Agile Open – it’s also for “structured” people ;)

Agile Open Europe 2008 is over…

This panorama photo of the introduction was made by Harald Walker, who volunteered to be our resident photographer. He’s already posted his impressions :) . On thursday it was a bit rainy, so all sessions were inside. Friday was a nice, sunny day, so there were a good number of sessions outside – I spent all day in the garden. The Volksuniversiteit Utrecht has a nice location in the middle of the old centre, with a garden in the back – we always look for a location with nice, green outdoor space and that is easily reached by public transport. Usually these two conflict, not in this case.

impression from the everybody is Refactoring, right? session
We decided to cap this conference at just thirty participants. To our surprise, it was sold out in a week and a half, even though we were very late in announcing it (about a month in advance). The reserve list worked well. We had some last-minute cancellations that we were able to fill with participants from the reserve list.
We succeeded in simplifying the organisation, and in enrolling some volunteers, so that Marc and I could also participate in sessions :) I enjoyed (re)newing connections and learning a thing or two from the sessions – maybe more on that later.
From the closing round, I learnt that:
  • Capping it at thirty might be a good thing, as some participants mentioned that as a feature – because of the small size it is easy to connect with others. Nynke remarked before the conference, that it probably scales best in time (e.g. more times per year) and place (more places in the world, that is already happening).
  • Agile Open is also for “structured people”. I like chaos, and add structure if necessary ;) Some participants remarked that they were unsure what to expect, and normally like things to be “structured”. After the opening session that fear disappeared. I must say this years’ opening filled the agenda remarkably fast. We added some extra timeslots to get all of the sessions in (note the post-its on top that were sessions still looking for a slot after the opening)
  • If we can figure out a way to make it less work for us (last year we also had to deal with and take the risk for participant’s hotel reservations), we might go for a residential agile open again in the future. Some participants missed the evening games we had last year.

participants mark sessions they want to go to
group portrait on friday
We used to have a topic incubator on a wiki for the first two agile opens. That helped people convince their boss, but had as a drawback that it was mostly¬† the ‘usual suspects’ who ran sessions. This year and last year, everything was last-minute, and that gave a wider variety of session organisers – this also seems to be influenced by how we explain what to run sessions on. I’ve learnt to emphasisze that it is perfectly ok to run a session on a problem, it doesn’t have to be some prepared solution.
We’re thinking of running a Benelux agile open sooner than this time next year, but are not sure when would be the best time (and what would be the place). Your suggestions are welcome!
Credits: photos by Harald Walker

2 Responses to “Agile Open – it’s also for “structured” people ;)”

  1. Mary Says:

    Hi Willem,
    It feld like a short holiday and i would like to do this again some day. I am one of those ‘structured people’you mentioned, i think.
    In this post i send you an URL to an article about a new leadership role in Agile approaches called the “Agile Coach”
    Patrick Kua of ThoughtWorks lists 26 useful answers to this question, in the form of an A-to-Z primer.
    Maybe interesting

  2. Willem van den Ende Says:

    Hi Mary, Patrick (I met him recently at the retrospective facilitators gathering) made a nice list, but the role of Agile Coach is not exactly new… (it used to be called XP Coach) The Coach role was one of the things that attracted me to eXtreme Programming back in the 90s, and I’ve been fullfilling that role in various teams since 2001 :)