My takeaways from AgileIndy 2018

May 18, 2018

This year I finally decided to attend AgileIndy, although I’ve been toying with the idea for several years, and have been trying to practice (successfully or unsuccessfully) agile methods for over 10 years.  I’m glad I finally did, because every session I attended had something that I could take away with me (I now have a growing list of books that I want to read, and a podcast to listen to).  Here they are with book (podcast) recommendations and memorable quotes in some cases:

Morning Keynote: Employee Engagement Models: The Secret Sauce (Daniel Mezick)

This talk was a little slow in getting my attention, but past the midway point, it got interesting.


  • Without ‘Employee Engagement’, any agile plan is a waste of time.  Employee engagement leads to retention and profitability
  • Change how decisions are made – self-management of decisions engages people
  • Open the space for people to contribute their thoughts, via an all-hands meeting where everyone gives input on a company initiative (sound familiar to SEP folks?)
  • Ideal conditions for this open space meeting: – Real business issue people care about
  • Mind numbing complexity
  • High levels of diversity in skills needed to get the job done
  • Much passion involved (people really care) or potential conflict
  • Real sense of urgency

Memorable quote:

  • ‘Without passion no one cares; without responsibility nothing gets done’

Books to Read:

Leadership: A Deeper Dive (Frank Forte)

This talk was inspired by experiences leading a team in a nuclear powered submarine, made up of 120 people who had to brave the depths for 90 days in a very constricted space, with limited resources.


  • Manage things, lead people
  • Leadership is at least 50% self-leadership
  • The true measure of leadership is influence
  • Intention is how you influence
  • Success involves: – Small cross-functional teams
  • Scrum Master helping the team grow
  • Product Owner responsible for delivering business value
  • Dev team responsible for how the value is delivered and for technical quality

Book to read:

Stop Complaining and Start Learning! Retrospectives That Drive Real Change (David Horowitz)

This talk was given by the CEO of Retrium, a platform for conducting agile retrospectives. It was a pretty good talk, with concrete ideas that one could take away and implement immediately.


  • Retros are the catalyst to true agility, since they foster learning
  • Usually retros fail because people discuss topics/issues they cannot solve
  • It’s an agile smell if you don’t feel comfortable including the Product Owner in a retro
  • Steps to conduct a successful retro: – Set the stage (how is everyone doing?)
  • Gather data (what happened (emotions also) during the last sprint or sometime in the past?)
  • Generate insights (what can we do?)
  • Decide what to do (SMART action items). To help with this, group tickets into ‘zone of control’ (where the team has control over the issue), ‘zone of influence’ (where the team has no direct control, but can influence change), and ‘out of control’ (where the team has no control or influence)
  • Close the retro (one word checkout – how can we improve?)
  • Use the retrospective radiator to share outside the team although most of what is discussed during a retro stays within the team

Memorable quote:

  • ‘What you measure is what you optimize for’ (Measure wisely, for some things cannot be measured, like trust)

Book to read:

Afternoon Keynote: Leveraging the Power in “What’s Right” not “Who’s Right” (Robert Tipton)

This speaker was very good, and held the audience’s attention with his delivery and content.


  • To influence change, one needs to move off one’s position, and humanize the person(s) on the other side
  • Invitation (of everyone involved) and full ownership drive transformation and change
  • For successful agreements
    • Listen for understanding, not for responding
  • Speak individually, not globally
  • Take the situation seriously, not yourself
  • People grieve through transformational change

Memorable quotes:

  • ‘How does it feel when you’re wrong?  It feels like you’re right’
  • ‘Race is a social concept’

Book to read:

Agile Metrics: Beyond Burndown Charts (Tanner Wortham)

The speaker was the Lead Scrum Master at when he developed charts to track predictability, speed, quality, ENPS (Employee Net Promoter Score), and cycle time.

His key learning points:

  • Getting the good out of metrics requires a balanced leadership approach
  • Good metrics are team, not individual based
  • Data allow us to ask better questions
  • The map is not the territory
  • With data comes baggage
  • Gaining team engagement is hard
  • People over everything

Memorable quote:

  • ‘Reward failure’  (otherwise the person/team is not pushing the envelope)

Leadership in an Agile Environment (Patrick Bogan)

A quiet talk, without fanfare, but had very good points.  Leadership can be explicit (command and control) or implicit (tell your followers what you want, but not how to do it).  Each has its merits and needs to be applied based on the context.

Takeaways (8 principles of leadership)

  • Values are the foundation (values drive behavior)
  • Invest in relationships
  • Build high performing teams (starts with vulnerability based trust)
  • Communicate the why (vision, goals, objectives) non-stop
  • Deliver value quickly and frequently
  • Get in the details and do, don’t just tell
  • Have the difficult conversations about the stuff that matters
  • Build leaders by modeling behaviors (mentor, teach, coach)

Memorable quote:

  • ‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place’ – George Bernard Shaw

Breaking Bad Scrum (Ryan Ripley)

The format of this talk was different.  The speaker built a backlog of 13 audience generated questions related to scrum gone bad, and addressed them one at a time.

Takeaways were surprisingly not prescriptive or endorsing scrum practices.  They were:

  • Scrum is a loose framework, and context based
  • Live it (scrum), train it, call it out
  • Sprint 0 is an anti-pattern.  There are no specialized sprints in scrum.  A sprint has to provide value at the end
  • Discovery should run parallel to scrum
  • People are not resistant to change, they are resistant to being told what to do
  • Make the value apparent (make things visible)
  • Inspect and adapt constantly, but forgive when people fall back

Memorable quote:

  • ‘If you judge, your curiosity is shut off’

Podcast to listen to: