Join the 10th anniversary of the Agile Prague Conference

I started organizing a conference because I wanted to bring interesting people to the Czech Republic, to Prague where I live. I wanted to give people here some sort of feeling of what it means to be agile across the globe, how different organizations do things, what is a hot topic nowadays in the world, and give them an opportunity for two days to learn from the best agile speakers.

The first year we started small and run an experiment as a track of the WebExpo conference and because people liked it, we decided to start a full dedicated conference called Agile Prague. This year we are celebrating a 10th year anniversary. I guess time flies.

Agile Prague is always on Mon-Tue in September so you can enjoy the weekend in Prague and connect pleasure with a bit of learning. We start creating a program already in January, while I speak & travel for different events, I also search for interesting speakers and inspirational stories so many of our speakers are joining on our invitation.

This year you can join us on Mon-Tue Sep 19-20, 2022. We are having two parallel tracks of short practical talks, where people can deep dive into the topics during the open space each day. The entire conference is in English and the topic is “Sustainable Agility”.

To give you some idea about the program, we have several keynotes presented this year:

Alexey Krivitsky and Roland Flemm will help you to “Improve Transformation results in corporate organizations with Adaptivity that fits”. Many organizations struggle to adopt agile in a way that delivers on its promise to make the company fast, flexible and efficient. Alexey and Roland created a model called Adaptivity Fit, that helps you to create a map to guide your agile transformational journey.

Boris Glogger is in the Agile and Scrum space almost forever. I was in his Scrum class many years ago and I still remember it.  During the conference, he will share his experience with us presenting his keynote “Let’s do it again – the role of agile consulting for a sustainable world”.

Evan Leybourn will explore “The Shape of Agility” and what it takes to build the organization ready for no matter what the future brings. Evan is the co-founder of Business Agility Institute which has the best collection of curated content about business agility.

Pat Guariglia will talk about “Quiet Resistance | An understated force”. Change is hard. Transforming to an agile mindset, environment, and way of working is always challenging. Could agile transformations be challenged with something more basic and fundamental, something more core to human behavior? The success of agile depends so much on social interaction and collaboration.

Richard Cheng and Karim Harbott will close the conference with “What is Business Agility and Why It’s Important”. Richard and Karim explore why business agility is critical for our teams, organizations, and leaders and why they need to understand the concept and values around Business Agility.

And together with them, we are bringing over 30 awesome speakers from all around the world.

Join us at Agile Prague Conference Sep 19-20,2022 agileprague.com.

Top 10 Agile Podcasts



Lately, I realized that people start listening more than reading and that podcasts become quite popular. So here is a list of my personal recommendations on top 10s agile podcasts.

#1: The #AgileWay Podcast by Zuzana Zuzi Sochova

#AgileWay podcast is exploring challenges organizations face on their agile journey. How to become a great ScrumMaster, how to change your leadership style, or how to embrace agility at the organizational level. Zuzi has also Czech language podcast “Jsme Agilni”.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/agileway/id1555101534

#2: LeSS (Large Scale Scrum) Matters Podcast by Ben Maynard

The LeSS (Large Scale Scrum) Matters podcast guides you through a proper understanding of how to use Scrum with multiple teams. Ben invites practitioners from the LeSS community to share their experiences with scaling Scrum.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/less-large-scale-scrum-matters/id1605120218 

#3: (Re)Learning Leadership Podcast by Pete Behrens

(Re)Learning Leadership podcast is facilitated by Agile Leadership Journey founder Pete Behrens. The current ways of leading are failing to meet the challenges of our disrupted workforces. Today’s leaders have a choice between adaptation or atrophy: are you ready to evolve your mindset and accelerate change within your organization?

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/re-learning-leadership/id1551181774

#4: Relationship Matters Podcast by CRR Global

The Relationship Matters Podcast  We believe Relationship Matters, from humanity to nature, to the larger whole. Beyond Emotional Intelligence (relationship with oneself) and Social Intelligence (relationship with others) is the realm of Relationship Systems Intelligence where one’s focus shifts to the relationship with the group, team or system. This podcast is not specifically about agile, however in agile world relationship matters.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/relationship-matters/id1507583306

#5 The Collaboration Superpowers Podcast by Lisette Sutherland

The Collaboration Superpowers Podcast by Lisette Sutherland focus on remote work. Recently the remote work becomes a necessity, but not many organization knows how to make it healthy, effective, and collaborative space. Lisette Sutherland, one of the most experienced people about remote work I know,  is interviewing people and companies doing great things… remotely! These interviews are packed with stories and tips for those whose business models depend upon successfully bridging distance to accomplish knowledge work.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-collaboration-superpowers-podcast/id931999061

#6: The Agile Book Club Podcast by Justyna Pindel and Paul Klipp

The Agile Book Club by Justyna Pindel and Paul Klipp is a podcast about books. Agile books. Every month, Justyna and Paul review a different agile book, sharing our thoughts, elevator pitches for the books, favorite quotations, and key takeaways.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/agile-book-club/id1465706071

#7: Agile Toolkit Podcast by Bob Payne

The Agile Toolkit Podcast by Bob Payne is one of the first agile podcasts, interviewing agile community about agile software development, methods, tools, and business agility.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/agile-toolkit-podcast/id78532866

#8: Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast: Agile storytelling from the trenches by Vasco Duarte

The Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast by Vasco Duarte interviews Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches from all over the world to get you actionable advice, new tips and tricks, improve your craft as a Scrum Master with daily doses of inspiring conversations with Scrum Masters from the all over the world. Some of the topics we discuss include: Agile Business, Agile Strategy, Retrospectives, Team motivation, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, Backlog Refinement, Scaling Scrum, Lean Startup, Test Driven Development (TDD), Behavior Driven Development (BDD), Paper Prototyping, QA in Scrum, the role of agile managers, servant leadership, agile coaching, and more!

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/scrum-master-toolbox-podcast-agile-storytelling-from/id963592988

#9: Bridging Agile and Professional Coaching Worlds Podcast by by Tandem Coaching Academy

Bridging Agile and Professional Coaching Worlds is a podcast with focus on anything and everything coaching – from Agile to Professional. We bring you the best of the best from the Agile and Professional coaching world, building that bridge between the two. We envision the future where Agile world embraces professional coaching skills and competencies, bringing them closer together.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/bridging-agile-and-professional-coaching-worlds/id1499503189

#10: The Working Genius Podcast with Patrick Lencioni

The Working Genius podcast by Patrick Lencioni is designed to help people identify their natural gifts and find joy and fulfillment in their work and life. What type of work makes you thrive? Are you burning out because your job requires you to work in your areas of frustration? How can teams and families better tap into one another’s gifts? This podcast answers all these questions and more. This is another podcast that is not agile by focus, but quite relevant in agile space.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-working-genius-podcast-with-patrick-lencioni/id1553105854

Other great podcasts recommend by the community:

There are many more. Let me know if there is a podcast you like missing and I’ll add it here.

Agile Amped Podcast – Inspiring Conversations

The Agile Amped podcast by Accenture | SolutionsIQ is the shared voice of the Agile community, driven by compelling stories, passionate people, and innovative ideas. Together, we are advancing the impact of business agility.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/agile-amped-podcast-inspiring-conversations/id992128516

Agile FM: “The Radio for the Agile Community”

Agile.FM by Jochen (Joe) Krebs interviews interesting agilists and bring their stories for a few years already, recording at many conferences. They cover a wide range of topics, for example Scrum, Kanban, Lean, Extreme Programming, CSM, PSM, Product Owner, Communication, Leadership, Agile Transformations and Cultural Change.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/agile-fm/id1263932838

A day in the life of an Agility Enabler

A day in the life of an Agility Enabler podcast by Jesus Mendez helps with building the next Agility Enabler’s generation in Montréal, Canada. Highlighting talented Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches and Agile Leaders from the Lean/Agile Montreal’s community, it intends to reveal what a day in the life of an Agility Enabler looks like and to help the audience with discovering the human being behind the Agility Enabler, its personal story, challenges, successful stories, tips, tricks and many more.

Listen on Apple Podcast: https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/a-day-in-the-life-of-an-agility-enabler-tEmuaAecxbf/#



Top 10 Agile conferences to attend in 2022



Every year I speak at many conferences and based on my experience I recommend some places to go for inspiration. It’s not my intention to cover them all, I’m sharing places where I like to return. Inspiring places with interaction, high energy, and great speakers.

  1. Business Agility Institute organizes several high-quality content conferences every year, bringing the best Executive, Thought-Leader, and Practitioner speakers to NYC to share their experiences and insights with you. No tracks, just the best stories, concisely told in 20-minutes. Join us in the NYC on Mar, 23-24, 2022.
  2. LeSS Conference is for practitioners. Since 2016, LeSS Conferences is where LeSS Practitioners share their LeSS experience and learn from new experiments. Join this year conference in Warsaw, Poland on Sep 22-23, 2022.
  3. AgilePrague Conference is planning to create two days of experience face to face this year on Sep 19-20, 2022.
  4. XPDays Benelux XP Days Benelux is a conference made for, and by, the Agile Community. It focuses on practical knowledge, real-world experience, and the active participation of everyone. There is no date yet, but the plan is to make the 2022 mini edition a physical gathering, in Belgium! Stay tuned.
  5. Global Scrum Gathering is back in Denver, Colorado this year. Reconnect with the community and join this outstanding event on Jun 5-8, 2022.
  6. AgileTestingDays is another great event happening for many years in Potsdam, Germany. Join Europe’s greaTEST Agile Testing Festival on Nov 21-24, 2022. There are always great speakers and a friendly atmosphere.
  7. ScanAgile is one of my favourite conferences. Planning started 🙂 But no details yet.
  8. Agile2022 conference brings Agile communities together year after year to share experiences and make new connections. Join passionate Agilists from around the world to learn about the latest practices, ideas, and strategies in Agile software development from the world’s leading experts, change agents, and innovators. This year it’s on July 18-22, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.
  9. XP 2022 is the premier Agile software development conference to combine both research and practice. It is a unique forum where Agile researchers, practitioners, thought leaders, coaches, and trainers get together to present and discuss their most recent innovations and research results. The theme for XP 2022 is Agile in the Era of Hybrid Work. The conference is planned entirely as a physical event in Copenhagen on Jun 13-17, 2022.
  10. Finally, if you want to experience something different, joinRegional Scrum Gathering Tokyo. It’s organized by an enthusiastic agile community in Japan. The purpose is to provide a “Ba” (place) where practitioners share ideas among Scrum practitioners having a great diversity. Regional Gatherings provides a unique experience and even if you don’t speak Japanese, there are some talks in English and other translated. Join the local community on January 5-7, 2022.

The selection is based on my personal preference and experiences from those events.

Other conferences to consider this year

There are many great events that didn’t make it to this list, so please share your suggestions with us and we add them to the following list.



Forecast, Don’t Estimate



There is almost no class where no one would ask me about estimations. So why estimations are not part of Scrum? Let’s start with a bit of context. The whole idea of agile estimation comes from Extreme Programming and the early days of agile where tools like Story points, Velocity, Planning Poker, Burndown, T-shirt sizing, used to be very popular. However if you look at current state of the art of Agile and Scrum teams, they are not using those techniques very often anymore.

Estimations were always core part of any project management, where we believed we know what needs to be done, so the whole problem is not about WHAT but HOW FAST. Therefore tracking the velocity, showing the burndown and estimating is very useful in such predictable environments where there is only little unknown. So when people shift to their first agile project, they very often still have the same mindset – we know what needs to be done so let’s create a backlog, estimate individual backlog items, and track how fast we are delivering it. That’s the world where estimates, Story Points, Bundowns and Velocity are very useful.  

In a contrary, the Agile world is focusing on dealing with complexity and fast changes. We start realizing our plans are failing and that we are often learning too late that something else should have been done instead. In such unpredictable world, all we can do is to change our way of working and be more reactive to the changes and more responsive to the feedback. We are realizing that it’s not about plans but planning as a continuous activity. Therefore refinement in Scrum is ongoing effort and we discover and detail backlog items just in time. In such world it’s not about going fast (often to the wrong direction) but going to the right direction (even if that is slower). The fundamental difference is that we realized we don’t know what needs to be done and so any estimation of that unknown is kind of useless. We know what needs to be achieved, but without getting frequent feedback from customers we don’t know how to achieve it. Of course you can still estimate the stories that are coming to the Sprint, but you need to have a good reason for doing that (see one of my previous blogs on estimating). Estimating the whole product is not really useful either as the Product Backlog will change based on the feedback anyway. The value to be achieved (vision and product goal) is clearly defined, just the journey of how to get there is to be defined based on what we discover though short iterations.

The problem we are trying to solve in Agile environment is about how can we maximize the value, while minimizing the effort spent (see more about the mindset shift). It’s more about prioritization, where we try to identify the minimal functionality that need to be done now, and the rest later or never, noting that 80% of the business value is in 20% of functionality. Our backlog items are not functionality driven (telling you what needs to be done) but value driven (telling you what needs to be achieved) where the solution is up to the team to be discovered during the Sprint. Therefore even individual story estimation makes little sense as the implementation (how) will be designed and updated during the Sprint. Scrum is not fixing the scope within a Sprint, as a Sprint Backlog is just a forecast on how we are most likely going to collaborate to maximize the value towards the Sprint Goal. While the Sprint Goal (value) doesn’t change during the Sprint, the Sprint Backlog can change any time, depending on the learnings, new ideas, and feedback we got from our customers and stakeholders. If Scrum team realize there is a better way to maximize the value towards the Sprint goal, they have to just inspect and adapt their forecast (Sprint backlog items) and continue collaborating on maximizing the value towards that Sprint Goal.

Traditionally teams were estimating what needs to be done and they were using those estimates on answering what can be done in a week, two or three. In Scrum, we set a Sprint Goal and then forecast what is to our current knowledge the best way how to achieve it. And what is based on our current experience feasible. We are ready to change it anytime if a new information emerge. To plan our Sprint we are using our understanding the of backlog items (stories) and our experience from the previous Sprint. We are looking at it from different perspective – how much can fit within a Sprint. And that’s not just about an effort but also skills & competences mix, risk, complexity, etc. It’s a similar type of problem as if you are packing to the weekend and measure the volume of all items you like to put in the bag. In reality it’s not just about the volume, but also about the shape and consistency. With Sprint Backlog it’s the same.

So can we tell our customers when are they going to get their product without estimating individual backlog items? Sure. We forecast how many Sprints it might take to achieve that value (Product Goal) and then prioritize so that we deliver the most important features first, which the rest later or never. 80% of the business value is in 20% of functionality so if your Product Owner can do the proiritizarition well, you can ‘never’ fail to achieve it (see more about the Product Owner role). Through that process we focus on different direction each Sprint (Sprint Goal) and inspect and adapt based on the feedback.

Finally there is the last question, can you estimate backlog items in Scrum? Sure. Same as you can drink coffee which is not part of any Scrum either. But I guess the downside is, that if you focus too much on estimates, it guides you from focusing on business value. And there is no correlation between the two. Bigger doesn’t mean better.



Agile Journey



Agile is a journey. In the beginning, people think it’s about different tools, new processes, new names. They keep comparing it to what they know and they are frustrated that the new way of working doesn’t fit the world they know. They still try to analyze, plan, estimate, and track delivery. The problem with that is that they are changing to agile not because there is a new improved method, but because their current way of working is not as successful as it used to be. There is a strong need for significant change. The traditional way of working was effective in solving predictable problems, not in dealing with complexity. In the current world, organizations need to be more flexible, innovative, and creative to address VUCA challenges. Agile brings new paradigms, a new mindset, a new way of working. It’s not comparable anyhow to the traditional ways of managing and delivering work.

Once they pass the initial phase, stop comparing and start looking for understanding, people often fall into a trap of taking all agile as a ‘religion’. Just follow the process, implement tools, do scrum according to the Scrum Guide! This phase is not much fun either. But they are on a journey, not fighting with any strong resistance anymore, and deepening their knowledge about various practices. People are interested, they want to understand it, do it well, however they are usually asking fundamentally wrong questions, looking for the best practices, believing they can copy & paste practices.

When they experiment, fail, and learn from failures enough, they start realizing the real agility, which is not in practices and tools, but in a different culture, mindset, and approach to things. They start realizing the organization and leadership need to change in order to finish the transformation and allow the agility to be successful. Agile becomes the way you not only organize the work but the way you live. It will bring different values and different perspectives.

 



Agile Transformation Metrics



It’s very common that people ask me how they shall measure the success of their Agile transformation. It’s a hard question because there is no meaningful metrics unless you know why you decided to start the agile transformation at the first place at all. Agile is not your goal, it’s just a way how to achieve some of your more strategic goals i.e. address complexity better, be more change responsive, shorten time to market, be more flexible, … And once you know why you are starting your agile journey, then those reasons are exactly the metrics you are going to measure at the organizational level. All are business-oriented and value-driven  (outcome), so there is no velocity, no story points as those are focusing on output.

Team Measures

If you want to have a fast culture check on how far you have moved towards the agile mindset, you may look into how many experiments the teams are running, what are their actions from the retrospectives, and how they help them to deliver more value, how likely your teams take failure as learning vs. blaming opportunity, how close are they to customers, and how they collaborate vs. work individually or in silos. As a follow-up, you can have a look to your positions (are they rather broad supporting cross-functional teams than detail task-oriented), recruiting (are we hiring for approach and personality over the hard skills), performance review (team-oriented based on peer feedback over the individual), goals and objectives (team-based focused on purpose and outcome over tactical and individual KPIs focused on output), … and I can continue.

Looking to technical practices, you can check how your software teams implemented Extreme Programming practices i.e. Continuous Integration (even one-minute old code is old code), TDD – Test Driven Development (and overall attest automation), if they use pair programming or mob-programming to collaborate, having strong Definition of Done, focusing on one story at a time, and are ready for Continuous Delivery.

All over Agile is about team collaboration, customer-centered value-driven way of working, and short feedback loops. The rest are just practices, processes, and tools which might support your journey or not. The most important is not what exactly you are measuring, but what you are going to change based on that metric. If the metrics is helping you to improve and change your way of working, it’s a good metric. Measuring something just so you have it, or so you can draw a chart is a waste of your time.



Journal of Business Agility – Emergence



Recently I received a nice magazine in my mailbox, the Journal of Business Agility – Emergence. If you are looking for stories from different organizations, inspiration from agile leaders, I would recommend you to subscribe to it. Businesses Agility Institute is known for high-quality content conferences, and the Emergence magazine is a good example of very good curated content. So what caught my attention from this first issue of the magazine?

Budget planning: Prioritization – Capacity – Funding

I start with the first article where Jardena London shares her insights about Budget planning. It’s so much close to what I experienced as a Director running a software organization. “Stop talking about budget and capacity until you prioritize the outcomes you want across the organization. Even the high-level strategic goals need to be put in order.” So many organizations are unable to focus and try to push more things without a conversation about priorities. Once ordering is done “Start by planning capacity by teams, it’s way easier than planning for individuals. You may find that your current team structure no longer serves the needs of your portfolio, so you’ll have to tweak it, maybe add/ remove team.” On my journey, I learned that working with teams is so much easier than trying to plan everything with individuals. From the organizational perspective, working with individuals is too detailed and all different irregularities made it too fuzzy and unpredictable. I can also relate to this note: “Don’t plan out the year, plan the now.” In the current VUCA world, the yearly planning cycles feels outdated and unrealistic. I still remember when we went away from estimations and how enlightening it was. However, when I speak about it now, many people are almost freaking out. How can you plan your capacity without it, they ask. “When we estimate hours, we miss all kinds of variables like task switching cost, administrative time, and buffer time. We spend energy trying to get more precision in the output than we have accuracy for in the input.” Instead, in an agile environment, we focus on forecasting how much teams can produce in a short iteration. “With the same number of people, capacity can change over time. Improvements to capability and technology can impact capacity. Capacity is great for forecasting and planning.” But it’s still a concept very hard to accept not only by finance departments but also by the teams. Finally, “Once you have prioritized and planned capacity, and you’re ready to go, allocate funding. This is the very last thing we do, allowing money to be free and flexible as long as possible.” Agile is about flexibility and the ability to be change responsive. “Decoupling prioritization, capacity and funding can breathe new life into budget planning, alleviating the difficulty for employees and improving outcomes for the organization.”

Fact Sheet: The State of Business Agility in 2020

For those who like facts, numbers, and charts, there is a summary of the State of Business Agility report. “In 2020 we saw a significant increase in business agility globally. Compared to last year, we have seen more organizations commencing their business agility journey, and those on the journey report greater progress.” It’s no surprise for me, as I’m getting the same message from organizations, but it’s still good to have it confirmed with data. And it’s also no surprise that “Leadership continues to be the common theme amongst all transformational challenges.” I can see that in most of the organizations. Boards and executives are struggling with a core understanding of agility beyond practices, processes, and frameworks. Their experience with business agility is still very limited. The good news is, that there are many inspirational stories and use-cases covering every spectrum of organizational function, but still looking for an agile organization is a tough job. When I was writing my new book The Agile Leader: Leveraging the Power of Influence I was bringing in some of those pioneers to share their insights in a short story. We need more stories about the successful agile. We need more insights from their journeys. That’s the only way how to make business agility more accessible for leaders and organizations. If you are looking for three tips where to start, the report brings you three tips: “Organizations who reported higher ratings in these three characteristics also report higher overall business agility and associated benefits: 1. Encouraging a culture of learning and experimentation, 2. funding business outcomes rather than specific work outputs or projects, and 3. aligning work to customer-centric value streams.” Very true. Experiment, learn from feedback and deliver value. Looks very simple, but it’s unfortunately very hard to do in some organizations.

The agile journey of Scrum Alliance

I was watching the Scrum Alliance journey for several years, and I’m very proud of how they changed and the experiments they were courageous to take. Living the Scrum values is never simple, and being agile is a journey. “The Scrum Alliance revolution – beginning with reflection, continuing through a complete rebuild of the organization’s working methods, and ending in a revitalization of public perception.” That’s easy to be said, but hard to be done. “Before the self-organization process, Scrum Alliance had multiple departments with multiple part-time scrum teams. Afterward, the structure had been simplified to six cross-functional and cross-departmental scrum teams.” Once the change was implemented as a trainer I could see immediate value to be created every sprint. How interesting change from all the years before, where value delivery was much slower. “By changing the internal structures of Scrum Alliance, Melissa and Howard had also changed attitudes, operational standards, and revitalized the ethos of the entire organization.” It’s great to read about successes but equally important is to read about things that didn’t go so smoothly. Being agile is a journey and this article is showing the journey with all the transparency and honesty. “Most importantly, Melissa and Howard have built an organization that strives every day to practice what it preaches and embody the values and principles of Business Agility” and that’s something you don’t see every day.

And there is more…

Stories from leaders, experiences shared by practitioners. That’s all that we currently need on our agile journey as a society. Agile is not anymore a different project management method. For long ago it left the basement where the IT department was closed. It’s changing the way how organizations operate, and how they do their business. The topics of Agile Organization, Agile Leadership, Agile HR, Agile Finance, and Business Agility are everywhere. There are schools applying agile values and principles, there are governments changing their way of working. Agile is everywhere. The new generation is different, they don’t want to be told what to do, they are asking for higher flexibility and autonomy, they require freedom to choose from where they are going to work and how they deliver the value. Some organizations already figured it out and started accommodating the change. Others are picking up. “The intention of business agility is to create an organization best able to serve its customer, no matter what the future brings.” That last part – no matter what the future brings – is in my mind the most important. Imagine an organization that is flexible and fast responsive, so it is ready for any situation. What else could you wish for succeeding in the VUCA world, right?

Subscribe for Emergence Journal and get a 10% discount using “agileprague” promo code.



Top 10 Agile conferences to attend in 2021



Every year I speak at many conferences and based on my experience I recommend some places to go for inspiration. 2020 was a weird year with almost every conference canceled or transferred to virtual space and there is a risk 2021 might be the same. But no matter if you are virtual or not, we still need to get some inspiration and interaction from similarly minded people. So here is my list of Top 10 Agile conferences to attend in 2021. It’s not my intention to cover them all, I’m sharing places where I like to return. Inspiring places with interaction, high energy, and great speakers.

  1. Agile 100 is one of the most interesting virtual events bringing a series of talks from agile space focusing on a mix of innovations, products, teams, organizations, and culture topics. It’s a monthly event combining 30 min talks and 20min interview with the speakers. Even if you can’t join all the events in a series, join at least a few at agile100.com. The 2021 series starts on Friday, Feb 12, 2021
  2. Business Agility Institute organizes several high-quality content conferences every year focusing on stories from executives, thought leaders, and practitioners on their agile journey. TED-style talks are followed by facilitated deep-dive conversations where participants can digest the experience and learn from each other. This year I would recommend you to join the virtual Business Agility Global Summit on Mar, 22-26, 2021.
  3. ICR Agile is a great event organized by the local Iowa community, I really loved the first year, so I recommend you to join the second year of ICR Agile Conference (Cedar Rapids, IA, USA) on February 25, 2021
  4. LeSS Conference is this time planned in Prague (nice city 🙂 ) and the organizers are still hoping they can organize this gathering of LeSS practitioners face-to-face. Reserve 16-17 September 2021 for LeSS in Prague.
  5. Another tip is a 12-hour virtual conference with active networking, great vibes, small groups, and international Agile leaders talks called Beyond Agile Israel on January 31, 2021.
  6. XPDays Benelux has a date for 25-26th November 2021, Parc Alvisse in Luxembourg. Let’s see if they are able to organize this highly collaborative event. Don’t expect any talks, this conference is more about workshops and interaction.
  7. Agile Coaching Retreat is not a typical conference, but it’s a great place to network and get inspiration from other agile coaches and practitioners. The 2021 Agile Coaching Retreat is planned for Lisbon/Sintra, Portugal on June 17-19,2021.
  8. AgileTestingDays is another great event happening for many years in Potsdam, Germany. Join Europe’s greaTEST Agile Testing Festival on Nov 15-18, 2021. There are always great speakers and a friendly atmosphere.
  9. Agile Manifesto 20th Anniversary is calling all agilists to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Agile Manifesto streaming live from Snowbird, Utah from the Aspen Room where it all happened. You can’t miss this event.
  10. Finally, if you want to experience something different, join Regional Scrum Gathering Tokyo. It’s organized by an enthusiastic agile community in Japan. The purpose is to provide a “Ba” (place) where practitioners share ideas among Scrum practitioners having a great diversity. Regional Gatherings provides a unique experience and even if you don’t speak Japanese, there are some talks in English and other translated. Join the local community on January 6-8, 2021.

The selection is based on my personal preference and experiences from those events.

Other conferences to consider this year:

There are many great events that didn’t make it to this list, so please share your suggestions with us and we add them to the following list.



Appreciation



It’s the end of the year, and that’s always a good time to reflect back. So how about if you do a very different retrospective this time, and instead of focusing on improvements talk about some great things which happened this year. What did you change which helped you to be a better team? What made you happy? What do you appreciate about your colleagues?

You can say it directly, print the cards, use the images in a Mural template where people can fill them in, or design your own cards. It’s not about the form, nor tool. It’s raising the positivity of the space, showing others your appreciation. Great teams do that regularly. Great organizations do that across the teams and departments. You might be one of them, and this suggestion would feel like nothing new. However, too many organizations are busy to stop for appreciation. They need to deliver, work faster, achieve the goals. If that feels like your environment, break your habits, and introduce more positivity, more appreciation. Not only before the end of the year but regularly. It will bring the results soon.



New Scrum Guide



There was a new version of ScrumGuide published last week. And I have to say that I mostly like it. It’s lighter, less prescriptive, and simple. Here are a few differences.

#1 – Scrum Guide 2020 is Simple and Clear

Scrum Guide 2020 is clearer. Finally, there is a sentence that is easy to read, and that describes what Scrum is:

Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams, and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.

In a nutshell, Scrum requires a Scrum Master to foster an environment where:

  1. A Product Owner orders the work for a complex problem into a Product Backlog.
  2. The Scrum Team turns a selection of the work into an Increment of value during a Sprint.
  3. The Scrum Team and its stakeholders inspect the results and adjust for the next Sprint.
  4. Repeat

Scrum is simple.

Yes, Scrum is simple and so the Scum Guide. It’s easy to read and understand. With this version, we got rid of many long and complicated phrases full of details. For example, one of my favorite changes in this space is that daily Scrum finally not suggesting the three questions but recommend that people “can select whatever structure and techniques they want, as long as their Daily Scrum focuses on progress toward the Sprint Goal…” Isn’t that awesome? After all those years of individual status meetings where people were reporting to someone what they did. It’s finally gone!

#2 – Focusing on the Mindset

I like the fact that the new Scrum Guide stresses the three empirical pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation and explains what are they about. The five values of Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage are clearly defined there now as well. It focuses on people’s behavior, over the processes and practices.

I also like the new Scrum Guide to remind us about the primary need for Agile and Scrum in complex and unpredictable environments: In complex environments, what will happen is unknown. Only what has already happened may be used for forward-looking decision making.” All over, if you know what needs to be done, can plan it, then all you need to focus on is how fast are you going to deliver it. In such a world all different estimation techniques, velocity, burn-down, and burn-up charts are considered useful. Unlike Scrum, which builds on empiricism and inspects and adapts the plans on the way.

#3 – Scrum Team Focus

The biggest change seems to be that we don’t have “Development Team”, ScrumMaster, and Product Owner but “Developers”, ScrumMaster, and Product Owner forming a Scrum Team together. It looks like a big change, but it’s rather cosmetic as they all have to collaborate and self-organize (or self-manage if you like) to maximize value towards the Sprint and Product Goal. So, no real change there, we’ve just finally got rid of the very typical dysfunction where the Product Owner was like an enemy and the team was delivering to the Product Owner only. Now there is no such mentality in the Scrum team, they are in it together, responsible for all product-related activities. They are a team in the first place, a team that is cross-functional so can deliver end-to-end value together. ‘Developers’ is a poor name, as most people somehow read it as software developers but it’s more like a product workers. They are still the people who create working product increment every Sprint, while Product Owner focuses on maximizing the value and ScrumMaster on improving teams and organizations.

I also like the new Scrum Guide to make the scaling approach clearer than before: “If Scrum Teams become too large, they should consider reorganizing into multiple cohesive Scrum Teams, each focused on the same product. Therefore, they should share the same Product Goal, Product Backlog, and Product Owner.”

#4 – Product Goal, Sprint Goal, and Increment

Finally, the last change is the new language about Product Goal (new) and Sprint Goal (improved), and Increment (clarified). All over the Scrum Guide is catching up with the industry and adding a Product Goal as an artifact. It also provides a definition of a product, which is much broader than many organizations think: “A product is a vehicle to deliver value. It has a clear boundary, known stakeholders, well-defined users, or customers. A product could be a service, a physical product, or something more abstract.” Product Goal is a long-term objective for the scrum team – a vision. Sprint Goal gives meaning to each sprint and defines the value we are focusing on now. The increment is a useful output. Well done, verified, and delivering value towards the Sprint Goal. Simple and straightforward. Finally, there is a much better language about the Definition of Done: “The moment a Product Backlog item meets the Definition of Done, an Increment is born.” It’s almost like a poem.

All over, I really like the new version. It doesn’t change much from what I was teaching and using, just brings a more clear and crisp definition of Scrum as I know it.