Watermark Learning Blog

The fourth annual Agile Day Twin Cities was held November 14, 2014, at Target Commons on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. It was a great day of communing with developers, project managers, product owners, executives, business analysts, ScrumMasters, testers, coaches and others working with and learning about agile. Professionals from all points on the doing-to-being agile continuum were there to ask questions, share, and learn from each other.

The 200 tickets to this 1-day “un-conference” sold out before the schedule was even published, indicating how popular the event has become. The event, sponsored by DevJam, was held at the Target Commons on Nicollet Mall, a space that helped set the agile vibe with an indoor open fire pit and life-size animal sculptures, including a horse lamp.

The day opened with a panel discussion in which four practitioners fielded questions from the audience. The panel discussion per question lasted as long as the audience decided and was a perfect tone-setter for the day: “It isn’t about whether or not you are agile; it’s about where you’re going.”

Continuous Product Delivery was this year’s theme, and the morning presentations aligned with four conference tracks: Product Exploration, UX (User Experience) and Customer Learning, Technology and Delivery, and Agile Journeys. As might be expected, there was lots of hands-on work in many of the sessions, including freelance UX consultant Jeremy Kriegel’s Sketch You Can! Demystifying a Powerful Collaboration Technique talk in which participants finished the hour by pairing up to create wireframe drawings of webpages in less than 3 minutes.

The afternoon was an Open Space in which small pods with seating for about 20 people were created around the Commons main floor area. For 20-minute periods throughout the afternoon, each pod held an information-sharing, question-and-answer, problem-solving, or whatever discussion type the facilitator suggested. During the discussions, people listened and participated or moved about to other discussion groups at any time as they chose. Topics for the Open Space small groups were suggested by the audience during a 15-minute open mic in which anyone could come up and add their topic to the list.

Topics varied widely from highly technical to soft skills. For example, one was how to deal with burnout on an agile team. This group generated a lot of discussion about how to address team burnout, as well as inquiries as to how it got to be a problem in the first place, considering the agile emphasis on sustainability. Another topic was how to handle leadership resistance to agile practices. Open space was a great way to find out what others are doing, what’s working for them, or get input on how to address an issue.

Closing comments were brief and people were then free to stick around for a post-conference beer-o-spective. It was suggested that next year’s conference topic be agile in the non-development space, an idea that was enthusiastically received by attendees. Clearly, the agile community is growing in the Twin Cities. This event was a great venue for connecting with others on their agile journeys to share experiences and learn from each other.

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