Humanizing Work: Conference Review

About 1/20 of the giant post-its capturing learning at the Humanizing Work Conference.

A number of the readers of GeoVoices are other companies using Agile methods, or considering it, because Geonetric is particularly aggressive in using Agile methods. If you’re interested in Agile, this post is for you. If not, feel free to skip this one!

Our Agile coach, Richard Lawrence, and his company Agile For All, put on a conference called Humanizing Work this week for advanced practitioners of Agile. Everyone had at the minimum been through a full Agile training program already; most had been involved with Agile for quite some time, some for many years. Attendees ranged from very large, well known corporations to small businesses and everything in between.

You may note by the word “humanizing” that this is aimed squarely at building high performance teams and organizational cultures, rather than focusing on the technical aspects of agile. We spent time on some advanced topics around scrum, but it always came back to the people on the teams, and how well they work together.

Some thoughts on the conference overall:

  • Extremely high signal: noise ratio. This conference probably had the most value packed into a few days of any conference I’ve ever attended.
  • Varied approaches to learning. Unlike most conferences I’ve attended, pretty much every session was formatted differently – and intentionally – to get the most out of each. We used small groups, large groups, learning groups that remained together across different sessions, individual reflection time, games, and speed-dating. The variety made it fun and different and never mundane.
  • Creative ways to engage and build connections with peers. The first day introduced a ticketing game that wound up being extremely effective at ensuring people got to know each other quickly. This added tremendously to the value of the conference as all of the subsequent conversations was higher, since you knew who was doing what, and didn’t waste time reintroducing everyone.
  • An incredibly wide variety of topics. Agile touches almost every aspect of a team’s or business’ performance, so topics ranged from predicting work velocity, building high performance team cultures, giving feedback productively, identifying features to build into a product, improving morale in a group, how to make work visible, and many more. It was easy to find the areas you needed to focus on from the many topics.
  • Coach:attendee ratio. Most companies work with one agile coach. At the conference, there were multiple coaches available the whole time – by my estimate maybe a 1:6 ratio of coaches to attendees. Their varied experiences from companies around the world, with different areas of expertise, and different stages of implementation, was invaluable.
  • Conference size. The conference was small enough to be intimate but large enough to have exposure to lots of new ideas.
  • Curated attendees. The fact that the attendees had already been through Agile training with at least one of the coaches involved ensured that everyone was a high value attendee: we were all willing and aggressive learners, self-aware enough to look at what we’re doing critically and talk about the strengths and weaknesses openly. No posturing, no defensiveness, no wasted time in pointless debates.

We’ve been doing agile for years at Geonetric, but still learned a ton and confronted ideas and aspects of our own agile implementation that we’d never considered before. If you’re looking for help with Agile, we’ve found Agile for All to be an incredible resource, and this conference is no exception.

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This entry was posted in Agile, Geonetric Culture, Leadership, SCRUM, Value by Eric Engelmann. Bookmark the permalink.
Eric Engelmann

About Eric Engelmann

Eric gets people excited. About healthcare. About technology. About Geonetric. It only takes a few moments of being in his presence to feel his passion and see his vision. A healthcare reform junkie, Eric can usually be found uncovering new ways to show healthcare executives how to leverage technology investments and develop patient portals that will improve care delivery. After earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Iowa, he began his career in technology, founding Geonetric and never looking back. Through his leadership, Geonetric continuously receives honors and recognitions, including being named a Best Place to Work by Modern Healthcare, Software Company of the Year by the Technology Association of Iowa, and an Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company for five years running. When he’s not sharing his vision for the future of healthcare or accepting awards on behalf of his company, he can be found having lunch with his daughter at a local elementary school or donning lederhosen and entertaining his team at the Annual Engelmann Oktoberfest.

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