Coming Down Off The Agile 2014 High

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I’m just now finding time to blog after coming down off my Agile 2014 high.  In one word, Agile 2014 was filling … a week full of knowledge, introductions, and yes, food.  Oh, and I Tweeted my ass off!  I gained a few new followers and even met some old ones (although the guy that showed me my pic on his phone did kind of creep me out a bit).

I was thrilled to meet …

  • The Agile Alliance (Global) board as well as the Agile Alliance Brazil board (well, except Samuel who sadly couldn’t make it due to visa issues) … Very awesome people with good hearts and a strong passion for all that is Agile.
  • The man himself, Mike Cottmeyer of Leading Agile … Somewhere along the way he became somewhat of an Agile celebrity in my mind because he is such an up-and-coming thought leader in the space and I must have watched his “Blending Scrum and Kanban to Create an End-to-End Agile Enterprise” on loop when we were trying to figure out how to scale.  I’m even more thrilled that he is going to bring his Agile 2014 talk to the Tampa Bay Agile Meetup in October.
  • Mr Zombie Project Management, Derek Huether  … Finally!  We’ve been Twitter buddies for a while, but it was a long time coming to finally meet since we missed each other at Agile 2012 in Dallas.  I missed his talk on Personal Kanban on Friday, but I’m a firm believer that every time a Kanban goes up, an Agile gets its wings.
  • Diana Larsen, author, keynote speaker, and an altogether extraordinary human being … This woman knows how to have a good time!  I not only got to see her dance on stage and at the conference party, but I also got to spend a few quality moments, just her and I when we were waiting for the conference party.  Not to mention she co-authored the “Agile Retrospectives” book which has been an extremely good resource for getting us out of the retrospective rut.
  • 6 people from sister companies … Valpak is one of the many companies that are part of Cox Enterprise.  I was surprised to meet fellow Cox siblings from AutoTrader, Kelley Blue Book, and Manheim Auctions.  In fact, one of the Manheim Auctions guys actually gave a talk on Monday of the conference.

A few of the takeaways and observations I had from Agile 2014:

  • Apparently there is something called “naked planning” but you actually keep your clothes on … go figure!
  • I’m not crazy after all … WIP Limits at the Portfolio Kanban level are crazy-impossible.  Instead, I learned about something called “WIP Limits by Conversation” at Pawel Brodzinski’s talk on “Successful Evolutionary Change of Portfolio Management” which is essentially what we do here at Valpak (yeah, us!).
  • Commitment is still alive and well!
  • A common theme I heard was about the need for executives to get more engaged in Agile.   No, it’s not just that thing your teams do to be more productive … it is so much more!  Executives have an important role in Agile and it is about time they step up.
  • Apparently, SAFe is a 4-letter word to some folks; SAFe, as in Scaled Agile Framework.  The SAFe debate is hot right now! There was a lot of debate around whether or not SAFe is the Agile anti-Christ due to it’s very detailed structure.  I’m happy to say that I’ve taken a very pragmatic approach to implementing SAFe here at Valpak, as should everyone.  Use what you want and disregard the rest.  Do what works for you and your organization.  There is no one-size-fits-all Agile!  In fact, our implementation of scaled Agile is more a blend of SAFe and some Mike Cottmeyer inspirations.
  • There are indeed #womeninagile!  And, I’m happy to be one of them!  There was definitely a good showing of womankind at the conference.  I hope to see this continue and meet more of my fellow Agile sisters.
Even though you can't see it very well, that's me holding up my Agile 2014 badge that says "Board Member"

Even though you can’t see it very well, that’s me holding up my Agile 2014 badge that says “Board Member”

I can’t forget to mention the most awesome news of all! I was elected to the Agile Alliance Board of Directors for the 2015 to 2017 term.  After spending a week getting to know the rest of the board members, I know I have much to learn but I feel I have equally as much to contribute.  I am super excited for what the next few years will bring!  In fact, I’ve been jotting down ideas left and right and couldn’t help myself but pitch them now, even though my term doesn’t officially begin until January.   I’m on this train for 3 years, so this means I will definitely be seeing some of you at Agile 2015 in Washington DC.  Until then … May your Agile be fun and fulfilling!

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About Stephanie Davis

Stephanie is Executive Director - Enterprise Agility Office at Catalina, driving lift and loyalty for the world's leading CPG brands and retailers.  Most recently, Stephanie was Senior Director of Enterprise Agility at Valpak. She was with Valpak for 13 years, most of which were focused on leading their agile transformation to what became a world renowned success story published in case studies and demonstrated to over 50 different companies through the years via agile tours.  Prior to Valpak, Stephanie held past positions in the project management domain with AT&T and IBM. Stephanie's academic credentials include a BS in Marketing from the University of South Florida and an MBA in International Business from the University of Bristol in England. She also maintains the Project Management Professional (PMP), Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP), and Certified Scrum Master (CSM) credentials. Stephanie is big on tech community involvement!  Most recently, she served as an elected board member to the Agile Alliance, a non-profit organization with global membership, committed to advancing agile development values, principles, and practices. In addition, she serves her local community as an organizer for Tampa Bay Agile, the largest and most active tech Meetup in the area, and the annual Agile Open Florida event. In 2016, Stephanie was awarded Tampa Bay Tech’s Technology Leader of the Year and the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s BusinessWoman of the Year (Tech) and Emerging Technology Leader of the Year. View all posts by Stephanie Davis

6 responses to “Coming Down Off The Agile 2014 High

  • Reinhard Patels

    Congratulations !
    Yes, I pointed out similar things in my discussions after (and during) the conference – not much real new stuff, but a great list of new ways and experiences to represent and implement Agile and its various methods and frameworks.
    Which brings me to one of my pain points (which you mentioned too) – more and more Agile and its methods are realized just as list of practices. If I do e.g. daily stand-ups, have stories and story points – then I am Agile, right ?
    More and more approaches bow in front of the still leading traditional mindset of managers (and customers …), and so we are “selling” Agile more and more, but just not the right way. The traditionalists now start speaking with us again, because now we seem to come to our (their) senses again. I think we need to focus how to overcome this mindset misunderstanding. Because otherwise this could be the beginning of the end again.
    SAFe and all the other frameworks can only be guidelines about how to begin, and they are handrail systems as a kind of fallback solution in case we stumble. But none of them (incl. SAFe) should be a static system that has to be applied in all details in every case. We need to be Agile – define an approach, implement it, observe and – adapt.

  • Derek Huether

    Just wanted to say that it was awesome to finally meet you. Granted, there was a little awkwardness like many first-time meeting long-time knowing Agile conference connections. In about 2 seconds the little squirrel in my head rambled “Is that Stephanie Stewart? Wait, she sees I’m eye-balling her. Does she think I’m just some perv checking out all of the women? Wait, I think she thinks she knows me. She’s walking toward me! Who’s the dude? I don’t know the dude but I think that’s her. Damn, they’re a good lookin’ couple. Yep, she’s totally walking toward me. Is my fly down or do I have stuff in my teeth? Say something, stupid, she talking to you. Good handshake. Give her a good handshake.”

    Yes, that ran through my head in about 2 seconds. With your new position with the Agile Alliance (congrats, by the way), I’m guessing you’re coming up to DC for Agile2015? Looking forward to a real and prolonged conversation!

  • Agile2014 – Let’s Build a Better Tribe | A servant leader's lessons

    […] fellow-Floridian and new Agile Alliance board member Stephanie Stewart gives her impressions of Agile2014 and how she was “coming off the high” of the […]

  • eric

    good information Stephanie and thanks.

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