LeSS Newsletter - November 2019 - LeSS Conference MunichNovember 1, 2019
LeSS Conference Munich
A bit over a month ago was the Munich LeSS Conference. The conference was an enormous amount of fun. Next year, the LeSS Conference will be back in Amsterdam. I'm already looking forward to that. In this newsletter, I (Bas) would like to reflect on the Munich LeSS Conference. I'd like to share how I experienced the conference. At the end of this newsletter, I'll include some other experience reports, presentations, and photos.
The two days before the LeSS Conference were reserved for a LeSS trainer meet-up. This time, the trainers shared new training experiments, shared LeSS adoption experiences, discussed mentoring and how the current trainer-mentees are proceeding, and prepared for the LeSS Conference. I've learned a lot from the other trainers and also found more opportunities to work together. An important topic that we covered was where we ought to focus, as the community, to help the ongoing LeSS adoptions and where we ought to focus on with the development of the LeSS site. We concluded that many LeSS adoptions are not focusing enough on technical excellence and because of that, we decided that we will soon start to include technical courses on the LeSS site. Hopefully, you'll see some courses in the coming months.
The day before the conference, the organizing group and a bunch of trainers went to the venue to prepare for the conference. I was one of them and observed and enjoyed how this group worked. They are obviously comfortable with self-organization and trusted that everything will be alright. We didn't know exactly what was needed except (1) prepare the venue, (2) decide on the registration process, and (3) prepare for Open Space. When we arrived, a bunch of people formed a circle and started a discussion/argument/brainstorm session about the registration process. Half of the people got bored with that and decided that they can be more useful somewhere else. They left to prepare the other rooms. After about 30 minutes of discussion, some conclusions were made... we wanted to rely on self-organization for the registration process. Everyone dispersed and found something to do. Within 2 hours, the entire venue was ready and nobody could find anything to do anymore. The venue people were a bit confused with the lack of roles or hierarchy. My personal favorite was when someone came to ask me to make a decision on where to put the speaker-stand on the stage. I told them I'll be there in 5 minutes. But when I arrived, the speaker-stand position had clearly been decided. When I asked the venue staff how that happened, they told me that my manager had decided... To this day, I have no idea who decided... but the problem was solved.
I did the conference opening. I felt quite comfortable and wanted to keep it short so we could start. Also, I was getting a bit nervous about my talk about organizational politics. After the opening, Cesario together with Nadine Klokke, Joris Verheij, and Vaishal Gariwala, all three from ING, started their opening keynote about their change in ING from the "Spotify model" to LeSS. It was nice to hear what they have achieved and what problems they had, although it sounded like they were still fairly in the early stages of their LeSS adoption. I hope to hear more about their progress in the next few years.
After the keynote, we started the traditional self-designing-teams workshop. The LeSS Conference has been a team-based conference since the very first one. What does this mean? This means everyone will join a team, which will be their home for two days. In the schedule, there are regular team-reflection slots where the team can get together to discuss what they learned and where they plan to go. In my opinion, this is one of the things that makes the LeSS Conference different... and special. Every year, we get feedback that the teams were the best conference experience ever and we also get the feedback that the teams are a terrible waste of time. I guess some like it and some don't, but we will keep experimenting with the team-based conference and try to make it a "best ever" experience for all of the people. I joined a wonderful team, which we named "the nice souls." We did plan our sessions together and enjoyed the summaries of the sessions that my team members went to.
I had to do my talk about "organizational politics" after the self-designing-teams workshop. It was one of the hardest talks I have ever done, mostly because the topic is hard and sensitive at the same time. My goal was for the talk to be both insightful and practical. I discovered it is hard to share practical advice on how to cope with organizational politics. I felt that the talk went well even though the scope I attempted to cover was too large. I'm looking forward to doing the talk again and, next time, I should be able to focus the talk a little bit more. I was relieved when the talk was done and people gave me a lot of positive feedback. I hope it was useful for everyone.
During the afternoon, people pulled me aside for questions or topics they wanted to discuss. Because of that, I, unfortunately, missed most of the afternoon sessions. Well... I did enjoy most of these side conversations and it seems to be in the tradition of the LeSS conference to value the networking and side conversations more than the actual sessions. Anyways, I would have liked to see some of the afternoon sessions. The one session I did join was the opening of the Open Space. The Open Space filled up very quickly and perhaps the majority of the people joined the Open Space rather than the planned sessions... and that was probably a good thing. What made the Open Space such a success this year? I guess a lot of the participants had Open Space experience and were looking forward to that. That said, the beautiful weather and the beer garden definitely helped with the success of the Open Space. The outside sessions were very comfortable (except for wasps).
The last thing in the afternoon of the first day was the trainer panel discussion. Personally, I'm not a big fan of panel discussions, even though people keep telling me they enjoyed it when I was in a panel discussion. The panel turned out to be interesting and it is one of the few panel discussions where the number of panelists increased during the panel discussions. There was a question about gender diversity and the panelists decided to take immediate action and include some women. Also, the panelist didn't want to restrict the panel participants to trainers and invited Michael James to join the panel. Michael James is not (yet) a trainer but has had a huge impact on the LeSS community through his videos and the creation (together with Manoj Vadakkan) of the Fans of LeSS community.
The evening was wonderful. The conference day was over and right outside was the beer garden where everyone gathered. I had some wonderful conversations and it was good to meet many people again who also had participated in the earlier LeSS Conferences. I tried to not make it too late as I was still suffering from the time difference.
The last day, we quickly opened the conference and started Craig's keynote. His keynote raised some interesting topics about chickens and shared spaces. He seems to continue to develop on the idea that people need to discover and learn things for themselves, which probably led him to do a significantly shorter presentation than previous years and leave space for more discussions within the teams. Some people enjoyed that and also quite some were disappointed by that. They enjoy Craig speaking and wanted more of that and less group discussion. Let's see what he plans to do next year.
After his talk, I briefly joined some sessions and had some side conversations. Unfortunately, I started noticing that all my energy was gone and that the lack of sleep and time difference was showing itself with a vengeance. So, right after lunch, I decided that it was enough for me and I had to sleep. I secretly left and spend the rest of the day sleeping. I did feel bad for abandoning my team, I couldn't find them before I left. The conference continued without me and closed in the traditional way, with a Conference Review Bazaar. All I can do is look at the pictures and videos and it looked like it was a lot of fun. Darn timezones.
Presentations and photos
This year, we improved the conference site so that the presentations and the pictures that people took during the presentations are integrated into the program. So when you go to the conference site, you'll notice the following:
- Sessions with the presentations uploaded will have a materials or presentations button. For example, my presentations on politics can be found at my talk in the program, the link goes here.
- Sessions that have photos will have a photo icon on the program. For example, the Conference Review Bazaar had photos to it which can now be seen below the session description. All conference participants can upload photos to the conference site if they would like to share them.
- Other material shown is also on the program. In a couple weeks or months, some videos of recorded sessions will be added and these will also be visible on the program.
- The Open Space sessions have a separate program and photos of the sessions are included there. You can find the Open Space program as a tab next to the normal program. We still miss some photos and names at some Open Space sessions.
- The general conference photos can be found at the special photo section.
Other conference experience reports
Several people have written conference reports which you might enjoy reading. They are:
- Conference Experience by Magdalena Dzięgielewska.
- My Maiden LeSS Conference Experience by Yeong Sheng Tan.
- Conference Experience by Michał Jakubas.
Next year - Amsterdam
Next year's LeSS conference will return home to the place of the first LeSS Conference... Amsterdam. We'll open the registration soon and will keep you informed. Perhaps see you next year!