Sunday, October 04, 2009

A tale of two conferences (Lean & BA)

I spent the first part of the week attending the UK Lean conference swiftly followed by the IRM BA conference. Heres a rough cut at some thoughts from the two conferences.

The first day of the Lean conference was my favorite - and not just because I was speaking. It was “practitioners day” which means it was light on big names. The second day was packed full of big name speakers and oddly that was a downside. While the first day was a two way conversation the second day felt more corporate.

I didn’t make it to the third day of the Lean conference because I was at the BA conference. Now this was a corporate conference. Yet the speaker line up was not so strong. OK, thats unfair, most of those at the Lean conference were already pretty advanced at practicing some form of Lean or Agile and the conference was about improving these activities. The BA conference seemed to contain more introductory material. So perhaps I’m not the right person to comment.

Actually, although I was officially attending, and speaking at, the BA conference I actually attended several sessions at the Business Process Management (BPM) conference. The two conference were running in parallel at the same location and on the same schedule.

Although I was a little unsure how I would be received by the Business Analysis community I need to report the reception was very positive. I was talking about Agile and I found that most Business Analysts were both interested in Agile and welcoming Agile way of working.

I’m happy to report that on Twit on Twitter declared I was the highlight of the conference!

As I said in my last blog entry, the presentation is now online - More important than ever, the role of the Business Analyst in Agile transition.

So what did I learn? What were my highlights?

John Seddon at the Lean conference. He took a few pot shots at Lean and raised some valid concerns. His alternative is systems thinking. Personally I think the two approaches are complementary. I am always keen to relate Agile and Lean back or organizational learning, and I believe that system thinking is an essential element of such learning.

John introduced me to a new term: “Failure demand” - that is the demand created on a organization or system because of earlier failure. He sited examples of companies and organization where the apparent demand was 60, 70 or even 80% related to earlier failures.

One common theme that seemed to span both conferences was the dangers of using inappropriate tools. Whether it was Lean in service organizations (from John) or using Six Sigma black-belt tools when simply asking users what the problem was everyone seemed to warn against excessive reliance on a tools.

One insight that will stick with me came from Jeff Patton (at the Lean conference) who pointed out that a Minimally Marketable Feature (MMF) is not the same as a marketable product. He introduced the expression “Minimally Viable Product” (MVP), an MVP is a collection of MMFs.

Over at the BA/BPM conference I was exposed to the Business Process Management world - speakers, exhibitors, attendees. It seemed to me that BPM far more intwined IT and technology than I ever imagined.

Mary Poppendieck (at Lean) was, as ever, a very entertaining speak. She introduced a new case study: the Empire State building. Built between 1929 and 1931 the main building was completed in 8 months, end to end it was a little over 18 months.

My notebook is crowded with ideas and comments but I don’t have time to document them all here. I am sure the ideas will find there way here eventually.

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