Lean/Kanban Conference in London…

December 8, 2009 Paul Culling

I am currently in my second year on the Agile Alliance board.  We meet face-to-face four times each year (including at the annual agile 200x conference) and September’s meeting was planned for London. Coincidentally there was also the UK Lean and Kanban Conference happening in the days leading up to our board meeting.  This meant a good chance to get to London a little early, get acclimated to the time zone and take in some sessions. VersionOne was also a sponsor/supporter of this conference so it was good for me to be there to “represent” but I assumed more of an attendee role than anything else.

As I said in my intro to the whole “fall journey” thing, there are a few people within this community that would like to differentiate themselves right out of the broader agile community but to me this seems more about “branding” than anything else.  At its core, this community is a group of people that primarily are experienced agilists – whether they originate from teams using a scrum framework, eXtreme Programming, hybrid or other agile methods – but have moved towards something “new” to further the improvement of their software delivery teams.   (Unfortunately, the branding/differentiating efforts may be doing more harm than good with people and teams that have just begun exploring a transition to lightweight methods.)

The conference was very interesting in that this was a fairly small group that had people very passionate about Lean thinking and the use of Kanban – Sometimes one or the other and to a lesser extent, both.  There was some fairly divisive commentary by some of the community ‘leaders’ with respect to “Agile” or “Scrum” but this was mainly restricted to the consultant side of the house so I will put that down to the whole branding thing.

I find it really humorous when people talk about “doing” agile, I heard this a few times in regard to moving to Lean/Kanban from “doing agile”.  I must have missed the point when agile development became a defined set of practices from which one cannot stray instead of an umbrella term for various methods and practices.  Also interesting was the ability by many to use the words Lean and Kanban interchangeably. This bugs me in the same way as when people use the words Agile and Scrum interchangeably.  These terms are related but not the same.

Since the entire Agile Alliance board was in town, the Agile Alliance sponsored a reception at the end of the second day for all the conference attendees and Agile Alliance members that happened to be in the London vicinity.  This gave the Agile Alliance the opportunity to show its support for the Lean/Kanban community and for discussions with board members to learn about what the Agile Alliance has been up to and where it is going in the next few years.  These receptions are something the board began doing at each face-to-face meeting starting in Paris last January. This gives the board the opportunity to interact with communities around the world, getting feedback and input into our overall roadmap so that we have a better chance of serving our community effectively. (The next reception coincides with the Agile Alliance board meeting in Atlanta. It will be Wednesday December 16th @ 6:30pm at the Marriott Perimeter.)

For me, like most conferences I attend, the best parts were outside the sessions – in the breaks, around the dinner table and at the pub in the evening.  This is where practitioners get passionate, where the real meat is. There is less divisive talk and less concern about “my brand” over “their brand” – or at least when there is, it isn’t veiled and you can call people out on it!  There is always lots of discussion about what is working, how people got there and more importantly, what is *not* working.  Every traditional conference begs for these types of talks: what went wrong as opposed to a big [insert your fave method/practice] love-in.  In a more personalized atmosphere people seem to be more open to discuss their experiences in detail.  As a side note, this may be why open space events tend to be so successful in the eyes of attendees.  It is more about sharing experiences that are open to discussion and debate. I will have more to say about the open space thing in a later post on the Boston AgilePalooza.

Check out these Lean & Kanban resources…

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