Author Archives: Steffan Surdek

Post-talk thoughts – CASCON and Agile AoT Conference

CASCON was a lot of fun. Me and one of the other co-authors, Elizabeth, prepared the slide deck as well as some exercises for the participants to do. It was an interesting experience to take the material from the book and twist it this way to get a different results. Personally, what I liked about it was that it actually helped me clear up some things or find some additional pros/cons to add to the chapters during the final edit cycle. There’s nothing like having the material out there staring at you from a Powerpoint slide to get you realize the gaps in what you wrote. I suggested that we stop the editing process and put the entire book in PPT format before going any further… I got vetoed on that idea… Of course, I was just joking around when I made that suggestion.

For the workshop itself, it went very well overall. Matt, the other co-author of the book was just amazing to watch leading the exercises. He was so smooth and comfortable in his delivery and in how he led folks. I had never met him in person prior to this, but from the limited time that I saw, he must be a fun presenter as well when doing slides. Elizabeth and I went through the slides for folks. We had about twenty or so participants which I felt was just right. We ran for a tad over three hours when all was said and done and we got fairly good reviews from the participants. If any of you come by this site and read this, thank you for coming and participating! Your participation is what made the workshop work!

On a personal note, I had never met Elizabeth prior to this either. She’ll surely laugh if and when she reads this… But when we had breakfast together before the conference and were having a conversation, it felt almost surreal to me. I know her voice, I heard it very often in the last ten or eleven months in brainstorming sessions, in different meetings for the Scrum Community Leadership team and it was REALLY odd having here there in front of me. Who knows, maybe she found it a bit freaky as well!

Right after CASCON, I started getting involved in helping in the organization of an IBM internal agile conference and some labs were organizing local events with local speakers. I’m fairly isolated here and the closest location to me was Ottawa where originally nothing was planned… Well lo and behold, someone stepped up in Ottawa and decided to organize a local event, so someone put me in touch with the organizer. Originally, I had offered to drive down and help them facilitate, but when they said they did not have any local speakers, I offered to do a couple of talks based on content from the book. As an alternative, I also offered to do the Agile Planning in Real Life talk I had done in Montreal in May.

The last two weeks, every night was pretty much spent preparing those two talks. They were interested in the Agile Planning in Real Life talk, so I translated that one from French to English, but originally, that talk was only 22 slides from which I could talk about 1.5h on. I learned so much about writing this year, I decided maybe an upgrade of my presentation skills were in order as well, so instead of just translating, I used the french version as a rough draft and rebuilt the entire presentation from scratch. I like it SO MUCH more now than my original, I’m really proud of how it turned out to look, it looks a lot more professional and polished now as I also leveraged the knowledge I gained this year from writing the book to enhance the content. A word to the wise though… It takes a lot of time to prepare these at this level. As I plan to reuse this deck in the future, I probably will not post it on the web site for a while.

For the second talk I gave in Ottawa, I created a new deck on “Collaboration during a sprint”. Considering it took me a bit less than a week to put together, I’m happy with the presentation. But there’s a lot more text to this one right now, I will need to revisit it and make some tweaks to it in the future to make it stronger and focus the content a bit better. In the talk, I discuss a wide range of things from Language and Culture differences, team communication, daily scrums, handling new requests during a sprint and sustainable pace.

To break the suspense… Here are my impressions from the Ottawa talks… First of all, anyone that knows me well will always tell you I am rarely ever late, more often than not, I tend to be early when I need to be somewhere… Well, not today… Luck was not on my side, it was my first time at that site in Ottawa and I got caught in traffic coming in, then I got lost… I made it to the lab about ten minutes late… I was SO embarassed! Thankfully, the organizer had some donuts on site and they all got a good chuckle out of talking me to the site over the phone.

I think that the first of the two talks went really well, starting it was tough because I like to get used to the room before I start, so I’m usually there 15-20 minutes early… Today was more like getting in there, hooking myself up and starting cold… It was rough, but everyone in the room was very nice and I appreciated that they took the time out of their busy schedules to come listen to what I had to say.

The second talk, I have some regrets about. Looking back, I think I tried to pack WAY too much content into a 1h talk and I may have overloaded everyone. For anyone that was there today reading this, know that I was so psyched up about doing this talk, I did not realize how much content I was trying to deliver. And because the first talk lasted for 1.5h and was also chock full of stuff (mind you the pacing was much better), I think that it was a lot to absorb in a morning. I will revisit that talk in the coming weeks and streamline it for future use.

If you came to this site because I gave you the URL during the CASCON or Ottawa talks, I want to thank you very much for attending! It is a lot of work to prepare for these but it’s a lot of fun to have the opportunity to speak in front of people. I feel really honored when people take time out of their busy days to come see me talk, I hope that you got something out of them and I made them worth your while!

Post-talk thoughts – Agile Tour 2009

The talk was about how distributed teams should approach their Daily Scrums. The first part of the talk focused on the goals of the meeting and what teams should try to accomplish with the meeting. Why did I start there? Well, these days, I’m attending daily scrums for 2 or 3 different teams and I find it fascinating to see how teams handle their meetings and the information team members bring to it. Really, the goal of the meeting should be to make sure the team is focused on their sprint plan, make sure everyone is communicating what they are doing and passing along information about their tasks that may impact others on the team. Teams starting out struggle to understand this and their meetings usually resemble more of a daily status report than anything else. The second part of the meeting spoke more about the different types of distributed teams and how teams can meet to do their Daily Scrums as well as approaches that distributed teams with no overlapping work hours can take to successfully conduct their Daily Scrums despite the challenges they face.

What did I think about Agile Tour? Well, it was their first ever even in Montreal and I believe over 200 people attended. There were great speakers there such as Mary Poppendieck, Scott Ambler and many others. Unfortunately, my timeslot was right at the same time as Scott, so that really ate away at my potential audience. I believe I got around 15-20 people in my session and hopefully they had a good time and picked up some interesting things. For my first conference, I had a good time. I’ve spoken in public before, so that wasn’t really my biggest challenge. It was my first time running through this content though in a presentation format, so I’m glad I had the right amount of slides to cover my allotted time.

Next week, I’m going to CASCON in Toronto with Elizabeth and Matt, the two other authors of the book to host a three hours workshop on the same subject. I’m really looking forward to going there and finally meeting them face-to-face. The most amazing (and probably ironic) part of this is that we have been working closely together all year to get the chapters of the book written, yet, we have never actually met face to face. Beyond pictures in the IBM BluePages, we have never actually seen one another. Sometimes, I think there’s something deliciously appropriate to writing a book about the challenges of being distributed, with the authors being distributed as well.

Interested in Scrum with distributed teams?

As I talked about briefly in my last blog entry, I’m currently working on a book with the IBM QSE Scrum Community and two colleagues at IBM. After many months of… negotiations… beggingcollaboration… oh god, I’m at a loss for words to describe what we’ve been through to be able to get this available to people. One day, I should blog about this. But finally, today… July 23rd 2009… The day is finally here when we can publish our chapters online and make them available for external feedback.

Read more ...

Things to do, chapters to write…

As some of you may have noticed, I don’t have a chance to update the site often. That’s because earlier this year, I joined a group of people that are writing a book on how to use Scrum in a distributed environment. This has been a great experience for me up to now. In this blog entry, I’ll share some of the joys and pain I’ve had since I joined this group of people.

Read more ...

Post-talk thoughts – Agile Montreal – 28 May 2009

I presented at the Agile Montreal user group meeting tonight. I had a really great time, talked for a bit over 1.5h straight. Basically I took my developerWorks article on Real Life Agile Planning experiences and turned it into a French presentation. People had good questions and I hope I provided good answers to them. As usual, the first five to ten minutes were a bit stressful as it was the first time I was giving this talk.  I think overall the flow was good. The attendance was pretty good (20+ people).

If you took the time to come and see my presentation, thank you for coming. I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedules to come see me present. Thank you as well for being so gracious to me, I hope I made it fun and interesting for you. I really enjoyed myself tonight and would have no reservations coming back for another presentation. Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions or comments on the talk. If I get enough comments, I may create an additional blog entry for them.

For those of you that are interested, the slides are available here.