Øredev 2019 — sharing knowledge
Øredev is a big, general software dev conference that takes place in Malmö, Sweden, in November every year for the past 15 years. In this post, I want to share some of my takeaways, recommend some brilliant sessions and tell you about my experiment with something completely new.
Before we dig into it — full disclaimer. I have been to every Øredev since 2007. That makes 2019 my 12th year. Considering that we celebrated 15 years, I have seen the conference grow, change and improve. I have also been on the program committee on and off for many years. For the last two, I have worked with the “People and teams” theme together with Martin Rosén-Lidholm.
Trying something new this year I decided to make sketchnotes in all the sessions I joined. I usually live tweet from the sessions, so this was a new experience for me. Equipped with markers and notebook I was doodling away to the point that I wore out a technical pen. I took pictures of the notes and published them on twitter. I did not get the same reach as my live tweets, but these notes really help me remember and mark my takeaways from the sessions.
Mission impossible: the product owner
In this talk Allan Kelly explores the role of the product owner. He sets out asking — is the role as we have designed it close to impossible to fill, and could some of these activities be done by other people?
How can we have self organizing, cross fuctional teams, but one person that is authorized to tell the team what to work on?
A PO as we describe the role must be able to both be in the here and now, be able to write requirements and also think about customer pains and the future. They need skills, authority, legitimacy and respect in the organisation and time. They need skills like product management and entrepeneurship. We are really expecting super heroes, but companies seldom support super heroes.
To solve this Allan suggest to cut out things that PO’s should not be doing, focusing the role more. He also suggests leveraging the team more, and perhaps have two different PO’s: a strategic focusing on the long term and less on the team, and a tactical that focuses on the short term and works closer with the team.
Measuring scrum masters
Stephanie Gasche asks what it means to have a good scrum master. And what is the value for an organisation to have the roles of scrum masters. We should not only have the role because the scrum guides says so. As with everything else we should be able to understand and quantify the value these people bring. In this talk Stephanie presents a number of ways to measure and visualize the value scrum masters bring to the organisation. There are some very hands on, practical tips for how and what to measure.
Stephanie also digs into the discussion of how to use metrics, and why so many consider them evil. Instead of using it for control we should use it for learning, and be able to use data to show where we can improve, and where the organisation is hindering us rather than supporting.
Visual thinking — simplify complex
In this entertaining and different session Yuri Malishenko explains how visual thinking helps simplifying complex topics. He kills the myth that drawings have to be beautiful. What we are doing here is not artistic, but using a language of symbols so that we can externalize all the complexity. By doing this we create a map that allows us to surface things in a complex system that are hard to describe in words. In the session Yuri goes through a number of cases where he draws a complex system using very simple components anyone could use.
This session describes the exact reason I started doing sketchnoting and experimenting with visual thinking (it is also thanks to Yuri I have progressed so much).
Enabling business agility through Agile HR and Beyond Budgeting
I participated in a full day workshop with the above title. Bjarte Bogsnes and Pia-Maria Thorén used a full day to take us through concepts of Agile HR and Beyond Budgeting to create an environment where organisations can adapt to business agility. To me this concept is very important as I keep seeing how structures in finance and HR are limiting agility rather than supporting it.
It is almost impossible to conclude everything that we discussed in this full day workshop, but I will share a few concepts.
First of all I loved that we were a diverse group. There were agile coaches, people working with HR and people working with finance. This allowed us to explore topics in a very different way than a group of agile coaches would have been able to.
We discussed how control is seen in organizations today, and how that control is an illusion. I liked the analogy of traffic lights (managing traffic) vs roundabouts (self regulating system). Research shows that roundabouts are safer, but puts more demand on the driver.
We discussed the type of leadership this requires and how leaders should manage systems over managing individuals or work. Another metaphor I really liked is that of seeing managers as gardeners. They have to focus on creating a good environment for plants to grow.
We talked about the principles of Beyond Budgeting and how they support an agile organization. It is not about creating forecasts and trying to keep up with an outdated plan. Instead it is about transparency and designing for the needs that an organization has. Budgets are targets, resource allocation and forecasting in one. This is part of the problem. Instead we should separate the three concepts. Bjarte also did a session on some of the basics of Beyond Budgeting:
Another important concept we discussed was performance management (just the word, same category as human resources). How yearly cycles of unobtainable goals is damaging in an agile environment. Instead we talked about concepts like transparency, OKRs and how to holistically evaluate performance not just on an individual level but also on a whole organization.
This was a great workshop, and I took away a lot of practices and ideas I know have to try out in the real world.
Since I spent a full day at a workshop I missed some sessions I really wanted to see. As all sessions are recorded I put together a watchlist for myself. Looking forward to extending the conference feeling, and preparing for Øredev 2020 (4–6 November, in Malmö).