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I was thrilled to get notified this week that all three of my talks were accepted for the Agile 2009 conference in Chicago on August 24-28.    Althoagile2009ugh I’ve spoken at many conferences in the past, this will be my first opportunity to speak at this popular conference.

I will be presenting:

  • It Takes Two to Tango; Four to Square Dance:   Colleague Barry Rogers and I are presenting a session on the often overlooked “Individuals and Interactions” element of the Agile Manifesto.   Learn how psychology, sociology, behavior, attitudes and other soft’ish elements can make or break a project.   We present tips on how to capitalize on and leverage the human side of projects.
  • Handling Non Functional Requirements on an Agile Project: For those of you who remember my post on building a better mousetrap (here)  you’ll recall the discussion about how to craft the best solution from the 4400 possibilities.    Non Functional requirements are often overlooked on Agile projects, yet they often determine true success or failure.   In this session I lay out strategies for handling non functional requirements without deviating from core Agile objectives.
  • The Covert Agilist: Not everyone is jumping up and down waving the Agile flag.  In this session I’ll describe one of my engagements where I was told “No Agile!” on day one.   I’ll show how, despite this mantra, our team successfully introduced and used Agile right in front of the watchful eyes of our client.   No, they didn’t complain.  Why?  How could they complain about progress and success!   Nevertheless, this story doesn’t have a happy ending.  Come to this session to find out what happened.

Registration for this popular conference is underway.   August will be here before you know it, so you may want to book your travel early.   The conference webpage is here.

I look forward to the opportunity to meet up with old clients and colleagues, and to meet some of you who have been kind enough to post comments and/or send emails about my blog.

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When helping companies adopt Agile, the first instinct is to start wiring in tools and processes. Ironically, some mentors tend to teach a highly prescriptive form of Agile. As an llustration, reflecting back on Kent Beck’s Extreme Programming, critics complained that it was prescriptive, inflexible, and full of “must do this”, “must never do that”. Having met and learned from Kent Beck years ago when I was a Smalltalk developer, I know that prescribing a process was far from the spirit of what he was trying to do. Perhaps he was pushing an extremist view, expecting rational people to bounce back a bit.

Changing the behavior of individuals, teams, and organizations is a tough row to hoe. At its core, the Agile Manifesto conveys principles that rational people would have a hard time disputing. Look at the picture posted with this article. The obvious elements of the picture are the four colored triangles. A Gestaltist perspective indicates that the cross can be seen too, even though it isn’t emphasized.

Similarly, the core elements of Agile: Collaboration, behaviors, teams, accountability, progress transparency, focus, efficiency, etc., are all concepts that few would dispute. So the real challenge for an Agile mentor is not to teach what these concepts are, rather it’s to help remove organizational and sociological blocks that prevent teams from employing them.