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ALE2012 Lookback (Markus Gärtner)

On September 17, 2012, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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It has been about three weeks right now since the second Agile Lean Europe in Barcelona. Although I had the best intentions back then, I promised to write a blog entry about my experiences there, I didn’t do it until now. It seems the best stuff I take away from the break-out conversations in the coffee breaks these days when at conferences, not so much from the session itself. This also holds for the ALE 2012.

Day One

I arrived late on the first day of the conference. Just right on time for lunch, but also just after the first set of planned sessions in the morning. I had a nice chat with Marc Löffler from the taxi-ride to the conference venue. We talked about various things, from retrospectives, to different traveling habits that each of us started with.

On the lunch table I had interesting conversations with some folks about how it-agile is organized internally, and the different democratic ways of working that we share. Among the more interesting stuff are things like peer groups, a democratic way to settle individual salaries, and using the pull principle throughout the whole company. Some of my colleagues have written about that stuff in the past, for example here, here, or here.

In the afternoon I joined an open space session on books – only to find myself with five new books to read in the next few months (years probably with a shelf of 50 unread books now). Among the most interesting one is the book named “Quiet” which explains a lot of habits us introverts take on, i.e. when leaving a party only to read a good book.This recommendation form Jurgen Appelo made a kick-start to number two in my to-read list, and I hope to start with it during this week.

One thing we learned the hard way was that there were just few programmers willing to work through the brutal refactoring game together with Adrian and myself. We exchanged the thoughts on the concept in the time being, and exchanged some thoughts on software craftsmanship.

Day Two

On the second day of the conference, I woke up early enough to join the opening in the morning. Since I had a longer chat with Marc Löffler the day before, I joined his session on retrospectives. He proposed to include purpose into the sprint retrospective, and made a motivating case for it.

Among other sessions, I enjoyed the chat I had with my colleague Christian Dähn in the evening. The busy times in Germany don’t provide us with too much time to talk about our company. We discussed some of the things that we saw during the day, and things we would like to try out at it-agile GmbH over the course of the next few weeks, or months, maybe. It was an inspiring evening.

Day Three

On the final of the conference, I had my talk on testing with a stranger. I had chatted with the Open Space software development team, and was willing to test their application in a testing dojo way. It was amazing. We went through a tour through the application first, and then came up with individual focused sessions. In the end we raised after one hour of testing enough concerns on various topics, that it took me half an hour to explain all the different things to the product owners and stakeholders. I think it was time worth spent. I would love to join the development team the next time. The pure separation of the team and the testers led to a lot of hate when we delivered our information. That was interesting information to me.

Later I also joined the retrospective of the Open Space development team. It turned out that they were able to get started with a first minimal version of the application pretty soon. Unfortunately they went without tests, which was not a problem at first, but the lack of a safety-net over time became a burden to team’s ability to deliver quickly. As Duarta Vasco expressed it:

You can bootstrap without testing, but you miss it at some point.

This was an interesting insight for me as well.

In the afternoon there were two absolute highlights. First, when the kids of all the families joined, and presented their achievements back to the group of adults who chatted all day about Agile, Lean, and coaching, there was whole different atmosphere in the room. The kids brought such a natural feeling of joy. The thing that amazed me the most was the fact that most of the kids did not speak English at all, yet they were able to play with the other kids over the course of three days. And they brought so much fun back to their parents when they joined us, it was just amazing.

Right after that, Henrik Kniberg held the closing keynote. In it he explained how his family made up the plan to travel all over the world in six months, and how they got to do that. One of his daughters had joined him for the final Q&A, and it directly brought the spirit from the children dancing about an hour before that back. It was amazing, and inspiring at the same time. The topic of his presentation was

ALE 2013

With the fun the kids brought to ALE 2012 in mind, and with the keynote from Henrik Kniberg, I would love to bring my wife and the kids to next year’s conference. I had some longer chats with Adrian Bolboaca as well as Martin Klose about different things like software craftsmanship in Germany, and various code retreats all over Germany. I especially liked Adrian’s motivation to become a European bumblebee, and bring different practices and exercises to the folks all over Europe.

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