Last week was the Agile 2009 Conference. It was great. The stage producers and their teams had selected a phenomenal program, Elastic Communications outdid themselves as the event planners, and the volunteers helped everything proceed smoothly. Alistair Cockburn and Jared Spo0l delivered fabulous keynotes. Here's my personal retrospective:
- What stood out for me: the sheer quantity of decisions I had to make and the time involved. As is normal with many projects, the decisions I made early on were not always right (:-))) and caused problems later. I also noticed the time involved. I spend most of last September working on the budget, the rest of the fall getting the stage producers and assistants lined up, and preparing for the submission system opening. I spent the winter and into the spring on the hotel issues and putting a marketing plan together. Summer was for more decisions and dealing with the last-minute-Annies, the people who wanted a favor after the deadlines. I spent zero time on my business in August–all my time in August was spent on the conference.
- What were my reflections? I loved that many of the stage producers worked as pairs. I should have changed the budgeting to give the assistants an honorarium too. However, my budget was in trouble and I didn't do that. I was frustrated that some stage review teams did not use the submission system for their reviews. I found that working with Ahmed Sidky and Jessica and Yvonne from Elastic and Phil (the AA managing director) was a blast. I was frustrated that it didn't matter how much time I spent on the conference there was always more to do. I'm delighted that Jean Tabaka facilitated our retrospective. Jim should have plenty of data to work with based on that output.
- I learned that marketing has to be congruent with what you are marketing. That's why I sent the emails to the agile2009 list. I learned that if you have a scarce commodity (rooms to have sessions in), you force people to make difficult decisions. That's why we had a great program. I learned that you can still game a submission system, no matter how hard you try to remove the gaming. I discovered that even when I thought I had managed the risks, they kept popping up, especially where the hotel was concerned. I learned that Elastic was more than capable of managing the speaker interactions. (thank goodness!) I don't understand why speakers did not read their emails 🙂 (I'm sure they did, but the information didn't penetrate.)
- My decisions: I will take my learnings back to the AA board and to next year's chair, Jim Newkirk. I will choose people in key positions more carefully–some people did not have the time to devote to the job they volunteered to do (a common problem with volunteers). I thought I'd asked enough questions when I asked for commitment, but I did not. I had too many stages; I've already suggested to Jim that he combine stages (if he uses that metaphor). Having fewer simultaneous sessions (over 2008) was a great idea. I wonder if even fewer simultaneous sessions next year is the right idea? I'm glad we gave the speakers checks onsite, and their feedback forms within hours of their sessions. I wish we had explained that more thoroughly.
I learned a lot in my project portfolio session. I had reworked the simulation from the previous week, and had a typo in the handout. The typo created an underfunded set of projects. We all learned the value of “should we do this project at all” when discussing the project portfolio.
I enjoyed my time chairing the conference. I learned a lot and am glad it's over! (I've been sleeping 10 hours a day since I returned, even crashing on the couch at 9pm, and then going upstairs to bed at 11.) To all my colleagues: thank you for your time and passion. You made a difference.