Agility in mind, spirit, and mission

This is a post about software. And it’s about flexibility, adaptability, and world peace.

The Agile 2008 conference is officially over yet I find myself experiencing multiple a series of post-conference sessions, if you will, that have occupied my time while wondering how to report on the impact and import of this event.

I know you’re not all creating software, at least not the kind that is run by microprocessors. Many businesses prefer outsourced software development for their software development needs. Furthermore, in today’s world it seems that intelligent software can help businesses at various levels of operation. For instance, some companies are able to provide services such as human resource management to help businesses become more streamlined and operate more quickly. Additionally, cloud computing solutions are becoming increasingly popular with companies looking to widen their global reach. For instance, if a business needs to be sending or receiving large digital files from China, then the company needs cloud capabilities and access to file transfer services such as Digital Pigeon in order to be able to fulfill this task. There are other technological tools that are fascinating to me too. For instance, it is no secret that we are currently living in an era of digital transformation, and as a result, we are seeing an unprecedented rise in the popularity of Event-Driven systems. Nonetheless, I am hopeful this blog will still be interesting, because geeky topics like algorithms and programs took up such a small part of this event for me. Above all, my revelations attending this computer software conference were about leadership, rhythm, and making the world a better place.

First of all, my first real experience of the conference after seeing multiple people with conference badges come up to each other and hug, was the opening ice-breaker party at the hotel in Toronto. It was packed full of programmers, scientists, and leaders in this small but quickly growing movement in the software industry. And at the event, they had some entertainment that surprised me. There were Tarot readers and handwriting analysts. One of them, Tara Greene , had a microphone attached to a small speaker box to amplify her voice on the small table in the large hotel ballroom full of people chatting so her voice would not run out. Now some scientists and advocates of rationality might not see much value in reading chicken trails or random cards, but I actually found her intuitions about my situation accurate and her advice very helpful in making my experience of the conference successful. If you’ve ever been to a business conference or trade show, you might know how challenging it is to successfully pick and choose from the huge set of opportunities presented at a conference. I was quite grateful. And it also set the tone – there is a different mindset in these innovative thinkers and doers in the Agile software development community.

What does Agile mean? It’s largely about two methodologies that have taken hold, Scrum and eXtreme Programming or XP. Although XP is strictly for writing software, and was my first exposure to Agile, Scrum is about how to organize a team, any team. But this conference was about so much more than these two methodologies

The open, democratic, free, and participation encouraging conference methodology called Open Space was represented. They had a relaxing space that invited smaller conversations where they held the Open Space part of the conference. And I learned that the Agile Alliance conferences, when smaller, were completely run as Open Space. I’ve written about Open Space in other entries like this one. It’s exciting, inviting, and it’s changing the world.

Jim McCarthy delivered a rousing speech at the conference, about the “Core Protocols” he and his wife uncovered through running their team work laboratory. I’ve attended a few of their bootcamps. Though they came out of software and my first event was with programmers, managers, and software authors, we learned what we learned mostly through creating art and performances. It turns out that the architecture of a team and how people work together well can actually be thought of as software. And we can improve it. And it can be fun and deeply self-expressive as are all of the arts. Not just the art of software.

The most inspiring aspect of the conference for me was learning about the book Fearless Change. One of the authors, Linda Rising, gave a few presentations and was one of the Agile 2008 conference organizers. She’s been to one of Jim McCarthy’s software development bootcamps. She and Mary Lynn Manns gave a wonderful interactive workshop to help people introduce new ideas, and because of the conference, they talked about the Agile ideas, but their methods could apply to anything new. It’s about being a leader, even if you don’t hold the official reigns of power. You can make a difference, and so can everyone else. What else could bring about a beautiful enlightened world civilization.

Finally I have to mention something I’ll be doing later this evening. Which is drumming in a full moon drum circle in Missoula. A software developer who facilitates groups in Agile software technology, Eiichi Hayashi, lead a drum circle at Agile 2008. I’d been to a drumming class at JavaOne before the dot com bubble exploded, and found it could be a very valuable team development tool. Eiichi and I drummed together briefly at the closing party for the conference, and it was inspiring to see how music and rhythm can bring people together. How can we make good products without getting aligned. Music and drumming can do it.

Agility in mind, spirit, and mission is all about being able to adapt to the changes in the world and to have access to the gifts available all around us, especially those in our fellow human beings. The computer has evolved at a very rapid pace as have many of our technological advances. What would it mean if the field of “Agile” as they call it in the software industry, were to provide teamwork and organizational advances at a similar pace? Maybe some of our intractable social issues would not be so intractable? Maybe Agility is really just a different word for Love. Maybe it’s time.

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