile 2011 to Inspire Others
I strongly believe that everybody involved in software development should go to Agile 20xx every year. The ROI is just unbelievable. Of course, that will probably never happen. But my hope is that I can inspire at least a few more people to go and that it will make a difference. Towards that end, in 2009 and then again in 2010 I did a combination "Agile 20xx Highlights" and "Why You Should Go" movie completely filmed and for 2010 completely edited on my iPhone.

This year I'll be bringing along my iPad 2 which boasts an updated iMovie and will do it all again. Once again I'll be looking for people to interview about their experiences and to find out more about why they go. If you think you've got some good material for me, let me know. Also this year I'll be trying to do some video blogging for those of you back home to give you a visceral feel for what it is like and hopefully inspire you to come to Agile 2012!

I'm also open to suggestions for what to film. What questions would you like me to ask, what would you like to know about Agile 2011 that I can capture on video?

Looking Back on Ten Years of Agile
Actually, that's a misnomer. The Agile Manifesto was drafted in 2001 in Utah (thus the location for Agile 2011), but actually what they did in that meeting was to coin the word "Agile" and produce the manifesto to describe what the signatories felt was common about the various things they had already been doing for some time.

But anyway, what's the "big takeaway" of the past ten years of Agile? In my opinion, it is that there is now a struggle between Agile becoming fossilized and breaking out of the Branding Wars to reach its true potential. Let's face it, Agile was not handed down to us from a future where everything has been figured out and they have been doing it successfully for 100 years. No, a group of bright folks started talking about "Agile" 10 years ago and we've all been trying to figure out what to do with it since then. Along the way we've gotten "XP" and "Scrum" and "Kanban" and "TDD" and "Continuous Integration" and "User Stories" etc etc. It has been a true Renaissance of interpersonal and technical learning and growth.

But there is also the inevitable desire to have something definitive and unchanging and solid and secure. Scrum is currently that thing. What's wrong with that? Well Scrum is good, better than "waterfall," but it is far from perfect and it is only a subset of Agile, not the definition of Agile. Personally, I think there is much more value in the parts of Scrum than the sum of those parts. Things like product owners and backlogs are much more valuable in the long run than artificially binding them together in a particular way. More important is the process of  figuring out which pieces work best in your organization and having the knowledge and skills to do that process well.

Right now, it looks like Kanban may be just the thing to break the Scrum stranglehold. So let's all go out and learn how to do Kanban exactly right and by the book to do just that, ok? Oh wait... I've got a better idea, how about we think about how to combine Scrum and Kanban like Chocolate and Peanut Butter. And while we're at it, how about a little pair programming from XP to spice things up?

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