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Agile Up 3 Here

We held Agile Up 3 Here at Agilistry Studio last week. Nine people gathered from all around the world for our second week-long intensive. Our team consisted of Alan Cooper, Jim Dibble, Pat Maddox, Alex Bepple, Brendon Murphy, Dale Emery, Matt Barcomb, Dave Liebreich, and me. Once again, we were working on mrhomophone.com.
My insights from the week:

  1. Distilling down to the absolute core of the intent for a given period of time is harder than it sounds. It’s tempting to include little nice-to-haves in the stories. Even when implementing, it’s tempting to do a bit of polishing in unrelated areas.
  2. Perhaps the temptation to expand the scope of the deliverable beyond the bare bones isn’t all bad. It can enable us to kick things up a notch, deliver something that surpasses the merely functional to something that feels indulgent.
  3. Or perhaps the temptation is dangerous. To the extent that we allow the extraneous little bits in, we risk losing sight of the bigger and more important goals.
  4. Laser-focused pair partners help with the struggle to distinguish between kicking things up a notch, yak shaving, and losing focus.
  5. Explicit working agreements help create safety (as well as creating a tight-knit team with a strong shared culture).
  6. Shared in-jokes and language also create shared culture. (“System Testing!” Ha ha!) Note that unless you were here, you have absolutely no idea why “system testing” might be funny. Even if I explained the joke, you still probably wouldn’t think it was funny. It’s a “you had to be there” kind of thing. And that’s why shared in-jokes are powerful for creating tight-knit teams.
  7. Creating a sense of safety is critical for learning.
  8. Deciding whether or not to upgrade your infrastructure cannot be a unilateral decision. (On the other hand, I don’t think I made the wrong call; I just did it the wrong way and at the wrong time. If I were to do it all over again, I would open up the discussion with the group in advance. And assuming we decided to upgrade our technology stack, I would start earlier and with more help in the beginning.)
  9. Integrating a test effort is hard, even when all the programmers are test infected and the tester is highly competent.

On a more personal note…

  1. When I think I have an answer, I cling to it doggedly. And when I finally let go of something, I really let go of it.
  2. I am extremely fond of my yak and cannot bear the thought of losing it, even if it will be replaced soon. (Sorry Alex.)
  3. It’s possible for people who don’t live here to introduce me to new things in my own back yard. Go figure. (Thanks for introducing me to the crazy dive bar, Pat.)

So that’s AU3H in a nutshell. AU4H will (probably) take place in May 2012. Details in another 6 months or so.

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