I am back at home, a few days after my first experience of Agile on the Beach. There were
a few problems with it (yes, yes, I’m baiting you, I loved it). There was too much quality, it was really hard
to pick which talks to go to. There was too much fun, it was difficult to leave the after-party after the beach party.
And it was hard to keep track of all the new faces and names.
Like I said, so many problems!
First up was Jeff Gothelf, who talked about Outcome-based Product Planning in his keynote.
Now, there are a few quotes that I thought were very notable:
- “Roadmaps are the enemy of agility”
- “Correcting course based on evidence is the definition of agile. Lowercase agile!”
- “Outcome-based teams need to be highly visible, be radically transparent and over-communicate”
- “A fate worse than failure is success without knowing how you got there”
All of which I found really great to hear. I’ve long thought that software development follows a kind of 80:20 rule,
80% of development is social and only 20% is technical. I often find it frustrating when talking to each other isn’t
as high on the agenda as typing in code.
The best example is that all too often, software is measured based on output, rather than outcome. It’s no use starting
with a technological solution, at the start of every journey is a business problem!
The following tickled me though. What’s the need here, except creating future Darwin Award winners:
D&D of course stands for Donkeys and Dragons, the
Agile Testing Fellowship made up of Lisa Crispin
and Janet Gregory. During their keynote, they introduced the holistic testing
My problem with the keynote was that the notable quotes were flying in too fast:
- “Quality is vague and subjective”
- “The quality of the process influences the quality of the product”
- “Testing does not equate to quality”
- “Testing isn’t about software, it is about ideas”
- “QA stands for Question Asker”
- “You do know deploying to production isn’t the same thing as releasing to the customer”
- “Testing early informs observability”
All these should leave us in no doubt that testing and QA is such an important and essential step in software
engineering, something that is all too often forgotten because “we’ll just get the developers to write some automated
tests”. That’s how problems appear…
The problem with people
The closing keynote was a fantastic tour de force of mixing biology (who knew that the amygdala has so much to answer for),
human behaviours, fears, fighting, fleeing and fawning by Ceri Newton-Sargunar
who managed to inject wit and googly eyes into the complex and fascinating subject of agile behaviour coaching.
A couple of great ideas from Ceri’s talk:
- Using 36 questions, Ceri managed to get two
co-workers that said of each other how damaging they are to the company to laugh, talk and agree with each other.
This just illustrates how big an influence human relationships are to working successfully. Reflecting on this myself,
I think it explains why it is so difficult to relate to a team if we never socialise with each other.
- I also loved the idea of “Microretros”: spend 5 minutes at the end of a meeting asking “disagree wih me or pick it
apart” as a way of normalising constructive feedback.
More than just keynotes
As I’ve mentioned above, it felt really difficult picking the talks from the different tracks or workshops. The AOTB
team did a really good job of bringing great talks together.
Well, I would say that - I was one of them!
I imagined it to be a bit of a nerve-wracking experience, but such was the chilled atmosphere that I didn’t worry
about not having rehearsed the talk and enjoyed talking about my love letter to legacy
and even had time to add a lightning talk about denial of service attacks
at short notice.
My thanks to Steve
I think Steve Smith deserves a lot of thanks. I’ve always looked up to him. He stands head and shoulders above the rest.
That’s enough tall people jokes now.
Until Next Time?
I hope that’s given a brief flavour of what it was like. I know I didn’t even mention the barbecue on the beach, the
secret garden party or the boat party, but I think it is a great experience and I would heartily recommend taking
the trip to Cornwall when Agile on the Beach 2024 comes round.
Paraphrasing the inimitable Gwen Diagram: “Fucking ace!”
agile aotb conference
If you'd like to find more of my writing, why not follow me on