Report back from LKNA13 and SGLAS

In May, Peter attended the Lean Kanban North America 2013 conference in Chicago and the global Scrum Gathering in Las ...

4 June 2013
Scrum Sense

In May, Peter attended the Lean Kanban North America 2013 conference in Chicago and the global Scrum Gathering in Las Vegas. This is what he had to say.


David Anderson and his merry Kanban men always pick a smart venue and put on a professionally organised show. This was my second time, the first being Lean Kanban Central Europe 2012 in Vienna. What I particularly like is that the organisers go to the considerable trouble (not to mention expense) of producing professional quality videos of every presentation. This largely obviates the FOMO we all suffer having to choose between attractive parallel sessions. What was different this time is that the videos will be made available only to registered participants. While this is restrictive, the logic is understandable, given the cost to mount these events.

The good news is the videos from LKCE12 are freely available and there are many excellent talks. In addition a top visual facilitator was commissioned to capture the essence of each session.

From the LKNA13 line-up I’ve forced myself to pick five highlights. For Twitter fans the official hash tag is #lkna13.

1. How Spotify Stays Lean from Small Start-up Through Rapid-growth

This was a short, high-paced session by Anders Ivarsson and Joakim Sunden, both internal coaches working at Spotify. According to Alistair Cockburn, Spotify is possibly the only truly Agile organisation on the planet. I had previously read Henrik Kniberg and Anders Ivarsson’s excellent article Scaling Agile at Spotify with Tribes, Squads, Chapters and Guilds, and this talk helped to bring the ideas to life. Henrik was also interviewed on InfoQ about his work at Spotify. Personally I’m a great fan of the kind of work they are doing, as they are rooted in practice and they are constantly experimenting along their journey. (I contrast this to formulaic approaches like DAD and SAFe. These appear attractive and reasonable, but are deceptive.)

It’s interesting to note that Spotify, with around 250 technical people, has 12 internal agile coaches and is looking for more! These coaches work across the organisation to help the squads, chapters, guilds and tribes get better.

2. Prioritising Safety: An Unexpected Pathway to Excellence

Joshua Kerievsky, widely known and respected for his work with XP and author of Refactoring to Patterns, gave a fresh and fascinating talk on safety in software development. He argues that software developers work in very unsafe ways, ranging from how we injure ourselves by sitting at a keyboard all day to how we do ourselves emotional and cognitive damage by acceding to unreasonable demands and shipping unsafe products. He used examples from outside our industry that demonstrate that valuing worker safety leads to a habit of excellence, which in turn leads to improved outcomes (profits).

3. Kanban through its values

Mike Burrows, one of the Kanban luminaries, gave a thoughtful view into Kanban via its values. He has published the slide set “Introducing Kanban through its values”. What I took away was the valuable and deep thinking around the psychology and sociology of change that is going on within this vibrant community.

4. How to Measure Anything: An Introduction from the Author

Doug Hubbard gave an introduction to his book on measuring value in business. What struck me is that he really understands statistics and their use in business. I’ve added this title to my already-bulging bookshelf!

5. The Language of Change

Esther Derby, author, change artist, organisational designer and one of my favourite people gave a warm talk on her experiences in “creating humane and sustainable workplaces”. These points resonated with me:

o People don’t resist change; they resist coercion.

o People resist to save something they value.

o When people are afraid, they don’t bring their best selves and their best thinking.

o Use aspirational language to encourage experiments that deliver learning.

o Track places in your organisation where something good is happening and then fan the flames.


There were more talks on change and culture, including “Good Practices to Start a Culture of Continuous Improvement” by Klaus Leopold and “Strategic Change Management with Kanban” from Sigi Kaltenecker. The content of both of their talks is included in the 3-day Kanban Change Leadership class they will co-lead in Cape Town in November 2013.

To be continued

A short while later I was fortunate to share a cab to the airport with Esther as she travelled home to Minnesota and I journeyed onto the global Scrum Gathering in Las Vegas, the largest ever held since these events began 10 years ago...

But this post is already long enough, so that will have to wait for next month!

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