I had the privilege of going to my 2nd Agile Open NW conference. I’m a huge fan of this conference and the format it’s in.
What is it? From the Agile Open NW Website “Agile Open Northwest is an annual conference about agile practices and techniques. Using Open Space, the participants themselves make the conference they want to attend.” Have you ever heard of “unconferences”? The main idea of this conference is that it utilizes some of the key agile principles and allows individuals to self organize around topics they are interested in. I never would have expected it to work, but I’m pleasantly surprised! on the first morning people start grabbing time slots on topics they want to discuss, content they want to create, or questions they want answered. You get 30 seconds to give your pitch to the group, and then people come to the sessions they are interested in. You may have 2 people show up, or 30+! Even if no one else shows up it’s encouraged that you spend the time on your topic. Why? who wouldn’t love 60 minutes to focus on a topic they are passionate about?
Who was there? There is typically a wide array of attendees. I’ve met developers, agile coaches, video game producers, and newbies to the agile world. Some are there to be a sponge and absorb from others, but I think everyone ends up contributing to some degree.
What were the takeaways? This year’s theme was “Agile: How will you know it when you see it?” While the sessions don’t have to directly align to the theme, somehow they tend support it tie back to it. For me, I was surprised that my greatest takeaway was a session that I had not originally planned to attend. I started at a session about enterprise agile transformations, and just wasn’t feeling it. Since we are encouraged to utilize the law of two feet, I moved on. I stumbled across a session called “Agile Family”. It was about how to apply some Agile/Scrum principles into your family. It was fascinating to hear what others are doing in their families like stand ups, scrum boards, and dot voting to set priorities for the day. Not only did it inspire me to put to test more of the principles of agile in my personal life (Our family now has a scrum board and votes on what we do Sat/Sun!), it also helped me reflect back towards how I can use them better in my professional life. I also attended a few sessions where people presented ideas for new agile methods by taking rituals/practices from other frameworks and melding them into one. It was quite valuable to talk to others in the industry and be reminded of what’s most important.
This is a picture of the “Schedule Wall” that was used for showing when/where each session was.
Across the conference center you will find flip charts with tons of brainstorming notes from sessions. Even if you missed a session you can just want around during a break and snap pictures of what people created.