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Takeaways from dsmAgile 2019

Teammate smiling and waving by DSMAgile 2019 poster

We look forward to dsmAgile every year. It’s become an event that the Des Moines tech community has supported and gets excited about every fall. Presented by Agile Iowa, this is a conference that brings speakers (national, international, and local) and attendees together for a day to discuss, discover and learn.

A lot of work goes on behind the scenes getting a conference like dsmAgile ready for the big day. We’d like to give a shout out to these Source Allies teammates (Kent McDonald, Amy Lindberg, Jodi Jones, and Maggie Iglesias Pena) for their help organizing and speaking at the event this year.

Here are some sessions and take-aways our Source Allies teammates found inspiring.

Keynote “The Power of an Agile Mindset” by Linda Rising

This was a very inspiring and motivating keynote where Linda shared her thoughts about the agile mindset and how powerful it could be for individuals, teams, and organizations. The central question posed was whether intelligence (or any other ability for that matter) is fixed, or does it improve with time as you continue practicing. She shared research from Carol Dweck, that showed how impactful a person’s mindset can be when it comes to their growth and how they face challenges. She also drew parallels to how a team/organization can exhibit a growth mindset and how it will enable (or limit) its future.

We can exhibit an agile mindset when we invest time and effort in our abilities, make learning our goal, and show resilience when facing challenges. On the other hand, a fixed mindset is when we see ability as a capability we were born with and cannot change, make appearances our goal, and become helpless when challenges arise.

The power of a mindset is scary (or wonderful depending on how it’s applied) because a parent’s or organizations’ own mindset will also affect their children’s and employees’ growth over time.

“Leveraging Technical Friction in the Organization” by Michael Feathers

Michael gave a nuanced view on different organizational structures, dynamics, and attitudes and how they impact the code, microservices and applications we write. His talk wasn’t proposing a specific solution or a silver bullet and instead tries to open our eyes to the different pros and cons of the solutions he has seen in the wild. We highly recommend this talk if you’re curious about how different theories and concepts like Conway’s Law, Power Law Distribution, Coding Heroes, Dunbar’s Number, Component Teams, and Feature Teams impact teams, culture, and the applications they produce.

“Are Agile Scaling Models the New Snake Oil?” by Nivia Henry

It was very interesting to hear Nivia’s (formerly certified in Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)) views on SAFe and other agile scaling models. She was advocating against such complex scaling models because they attempt to shortcut the learning and experimentation processes that are essential to being agile.

Nivia proposed a better alternative where taking an R&D approach and having an experimentation-oriented culture can yield better results than agile scaling models. She also went into detail about how feedback infrastructures, A/B testing, observe–orient–decide–act (OODA) loops, and other techniques can help strengthen such a culture.

“Agility At Walmart” by Vanathy Lakshmi

A couple key take-aways from Vanathy’s talk:

  • FUEL model: Framing, Understanding, Experimenting, Listening.
  • Keep a lean product backlog. She uses backlog buckets “Now, Next, Never”. It was interesting to learn about keeping the “Never” bucket (mostly I’ve seen teams bankrupt a backlog) and how the “Never” bucket can represent ideas that do not align to your product principles.
  • Build experimentation into the sprint cycle. She encouraged teams to get attached to the problem they are solving, not the solution. Don’t be afraid to scrap a solution if it doesn’t solve the problem.

We’re also very excited that this year’s dsmAgile conference was video recorded so we can check out the sessions we were not able to attend. Check out the videos on Agile Iowa’s YouTube channel and be sure to check out the dsmAgile website for updates about future Des Moines events!

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