Where are agile/lean conferences headed?

At the beginning of the week I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Munich (why don’t we call it München, by the way?),  entitled Lean Kanban Central Europe. The conference itself was really really good, with a bunch of useful things for takeaway. However, what I noticed (and also in Madrid at the XP conference) is that some presentations are mainly into psychological researches that are not tightly (or even loosely) related to software engineering, management, agile, lean etc.

These are topics like “teams as a whole are complex systems, any input will result in an unpredictable output”. Ok, cool, this is really interesting, but how does this help me write better software. Or how does this help a product manager? Or a project manager? It is good to know, but there is nothing concrete about it. I’m back now to Budapest, and cannot apply any part of that in my every day professional life.

Also, I don’t really consider talk a talk that’s made up of dozens of cut-out citations from different books. People usually go to conferences to hear original ideas, tips and tricks which could be applied at their home organizations. People -usually- can read, so synopses are not adding value.

What was, however, the biggest surprise throughout the whole conference, was second day’s keynote, held by Stephen Bungay.  He presented middle and higher management strategies through different historical, military events. You’d think we can learn nothing from military, right? Wrong. I’d point you to the presentation, but I think without Stephen’s stories it does not make sense. And he is not even directly into software development.

So, I guess it’s time we somehow get back to our profession. Let’s get rid of  psychology, behavioral studies (fine, these can be kept, but moved to management conferences), speculations etc, and get back to process improvements, lean, kanban and agile. I don’t think this field is so narrow that we have to involve other studies too. There is still a lot to do, and it wouldn’t be too kaizenful to start doing less important tasks until the most important ones are to be developed further.

PS: of course the conference as a whole was not useless. There have been lots of interesting people with so many good ideas. Really, people worth listening to, with dozens of tricks to be tried. I wish conferences were entirely like that.

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