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Agile 2015 Keynote: Individuals, Interactions, and Improvization

A review of the keynote on day 3 of Agile 2015, about improvising and responding to change in agile environments.

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I just got back from Agile 2015 in Washington, DC, and had a great time. The sessions I attended were great and informative, I picked up some really neat swag including beer cozies, transforming pens, and phone chargers, and best of all: free food!

Jessie Shternshus presented Wednesday’s keynote. Jessie is an agile consultant and improv comedian who noticed parallels between the Agile Manifesto and the key principles of improv. It makes a lot of sense. Both work towards a common goal, working software vs. creating a funny sketch, and are focused on collaboration from customers, or audience members, and because of this focus on collaboration, both require it’s practitioners to respond well to change. Ever been to an improv show and listened to customers shout out non-geographic locations or funny situations? Those are feature requests.

Here’s the list of parallels she presented (apologies for phone quality):

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And some other highlights of the talk:

  • Plenty of team-building and improv games to demonstrate how to respond to change in that context. I worked with my neighbor to create a “fake memory,” taking turns creating fake specific events. We also played another game where we had to start the next sentence with the last letter used from the previous sentence.
  • "Failure High-Fives." Be okay with failing! Acknowledge it and move on quickly.
  • A volunteer-based game of Telestrations was played on stage. It's bascially a combination of pictionary and telephone, except Jessie let people pick their starting points. This caused a lot of confusion when one volunteer started a chain with lyrics from "The Spirit of Radio" by Rush.
  • I got to illustrate someone’s reject superhero pair.

All of these games may started with one person having a plan, then watching that plan change based on others and being okay with it. It all comes down to, in my opinion, the biggest takeaway of the talk: “The best agile teams have a vision and can improvise to get there.”

Who says agile can’t be fun?

You can read more about Jessie at The Improv Effect or on Twitter: @TheImprovEffect

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Topics:
agile

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