Thoughts on Agile and Beyond 2013

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that 600 people made it to Agile and Beyond last weekend! Kudos to the organizers, sponsors, speakers and attendees for an awesome event!

It was cool and emotional for me to be back in Dearborn where I spent many summers at my Gramma’s house in a nearby neighbourhood. I remembered riding the elevators at the hotel when she was working at the mall across the parking lot. One of those summers I saw Return of Jedi 9 or 10 times so that was pretty awesome!

The only session I was able to attend was Jean Tabaka’s talk about complexity and design thinking since I had 2 sessions to deliver myself.

What I enjoyed the most about her session was that someone with her standing in the Agile community was talking about more advanced topics. That tells me that the community is maturing and looking outside the 4 values and 12 principles for how best to help organizations.

Given how quickly information flows today and the nature of today’s knowledge work, organizations that continue with a mechanistic approach to managing their organization will not survive and organizations that embrace complexity will.

The S&P’s average life span of companies has shrunk from 70 years to 14 years over the last 70 years. Look at Nortel, Rim (now Blackberry), Motorola and more former powerhouses. Organizations that insist on using scientific management to build bureaucratic, hierarchical monstrosities will die.

Jean’s delivery was energetic and engaging and I hope more topics like this make it into mainstream conferences, I think the time is right for another shift.

Jim Benson’s keynote was fantastic! I enjoyed the rants, especially the “rules kill awesome” statement. Nothing destroys creativity and intrinsic motivation more than over-emphasis on rules. Rules are important to create constraints, but not to the extreme of thinking you can create enough rules for standardization. No two teams, projects or organizations are alike, creating guidelines and encouraging experimentation will help organizations thrive in this age of complexity.

I did manage to see the tail end of Matt Barcomb’s learning organization session after I finished mine. Matt is awesome to watch, great flow and quite engaging.

I had some great hallway and dinner conversations with people who came to my sessions, particularly around Lean Startup and Lean Change. There was a great deal of energy in both of my sessions with Gerry Kirk and Andrew Annett.

We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees which was nice after totally bombing at Agile 2012 last year!

Feedback from Managing Response to Change:


Feedback from Lean Change:


Overall, it was extremely well organized and the session selection was quite diverse.

– very well organized
– wide variety of topics
– fantastic venue
– good mix of 90 and 45 min sessions
– open space area

To make it perfect:
– having session review cards so speakers can get feedback
– I liked how LESS 2012 had awards for best talks per track (I won best Lean Startup session!). That would be pretty cool, or have attendees vote on best talks
– maybe extend to half of Sunday? I think next year will be bigger!

Thanks again to all the organizers, speakers, sponsors and attendees as well as my road trip buddies Andrew Annett, Sue Johnston, Chris Gow and finally Ardita Karaj who has been accepted into Lean Dog society!


More about Agile and Beyond:

official website

Eventifier Archive

Summary from Ardita Karaj