Thoughts from AgileDC 2012 (or An Australians First Impressions of America)

I had a great time attending and speaking at AgileDC ( earlier this week. I found the presentations to be interesting and educational and the people very friendly. This is just a quick write-up of some of those presentations that I attended.

Adaptive Leadership: Accelerating Enterprise Agility - Jim Highsmith

Jim Highsmith was as interesting as ever. This talk was a good overview of his Adaptive Leadership theories. I've been following his Adaptive Leadership blog for some time and, though I have some disagreements with him, it has been quite formative in much of my thinking. His research and statistics on quality vs investment is something I think I may have to use with some of my clients. “Would you prefer 100% of the features for 100% of the cost or 90% of the features for 70% of the cost.”

Jim also presented his idea for an Agile Iron Triangle: Value, quality, constraints (cost, schedule, scope). While I agree that these are important concepts, I’m not sure I agree that these help inform management & investment decisions. A few take home concepts;

  • It's not good enough for us to release every 6 or 12 months anymore.
  • The three goals of adaptive leaders; why Agile, do Agile, be Agile

Finally, I loved his description of Agile transformation programmes. “Agile projects go well and then the Agile anti-bodies come out.”

Is Lean Management Timeless? Observations from the Agile Field. - Sanjiv Augustine

This presentation was very interesting and definitely reinforced some of the core concepts in my book. I particularly liked his statistic that productive communication goes up by 400% when collocating teams. I also thought it was good to see Demming getting some love during AgileDC. Sanjiv’s structure for a Lean PMO is something that we can definitely apply back home, though I would make some changes to make it a programme management office rather than a project management office.

UK Government Agile – lessons from the journey - Andy de Vale

I really enjoyed Andy’s presentation, and consider that his concept of an Agile Delivery Network ( is something that could work very well both here in America and back home in Australia. I particularly liked the clear definition of the blockers to Agile adoption in the UK Government (What is Agile?, Lack of Business Commitment, Leadership Behaviors, Non-Agile Teams, Pay, Physical Workspace, Procurement, Governance and Central Government Approvals)

A few take home concepts;

  • The language that many Agile practitioners use alienates senior executives in Government.
  • Many systems integrators follow Agile as a cargo cult. They use the words but don't understand the core concepts. This leads to poor implementation, and negative press for Agile.
  • Authority + Determination + Capability = Agile Success
  • Overall, using Agile techniques to reduce the time for vendor procurement is giving better results for UK Government Departments.

And for those of you who missed it, Andy and I were interviewed prior to AgileDC -


Not directly relevant, but I wanted to include in this write-up that I met some very interesting people and had some very informative conversations. As a general rule, the issues facing the American government and industry (relating to Agile take-up and implementation) are very similar to those faced by the Australian Government.

Implementing Agile in the Australian Public Service - Evan Leybourn

I thought this was the best talk at the conference, and the presenter was eloquent, intelligent and very handsome. :-)

Innovation Games® for Agile Teams and Product Leaders - Jason Tanner

While directed at American audiences, I thought some of the group games had potential. My favourite was the group game to create the definition of Done. This was achieved by brainstorming all possible the test & QA techniques (at Unit, Integration and UI levels) and removing those that were duplicated or inappropriate. The remaining techniques formed the core definition of Done. However, as an Australian, I found the American style, group dynamics and expectations awkward.


A few random (and flippant) thoughts on America while I’m here. When I ask for recommendations for a good coffee shop, I don’t expect to be sent to Starbucks. Ambulances look like fire trucks (and are run by the fire department), which confuses me. Also while you may drive on the right, it's the wrong side of the street. I've almost been collected twice.

So far the, non-conference, highlights for me have been; squirrels (which are awesomely cute), jazz buskers trumpeting on the street, delicious Texas style BBQ beef, and the greatest of all, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.