I was wondering if Lean Agile Exchange on 10 and 11 September would be as much a Community of Need conference as e.g. Lean Agile Scotland or Agile Cambridge were. I was not disappointed.
What defines a Community of Need conference?
Steve Freeman recently recommended Chris Matts’s presentation at and on Lean Agile Scotland from four years ago about community of need versus community of solutions conferences - Communities of Need versus Communities of Practice:
The “Communities of Need” are centred on the creation of memes. Members of this community operate in the area of “Need” to create a meme and then work with the meme to identify fitness landscapes where it fails, and evolve them accordingly. These communities have problems that need to be solved. They take solutions developed for one context and attempt to implement them in their own context (exaptation), and modify (evolve) them as appropriate.
As Chris says:
Community of solutions conferences often don’t address the needs at all. Community of solutions keynotes are highly polished, delivered by someone who has delivered the same presentation ten times a year for twenty years.
The former describes Lean Agile Exchange to a large extent.
My quick summary animation looks like this:
Dominant memes: principles dominate before the chasm, practices after. Read Chris’ post for the details
Community of Need sessions can be recognized by questions or uncomfortable truths that don’t necessarily sell anything. The keynotes at Lean Agile Exchange were a good example of that. And hand-drawn slides, made in the spur of the moment.
The conference Slack channel was lively, with people asking questions like why do the programmers in my workplace believe functional programs don’t need tests, and Has anyone tried to authoritatively write down the names for things used in the organisation?
Some sessions I enjoyed
Cynicism Doesn’t build products
From the regular sessions, the one by Gwen Diagram on Cynicism stood out. Gwen’s talk Cynicism Doesn’t Build Products was so full of energy, that I managed to stay awake for it after a long day of on-line conference. An enormous amount of slides with photos and lively story telling. It warned us to resist the undue optimism that can result form pressure, or face the consequences of working on an impossible product.
I enjoyed Suzanne and Wouter Lagerweij’s session on eXtreme p..arenting?. It was very much about responding to change. The breakout sessions in small groups were a good chance to meet other participants, and talk about parenting challenges. This showed once again that workshops over Zoom can work, and even can have an intimate feel to them. This is an example of exaptation.
Taking the Tiger by the tail by Nat Price and Julie Camosseto was about what to do when your bluff gets called, and you get all the things you asked for to solve the biggest problem in a company. As that problem actually does turn out to be the biggest problem, and not just hyperbole. Nat and Julie got to form a Tiger Team, and assemble all the people they needed from around the world. This is an example of evolving practice.
I’m glad we sponsored
I’m glad we sponsored this conference. I still need to watch the Alpaca’s from the break. I did pace myself, skipping the occasional session like I would if it was an IRL conference made a difference.