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AOS 2018

Madrid, Barcelona, Pamplona, Zaragoza, Tenerife, Valladolid, Gijón, Santiago de Compostela, Segovia…to name a few of the previous locations! This year, however, it was Caldes de Montbui’s turn, a small town 45km away from Barcelona. Agile Open Space 2018 gathered almost 200 fans of Agile methodologies in one place – all of whom were eager to learn and apply their latest findings from day-to-day.

Three representatives from MOBGEN | Accenture Interactive’s project management department were present there this year. We would like to summarise our experience and hand out a big ‘thank you’ to all of this years’ sponsors who made this event possible – especially to Agile, Spain, an association committed to Agile with the aim to promote the use of Agile methodologies in Spanish companes, research centers and universities by sharing knowledge and experience.

Open Space

What is the Agile Open Space event? We can easily sum up Open Space as an innovative way of running simultaneous meetings that are collectively focused on a global theme. Each day, the agenda is decided by the participants and the event as a whole is driven by four simple principles:

  1. All attendees are the right attendees: the participants who attend a specific meeting are the correct demographic, simply because they cared enough to attend in the first place.
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened: this principle tells the attendees to pay attention to the details of the event, in the moment, instead of worrying about what could possibly happen.
  3. When it starts, is the right time: clarifies the lack of any given schedule or structure, the time when a session starts is always the right one.
  4. When it’s over, it’s over: encourages the participants not to waste time, but to move on to something else as soon as the previous discussion ends.

In addition, there remains only one rule that attendees must follow in addition to those four principles outlined above. This is known as the ‘Law of Two Feet’. If, at any time during a meeting, someone is in a situation where he/she is neither learning nor contributing, they are solely responsible to use their two feet and go to another place where he/she may learn and contribute. We think this rule is simply awesome!

When looking back at the event itself, before the whirlwind of meetings began, the marketplace played a key role in the fruition of the event itself. The marketplace is set up to allow anyone who cares about a specific topic or discussion, to step in and explain to everybody listening why it is a good idea and to give the others the opportunity to attend. They do so by simply posting the opportunity on the Agenda Wall and setting up a series of sessions. When all of the pitches are concluded, a facilitator invites people to sign up for what they are interested in, meaning that every attendee takes responsibility for their own schedules. This was easily one of our favourite dimensions of the event as it allowed us to really get the most out of these few days, on a personal and professional level.

Each session held at the event only needs one time-keeper, one note-taker and a circle of chairs to go ahead with their session. In the event that a lot of people turn up to a session, they will set up more than one circle of chairs. It is as simple and brilliant as that. The Open Space also ‘ends when it ends’, although it usually does fit into a schedule of some sort – when a retrospective begins to take place, you know the end is near as the teams begin to collect feedback from everybody and you reflect upon the past few days as a collective.

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This year, the event organizers used the occasion to promote the names of seven remarkable women who have made an impact in IT, by naming the open spaces and buildings within the marketplace. Those names were: Ada Lovelace, Evelyn Berezin, Margaret Hamilton, Katherine Johnson, Hedy Lamarr, Grace Murry Hopper and Dorothy Vaughan.

As you can see, a huge variety of related Agile topics were discussed during the two days we spent at the event. These topics were explored with a lot of passion and an open mindset. Amongst these topics were; design thinking, Scrum practices, Agile games, Kanban flows, output vs outcome, Montecarlo simulation, resistance to change…and many more. However, in the rest of this article we will focus on two popular concepts that interest us deeply and are being used more and more in recent months: Scrum PLoP and LEGO® Serious Play.

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Scrum PLoP

PLoP stands for Pattern Languages of Programs. The meaning of Scrum PLoP is that it builds a set of patterns and anti-patterns which are created through experience, community and the insights of its founders and inventors. The goal of this is to build a list of items which can be reviewed each year and shared within Agile communities, in order for Scrum practitioners to apply them within their own organisation. In addition, the existence of this list allows your team members and other users to submit a new pattern, at any time, and present it to the public on a broad scale.

Some interesting patterns, although not widely used, enable the pair programming technique as a result of the well-known learning pyramid – most people only remember approximately 10% of what they read in textbooks, but statistics show that most retain approximately 90% of what they learn through others. Three other interesting pattern techniques are Yesterday’s Weather, which uses the previous Sprint’s velocity as an indicator, Swarming, where the development team has the final say over the ordering of Sprint backlog items, and selecting a Chief Product Owner. However, recurrent anti-patterns are also worth a mention, as we often experience recurrent issues such as those in daily stand up meetings: length, loss of focus, punctuality, wrong use of reporting, or even, when the Product Owner often makes the mistake of adopting a dictator role – which is not appreciated by the team and not valuable for meeting goals.

LEGO® Serious Play

A picture is worth a thousand words. So, what about a 3D model built with LEGO® elements? This method is a facilitated thinking, communication and problem solving technique used by individuals, teams and organisations, that enables participants to be led through a series of questions and eventually, to build their own 3D models. These serve as basis for group discussion, allowing participants to share their knowledge with likeminded individuals.

Furthermore, if someone asks you a question and you answer verbally, it has been proven that you activate your short- and long-term memory. This represents approximately 13% of your brain. However, when you start to build your answer with your hands, around 80% of your brain is activated. This clearly shows how LEGO® Serious Play can impact your work, as the method takes advantage of this fact, allowing participants to use their imagination in order to delve deeper into a topic or goal. This is also said to trigger personal aspirations and goals, alongside professional development.

When participating in such activities, each person builds their own 3D model in response to a clear question that has been posed by a facilitator. Participants will then work with a set of LEGO® elements, designed to inspire story-making for easy sharing with the rest of the team. The facilitator and participants will then solidify and discuss key insights, asking for clarification questions of the models if needed. We think this approach to learning and development is absolutely awesome, and really enjoyed seeing this used in person!

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AOS 2018, we had a blast. We learnt a lot, connected with a bunch of likeminded individuals (many of whom work in the same field) and much more. If we had to pick some key words to summarise our experience, they would have to be: curiosity, knowledge, ideas, experiences, opinions, fun, contacts, perspective, doubts, synergies and dreams. We are already looking forward to joining the next one, and we think others should do the same if the opportunity presents itself to you! You are sure to learn how to be more Agile in the perfect environment!