Lessons Learned From Our “Fail Faire”

“What an amazing evening!”, “The best Agile Ottawa event I’ve been to”, “This was great!”

These are only a few of the positive comments from the group that came together to share their failures. Anyone who wanted, which was almost everyone, got up in turn and told a story of mishap. These were not stories of greatness or accomplishment. There was no bragging or boasting. People told real stories about themselves where they did the wrong thing.

The wonderful part was what they learned from that experience. The sharing was part healing and part teaching. It would be impossible to try to recreate that evening (you really had to be there) but we have captured some lessons learned to share with the community.  I encourage anyone who was there to add their comments. 

Lessons Learned

1. Have facilitation techniques ready for talking about tough problems.
2. How you implement change is as important as the change itself. If
you mandate it – you must also be a part of it! Additional: Technical
practices are important (not optional).
3. If it isn’t Agile – call it!  Training is important for team alignment.
4. Pay attention to the parts of the system that are hard to change.
That’s where the volatility will be in your project.
5. The team must commit to at least 1 hour a day when the whole team can meet.
6. Beware of “sunk cost” – make sure your project still has value no
matter how far into it your are…
7. Don’t let process distract you away from people (e.g. creating
collaboration or a shared understanding).
8. Make sure you have a Product Owner.  An absent Product Owner is the
first sign of trouble. When in a large organization ensure that you
actually have executive buy-in as well.
9. When investing in change, ensure that you have change management in
place.  Again, ensure executive buy-in first… they also need to be
educated on change.
10. Be honest with yourself – personal retros are a very good thing.
Sometimes, you are the one who needs to change.
11. Your backlog isn’t a Christmas list. Sorry, Virginia, there is no
Santa Claus.
12. Prioritize your backlog in advance. Not all decisions need a
meeting (necessarily) – explore non-verbal prioritization.
13. Agile projects need self-organization… and not everyone
necessarily wants to self-organize.  You need buy-in from the team.
14. Don’t abandon an agreed upon practice unless you know why.
15. People need time to absorb change… they need to know the value
of the change and they need to have confidence in their own capability
for change.
16. Month long Sprints are risky.  Shorter Sprints are good for
feedback and learning and ensuring that the team is meeting
17. Again, know your Product Owner and make sure that they are
empowered to make decisions.
18. “Cracking the whip” is a poor motivational technique.
19.  Follow-up with your team after teaching them something new.
Teaching is the “beginning of a journey”.
20. Question: How to get devs to meet / read acceptance criteria?
Idea: To achieve acceptance / commitment to deliver, ensure that all
stakeholder are on board (not just PO, BAs…  but dev and testing
too) in creating the acceptance criteria.
21. Code review. Code review. Code review. No one person is
infallible. The more the merrier… “To go fast, go alone. To go far,
go together.”

Next Meetup: Tuesday Dec 10th: Experience Reports – Our First “Fail Faire”

Please go to the Agile Ottawa Meet-Up Site to RSVP

There are no mistakes, only opportunities to learn how we never want to do it again.

The top item (as voted by participants at our September meetup) in our Agile Meetup Backlog was to share experience reports. In honour of this, Agile Ottawa will be holding it’s very first “fail faire” at the Royal Oak (121 Laurier Ave) on December 10th 2013. Doors open at 6pm, The Agile 101 session will begin at 6:15 and the main talks start at 7pm.

The room has a capacity of 40, so are asking people to RSVP, and if find out later you can’t attend, please cancel your RSVP so other can come.

1. What’s a “fail faire”?

A gathering where like-minded individuals gather to share via short talks their mistakes and what they learned from those mistakes.

2. How does this work?

Interested participants will be given the opportunity to give a 10 minute talk to share their Agile story of woe…  tell us:

• What was the project?

• What were you trying to do?

• What was the fail/where did it go wrong?

• What would you do differently next time (or never do again!)?

• What lessons can be learned?

3. If I go, what do I need to prepare?

Bring levity and open mindedness with you to this meeting. We will be counting on the Agile Ottawa crowd to create a safe space for sharing… after all, mistakes are all about learning.  We are seeking to create opportunities to share this valuable learning with each other. Bring your own story.  While this isn’t a requirement, it’s worth looking back (retro time!) and considering what you would have done differently from an Agile point of view… who knows, maybe after a beer you’ll find the courage to share it with the group?

During the event… no live streaming, picture taking, blogging or tweeting unless the presenter gives the ok to do so. No third party bashing… presenters must have been personally involved in the project they are showcasing.

And while we encourage you to prepare you own story, please don’t let that stop you from attending… If you want to come out and listen, that’s great!

Agile 101 – Retrospective Meetings

In the spirit of the evening, this month’s Agile 101 talk will be on retrospectives… What they are, what they are so important, how to run them, and how to act on the outcomes to improve your performance. Bill Bourne will be leading the Agile 101 Retrospectives session.

Note that this is a free event, but the food and drinks are on your own dime.

For more information on Fail Faires, check out Fail Fares – We particularly liked Point 5 “Provide drinks (trust us, it helps) and food to encourage chatting, networking, and the loosening of ties and guards”.

Finally, keep in mind the “Prime Directive of Retrospectives”:

• “Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone does the best job they can, given what they know at the time, their skills and abilities, the people and resources available, and the situation at hand.”

Logistics (Again)

No charge to attend.  The room has a capacity of 40, so are asking people to RSVP, and if find out later you can’t attend, please cancel your RSVP so others can come.

Doors open at 6 pm for networking. Agile 101 begins at 6:15 and the main presentation gets underway at 7pm.

Please go to the Agile Ottawa Meet-Up Site to RSVP

Agile 101 Recap: What does a Scrum Master do?

Simon Bourk crafted a blog post to recap his very popular Agile 101 session at the last Agile Ottawa meeting.  Check it out.

(And if anyone knows how to reblog from non-WP to hosted WP blogs, we can obviously use the help – drop us a line!)

Agile-Ottawa Presence at the Gatineau-Ottawa Agile Tour (GOAT13)

Agile-Ottawa will have a significant presence at GOAT13. Besides the large numbers of Agile-Ottawa members we hope (umm expect?) will attend, Agile-Ottawa will be running the “un-conference” at the conference.

You will find the un-conference located in the exhibitor’s space in front of the lunch area. We’ll have some comfy chairs and couches set up, and a table or two.

What’s an “un-conference”? It’s an informal meeting place where people can gather to discuss topics of interest throughout the course of the day. The facilitators will create an agenda of topics based on suggestions from whoever shows up, and the topics will be put into time-slots and discussed as the day progresses. The un-conference organization will be a mix of  Lean Coffee and Open Space Technology

So… please think about topics you would like discussed, maybe prepare a bit of a “position” on the topic, and drop by the un-conference area and get your topic on the agenda. This will be a great place to discuss some of the finer points and tougher issues around Agile and Agile adoption. It’s a great way to get input from others (including a few experts), and get a “creative whack on the side of the head”.

November Plans – Gatineau-Ottawa Agile Tour November 21st

Currently, the plan for November is to not have an Agile Ottawa meeting on November 12th, and instead focus on the Gatineau-Ottawa Agile Tour conference on November 21st.

We’d highly encourage all Agile Ottawa members to register for the conference.

#GOAT13 will be, once again, a value-packed conference with 2 amazing keynote speakers and 18 high-quality presentations to choose from during the day! Everyone – whether you’re an experienced practitioner or just embarking on your Agile journey – will find something to inspire and energize. You won’t find a better bang for your buck than this!

I’ve been to a couple of Agile conferences in Toronto and Montreal, and know many of the speakers that will be presenting at the Ottawa conference. I can guarantee you it will be a positive experience. You will learn a lot, be exposed to many new ideas, and have fun. It’s an amazing value for 60 bucks – a great opportunity to step out of the daily grind, get refreshed, and get a great “creative whack on the side of the head”. The $60 includes everything – the keynotes, 18 sessions, the un-conference and meals and snacks,

I’ve learned a lot over the past few months about Agile development and leading Agile teams from many of the speakers that will be attending. I’ve come to realize that I neglected my professional development, and professional networking over the past few years. My advice to is to “just do it”… Pay the $60, skip work for a day, and get connected to some of the leaders in the Agile community in Ontario, Quebec, and the Northeastern US.

You will definitely bring back ideas and knowledge that will be of use to yourself and your company, recharge your batteries, contribute to you own professional development, and have fun!

If you are around Ottawa-Gatineau and involved in S/W Development, you owe it to yourself to register now!

Your #GOAT13 Ticket Includes:

Agile.Next – Accelerating Product Agility: Slides!

Last week’s Agile Ottawa meeting with Dave Thomas was a little like having an entire graduate level seminar in Lean thinking packed into a 75 minute presentation. Here’s the handout of the slides from the masterclass: Agile.Next – Accelerating Product Agility

Thanks to Dave Thomas for a fantastic presentation and for hanging out with us at the Barley Mow after.  Thanks also to Simon Bourk for another very popular Agile 101 session (blog post to follow) and to Bryan for leading the new Agile Ottawa closing ritual (a raucous Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament).

Agile 101 Recap: Agile Values

At the 2013-2014 Agile Ottawa inaugural meeting, we tried something new that will continue through this season.  Before the main presentation each meetup, there will be an Agile 101 session focus on one Agile fundamentals topic.  These short talks are aimed at beginners hoping to learn the basics, or experienced pratictioners seeking to refresh their understanding.

On Sept 10th, Agile coach Simon Bourk talked about the Agile values and how they shape his work.  He followed up with a blog post about the discussion over here.

What Agile 101 topics are you interested in? Leave us suggestions in the comments!