Agile Alliance 2018 - Day 1 recap blog post

5 pale wooden letter blocks spelling out the word agile against a dark background

As some of you may know, this week I’m attending the Agile Alliance conference, Agile 2018 in San Diego. The event run by the Scrum Alliance brings together many of the leading thinkers on everything agile for a whole week of talks, discussions and much more. For my part, I’m here for two main reasons. Firstly, I’m looking at the agile community and the topics and trends that they are interested in and secondly as an (albeit minor) practitioner of agile working, looking to learn more about how I can apply agile to my role.

As a product manager for a non-IT product suite my challenges are different to many people at the conference, but my hope is that there are many learnings that can be taken and applied outside of software development.

Each day I am going to try, agenda permitting, to distill and share my top thoughts and considerations from the day in a new post. So, without further ado, here is Day 1;

  1. Understanding your core business - The Netflix and Blockbuster story is one I’ve heard (and told) many times. The video rental chain was offered Netflix in its early days for a mere $50 million USD but turned it down, comfortable that there would always be a place for a bricks and mortar video rental store on the high street. Opening keynote speaker, Dom Price framed the story though, not around Blockbuster’s inability to be flexible, but on how they did not understand the core business they were in, namely entertainment. In contrast this is something that Netflix have understood and even though they are a relatively young organization, have already evolved their service offerings from DVD postal rental service, to streaming service, through to content creator. Have you ever taken a step back and considered the core of your business? What is it that customers value over everything else? 

  2. Firefighting vs. Fireproofing - Dom also talked about firefighting and fireproofing. The example he gave of someone responsible for fireproofing a hotel who goes around every Friday and celebrates that there hasn’t been a fire this week gained a chuckle from the audience, but it does have a serious undertone. It’s much easier to measure and celebrate firefighting in any organizational environment, but what do you do to shift from being reactive to proactive? And perhaps the more interesting question that was posed is what are we doing to measure and celebrate preventative measures? It’s inherently more difficult as the ultimate benefit is the avoidance of a negative (or the see the damage caused when something goes wrong). Yet we cannot ignore it. I’d be interested to hear if you measure your fireproofing efforts? And if so, how?  
  3. Rewarding the team over individual performance - This is a question which I have struggled to find a satisfactory answer for in the past. In a purely agile environment the focus is always on the team and agile organizations should be performance managing (for want of a better phrase) and rewarding higher performing teams over individuals. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment and see huge value in focusing on team output and outcomes over individual achievement. It promotes collaboration, transparency and team work towards the accomplishment of an objective. But what happens when someone in that team is underperforming? Or one team member is a standout member but isn’t being recognized as a star performer? There is no one solution, but something I think agile can learn from this, is the avoidance of absolutes. Yes, there should be reward and recognition of the team, but also reward and recognition for the individual. Do you agree?

So, that’s a wrap on Day 1. I hope something from the above provides food for thought... bring on Day 2!

Read other posts in this series

Agile Alliance - Day 2 recap

Agile Alliance - Day 3 recap

The last hurrah - final thoughts from Agile 2018

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Comments

9 Aug 2018 Ric
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Thank you Tom, completely agree with you on point 3.
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