Agile Australia 2017 Responsive Organisations, Dark Matter and #emojifirst development

20 July, 2017 by Chris Bradshaw

This year I was given the opportunity to attend the Agile Australia conference with this (mostly) good looking bunch of people.

The overall theme of the conference targeted towards organisational leadership and transformation rather a 'How to do agile' approach. With so many Agile methodologies being very much matured it was interesting to see the journeys and lessons learned by the speakers from so many diverse companies

Rather than me write about only my experience I've asked a few of my teammates who also went who their favourite talk was. ( a full rundown of all sessions can be viewed here

Fran's Favourite

'The Groupishness of Groups' by Katy Rowett.


Why did I like it?
  • Regular open and honest communication
  • Manage risks and challenges constantly; communicate these
  • Behaviours which could be displayed by a team:
  • Scapegoating – not necessarily planned or intended but can impact the overall success of the project if not dealt with – regular structured feedback; team is supported by their leaders; mange risks effectively and constantly.
  • The super human leader – there isn't such a thing but be a super leader. For me this behaviour is reflected in the quote from Thomas Jefferson 'he who knows best knows how little he knows', in other words read, learn from others and apply it but appreciate people are humans so mistakes happen … just be bold enough to admit it and move on.
  • Beam me up Scottie – ensure boring tasks are clear and broken down into smaller pieces if necessary so to avoid variations/interpretations. Inject a bit of humour.

Tim's Favourite

Dark Matter by Lisa Harvey Smith.


Why did I like it?

The inner-geek in me was interested to hear about some of the research on this subject, and how Australia is directly involved in building, and hosting, the largest and most powerful radio-telescope in the world - the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) - that will enable a deeper understanding of the Universe.

The technical challenges in capturing and analysing the data received by the array - when it's built - is mind boggling. The goal is for software to do the work - with machine learning and pattern recognition vital to understanding the vast amount of information gathered by the SKA. This is a challenge for the Astronomical Community, the project needs skills, knowledge and experience from the broader technological community and recognises it needs to embrace new ways of working, such as an Agile Mindset, to have any chance of achieving success. I liked this because of the philanthropic nature of what is being undertaken and how Lisa was honest, open and asking: we need your help.

Lee's Favourite

Building a responsive organization - Sami Honkonen | CEO, Tomorrow Labs

Our organisations need to be adaptive to deal with the increasing complexity and pace of change. Unfortunately, many of the existing corporate structures do the opposite. A responsive organisation is fit for its current environment, but continuously adapts to reflect the changing business landscape. This talk looks at the building blocks of a responsive organisation. By understanding complexity, systems, experiments, transparency and empowered execution, we can build an organisation that thrives in uncertainty.


Why did I like it?

It breaks down what a responsive organization is, into a well explained set of core practices and principles that resonated with me. Companies need to completely understand complexity theory (think cynefin) and systems thinking. This is the foundation on which every decision and structure is created. The next layer is then – treating everything as an experiment – because most things in a complex business cannot be predicted up front.

Sami had interesting insights into leveraging data to help decision making – and emphases the importance of not abusing data targets as they will inevitably result in the wrong unintended behaviour – Treat data as data, and use common sense to interpret it as needed.

Lastly – but certainly not least, the importance of people and allowing them to be empowered with very clear boundaries.

The building blocks for a responsive organisation

Chris's Favourite

The Rise of the Tigermokey – Rob Ciolii

Take a risk – you might learn something!

When some unusual circumstances occur, brave leaders will trust their staff to try something a little different. This is a fast-paced case study of building a mobile app from zero to MVP in 8 weeks with a very Lean team. No delivery lead, no business analyst, and no real plan. Just a couple of developers in Melbourne, a pair in Xi'an and a product guy. What could go wrong?

The business was faced with some financial constraints so the formation of a new team was postponed. This left some resources under-utilised for a couple of months. The idea of building a mobile app had been floated for a long time, but never made it to the top of the priority list. This situation provided us with a challenge that could not be ignored. The decision was taken to form a Lean 'Tiger' team to take up the challenge.

Designs and a definition of an MVP were quickly cobbled together. Success was defined as creating a shippable app within the time allocated. Could they do it?


Why did I like it?

I think everyone with a design or development background thinks that sounds amazing no overheads just putting out product!! Rob took us on this 8-week journey. Initially they coded away without too much of a plan and really felt just like code monkeys, this tied with the struggle to get buy- in from other teams in the company. What got the interest flowing? A 3 foot laminated emoji of a Tigermonkey (A Tiger team of code monkeys!)., Behold #emojifirst development was born. People were walking past the team and asking questions about the massive emoji on the wall this gave the team the chance to get everyone else on board with the project.

The session was about dropping all processes and structure and being cowboys – but rather a story about people and passion – and how that can change a culture from the inside.

The team enjoying a cold refreshing beverage at the end of Day 1.

All in all, I had a great time at Agile Australia 2017, it was enlightening, empowering and I took so much away that can be used in my day to day interactions with clients and my own time. It also provided the team that went down some very robust discussion topics in the lunch breaks which really brought out the passion of the people in our team about how they see things, in particular scaling Agile to an Enterprise level.

Bring On 2018!

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