Agile Business Day Venice – Presentation and discussions afterwards

Friday 11 and Saturday 12 September the Agile Business Day was held in a virtual Venice. I guess we all missed strolling through the streets at night or taking a gondola on the grand canal. The Organization succeeded to create a local feel and made great effort to spark interaction to make up for the lack of physical presence.


During the Agile Business Day I gave a presentation on refinement. Over the years I have guided many teams during their transition toward Agile. Initially most attention went to the ceremonies and understanding the agile values. Experience taught me that when the team gets up to speed refinement becomes a bottleneck. Unfortunately, I see many teams that do not unlock the full potential of refinement. Not only is the time spent on refinement often limited, many of the refinement meetings I join are inefficient. I meet teams that spent half the meeting watching the Product Owner entering the new backlog items in the workflow system. Although they poker the user stories afterwards, little time is left to discussions the best solution and risks that need to be avoided.

In my talk I explained:Advantages of good refinement and what I see in daily practise

  1. How we can boost the potential of Refinement by organising it as a process rather than a meeting
  2. Introduced a set of challenging questions that can be used to prepare your refinement, And last but not least,
  3. Explained how they can be used to involve the off-site team members of distributed teams

You can find the slides of my presentation, below:

Also check out the article I wrote on this topic for the Agile Connection, it lists all the questions I discussed in my talk.

The need for experimenting and learning new techniques.

Afterwards I had a nice conversation with some of the participant about improvements within agile teams. How do you deal with team members that distrust each other, company cultures that are challenging and we discussed the time needed for experimenting and learning new techniques.

The agile principles state that as a team we should embrace technical excellence and focus on timely and continues delivery of quality solutions. This implies that we reserve time for hygienic actions, like cleaning up or code and reducing our technical dept. The ambition to deliver value solutions in the both the short term as well as the long term, implies that we invest in our knowledge and skills. During our conversation on the conference we discussed how hard it can be to convince the Product Owner and Stakeholder that time is needed for these things. But they are important.

I have been in an organization where we used the analogy of a bulldozer that pushed forward the sand it meets on its way.  As the bulldozer moves forward the heap of sand becomes bigger. This was the symbol for the backlog of items like maintenance, working on technical excel and innovation. I repeat, as the bulldozer moves forward the heap of sand becomes bigger. Until eventually the bulldozer gets stuck in the mounted sand. Lesson learned: you can delay and postpone these items some time, but if you wait too long, it becomes too big and your delivery will discontinue.

But, how can we trigger awareness for this and get time for experimenting and learning new techniques. We should of course discuss this with our stakeholders and state the need an urgency for embracing new techniques. But in addition we can also create a pull by having the right profiles in our team. In a previous keynote I discussed roles that are needed to stimulate innovation. I explained we need Visionaries, Explorers and Experts.

The illustration below indicates the mission these roles have:                     

Distinguish these roles and let team members think about their natural stance. It can be used a trigger to create awareness in the team about the need for innovations and the role each individual team member has in ensuring the continuity of the team’s output. I believe it will create ambassadors for continue improvements and a broader base for innovations.

You can see and hear the explanation about the roles in my TestingUy keynote. (see 32:19 min)

All and all, it was an interesting conference day.

About derkjandegrood

Derk-Jan de Grood, works for Squerist as senior test consultant and agile advisor. As Trainer, Consultant and Agile Coach, he is involved with improvements and agile implementations. Derk-Jan is the author of several successful books including TestGoal, Grip on IT and the Dutch Testers association’s jubilee book on future trends in testing. In 2016 he published “Agile in the Real World”, a book on SCRUM. Derk-Jan won several awards including the prestigious European Testing Excellence Award in 2014
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