Agile 2013 thoughts

IBM has been keeping me super busy, but now that Agile 2013 is over, I wanted to take a moment to capture my thoughts on this year’s Agile conference.

The best part, as it always is, was to reunite with old friends and make new ones, both from the US and around the world. Thank you for making Nashville special Oanna, Bonnie, Eric, Arlo, Corey, Johnathan, Eewei, Will, Liz, Olaf, Linda, Longda, Daniel…

One theme I noticed across tracks this year was asking questions over other ways of communication. From customer, user research and user stories to leadership and management, being more like Yoda and less like Han Solo is likely to work out better for everyone (Thanks Bruno for the Star Wars analogy ;-) )

This time, besides giving my 2 sessions (New Era at IBM. Lean UX leading the way and Think you know your user? Thinks again!), I focused on learning more about communication and leadership. As a manager, I feel I can never know enough about these.

I specially enjoyed a talk on Communication katas by Andrew Annette and Susan Johnston. Looking at communication from the lean perspective, misunderstanding is waste, i.e. is the thing we should try to eliminate. One of my favorite quotes from the session was: “We’re very good at scaling one thing and that’s misunderstanding”.
I also loved the idea of using katas to focus on what we can improve in our day-to-day interactions at work. Here are some:

  • Status awareness. To effectively communicate, focus on who you’re talking to and their needs and interests (not you and what you want/need).
  • Certainty & Relatedness. Always try to find common ground.
  • Autonomy. Give people choices so that they have some control over the outcome.
  • Fairness. One of the strongest drivers. Work it into conversation and working agreements.
  • Recognize the difference between your external dialogue and your internal monologue.
  • Get curious, not furious. Probe for people’s thinking. Challenge your own thinking.
  • Make reliable promises. Foundation for trust.

Another one of my favorite sessions was learning Leadership styles from Star Wars coaches by Bruno Sbille. Some styles are intrinsically bad, such as a blame culture. Others, such as a directive style, even though less desirable on an on-going basis, do have a role to play when building a team and onboarding new members.
Besides the servant leader concept (Keynote quote from Tim Lister: “My manager was nearly invisible when she was there. But when she left, boy it was visible”), the zen in terms of leadership is to become like Yoda. Bruno called this style personal consideration (see slides similar to the ones he presented), and he described this as doing something especially and uniquely for the person. Consider the person as sole and unique, their interests and motivations. Give them an opportunity to shine. What I also took away from Yoda’s clip is to cherish and never underestimate the power of a fresh mind (such as those new to Agile or new to UX), guide through questions rather than provide answers, spend time teaching and sharing your knowledge. As with everything else, awareness is king.

I also managed to attend a session about TDD and refactoring with Lego with Bryan Beecham, and I loved it! I’m definitely taking it back to the Honey badgers, the rest of Engineering as well as my kids ;-)



One of my lessons learned is that pair presenting is not only way more fun for the presenters, it is also better for the audience, so my goal for Agile 2014 (Orlando) is to co-present a session again.

Before I go, I have to tell you a bit about Nashville and its flavorful honky tonks, just in case you’ve never been.
Highlights during Agile were LeanKit’s Kanbanaroo party on the pedestrian bridge and the conference party at Wild Horse. I might have been one of the only people to ever dance tango to country music… it was so much fun! (Gracias Daniel!).

Unlike most attendees, I actually stayed for the weekend to get a chance to explore Nashville and the South outside of the Gaylord bubble with my husband.

The result: I’m leaving with my pair of cowboy boots as well as fond memories of all of these places (which I highly recommend if you’re ever visiting the honky-tonk capital of the world):


  • Grand Ole Opry – one of longest-running broadcasts in history. We got to see Carrie Underwoods among many other great artists and it was quite the south experience!
  • Honky tonks on Broadway – Robert’s Western World and the hillbillies one next door were 2 of our favorites.
  • Crema – best coffee in town, indeed
  • Merchant’s for dinner (upstairs) – romantic and delicious.
  • Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q – to die for (went there on the way back from the Belle Mead plantation, where they raised race horses, not cotton).
  • Silo for brunch – best shrimp and grits ever, really.

And yes Oanna, I do feel terrible that I can’t make it to ALE. I will miss everyone… but I need time with my kids this year, so hopefully next year I’ll catch up with you.

13. August 2013 by ariadna
Categories: Agile, Lean UX | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment