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Musings on Agile Dev West – June 6 and 7, 2018

Really enjoyed the last two days at Agile Dev West in Las Vegas, and I am bringing back lots of great learnings to share, fun memories with friends and an appreciation for the speaking opportunity to share information with our community. The event was held at Caesars Palace.

Below is a quick recap:

Wednesday, June 6

The event kicked off with a keynote from Ashley Hunsberger sharing ways to Transform Cultures with DevOps Principles. She highlighted the importance of testing and how the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration used approached to iterate on their testing strategies based on the automobile and driver market. Then she shared an overview of how she has set up the Engineering Productivity (not QA) group where she works and the value and benefits that the group provides to enable product development.

Next up was Pete Behrens with Five (Oops! I Mean Six) Mistakes Leaders Make. Really enjoyed this presentation and will review the slides again once they’re online. Pete covered six mistakes and offered six solutions. Some items that stood out to me:

  • The concept of a “January Person,” who is focused on the process, not the goal.
  • The idea of a Reverse Demo where Stakeholders present to the product development team, not the other way around.
  • A definition of agility that means “the response to problems in a complex world.”
  • Super Stars vs. Super Squads (meaning, instead of assigning work to an individual, it’s assigned to a team to solve).


Then, I attended Kalpesh Shah‘s Outcome Over Output: Don’t Be a Backlog Lumberjack session. Kalpesh is a very dynamic speaker and shared a lot of information on the importance of ensuring that the team understands the goal of the work, keeping perspective on user stories and increasing Product IQ. My biggest takeaway from this session was how he translated the 8th Habits findings into how that would be presented on a Soccer Team. I’m using this technique at some point. He also suggested using Success Criteria at the beginning of the work to help avoid confirmation bias of how the work turned out.


After Kalpesh’s session, it was time for lunch, and then my session. Can’t wait to hear the feedback from it!

The final session of the day was Lee Eason‘s Methods for Handling Key-Person Dependencies in Agile Teams. Joined this session late because I was catching up with folks after my session, but really glad I showed up. Lee shared with the group an approach for how to better understand skill levels across cross-functional teams and identify where additional training is needed to be as well-rounded, as needed. The tool he shared was And my favorite quote from it, which was prompted by a question about individuals who “like being the hero/single point of failure.” The response was “to be irreplaceable is to be unpromotable.”

After that session, went back to the room and worked a little. Then it was dinner at Hell’s Kitchen and took in the show Absinthe.

Thursday, June 7

This morning started out with a Collaborative Curiosity keynote with Ryan Ripley and Faye Thompson. It was a fun format where they polled the audience for 12 questions and then had an interactive session answering them. Lots of great tidbits of information in a short amount of time. Below are some takeaways:

  • The purpose of the daily stand is to plan for the day to get closer to sprint goals, not do a status readout.
  • On Doing vs. Being Agile, Ryan shared the word Habitude to describe the behaviors that we’re trying to achieve – they’re both out of habit and with a particular attitude.
  • Facilitation tactic for when someone is dominating the conversation – “We’ve heard a lot from you, let’s now hear from so-and-so.”
  • On certifications, stop focusing on the certification and focus on the learning.

Unfortunately, I needed to step out of the next session (Nabila Safdar’s Fuel Agility with Transparent Expectations) I started to attend because I needed to step out to handle a work matter, but I’m hoping to see the slides and get the details.

I was able to attend most of Faye Thompson‘s It’s All In Our Heads: Using Neuroscience to Improve Performance. I needed to step out for about 15 minutes to take a call, but I loved all the information that Faye shared on the various bias that we have as humans and the conversation that she led to counteract them.  The stat that stuck out the most was that our brains are bombarded with about 11 million bits of data every second, and our brains boil that information down to about 40 actionable bits. Also, that we should be aware when we’re “solutions in search of a problem.” She also shared the Cognitive Bias Codex, which is really helpful in seeing all the biases and how they relate to each other.

Then it was time to head to the airport for my flight home. I really enjoyed the conference and can’t wait for the materials to be posted online. Thanks to all who made it happen!



1 comment on “Musings on Agile Dev West – June 6 and 7, 2018

  1. Really glad you enjoyed the session, Joanna! If I can help you or your readers think about how to optimize hiring and training to make the team as healthy as possible, let me know!

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