November 15, 2012, 3:15 PM — One Saturday earlier this year I made 160-mile trek to Dearborn, Mich. for the Agile and Beyond Conference.
I wasn't giving a talk, nor had my employer paid the registration fee or given me paid time off. As an independent consultants, I bill hourly, so time away from work is time unpaid. (At least it was on a Saturday-no billable hours lost.)
That said, the Agile and Beyond registration fee (about $100) covered entrance to the sessions, lunch, snacks and a chance to talk to the vendors. A half-dozen were hiring; the others were selling software. One of my clients sent a few project managers to the conference. After the event, the engineering group switched to the LeanKit Kanban project management tool based on a conversation in that vendor hall.
For that reason, and many more, Agile and Beyond-like many a small, regional, nonprofit IT conference-proved to be well worth the time, money and effort. It wasn't just me; the event sold out and attracted more than 600 attendees.
Small Conference, Big Agile Sessions
Beyond the vendors, the content included keynotes by David J. Anderson, who brought the idea of Kanban to software engineering, and Steve Denning, who wrote The Leaders Guide to Radical Management . Lanette Creamer flew in from Seattle to give a talk with Matt Barcomb, who drove up from Ohio, about the use of exploratory testing charters on an agile project.
Anderson describes agile not as an engineering concept but, rather, as a culture or "tribe." His first example was the idea of measuring the "agile-ness" of an organization in terms of the number of agile practices it uses.
Anderson's point was that such measurements have no direct connection to an actual business result or sociological outcome. To that end, he encouraged teams to consider the local context instead of adopting a cookie-cutter process.
Anderson also said that agile software development turns the old cost-of-change curve on its head. He insisted that perfect up-front-planning is expensive, often wasteful, and that it is better to make forward progress, get quick feedback and adjust than to try to prevent mistakes through perfect planning.
Meanwhile, Todd Kaufman gave a refreshing talk on agile metrics that matter with a subtitle of "How to stop abusing yourself and others with metrics." His first example was an agile team that split its work into springs and counted average velocity, or story points per iteration, to make predictions.