Dave Farley – Continuous Delivery @Agile on the Beach

The keynote speaker to kick off Agile on the Beach 2015 was Dave Farley. As someone who normally presents on the tech tracks I was interested what topic he would choose to talk about as there are 5 different tracks (Software Craftsmanship, Continuous Delivery, Agile Business, Agile Teams and Product Management) so what would he cover to appeal to everyone one there.

The talk was about Dave’s three laws that he came up with out of musings with friends (probably at a pub) and that he feels applies to day to day life.

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People don’t mean to be crap but due to the way we are inherently made, we make assumptions, jump to conclusions as these behaviours take less effort than questioning. Being rational is hard work – literally!

What should we do if we want people to agree with us in a meeting? Food! Its the best predictor of acceptance of ideas. The better the food the more agreement.

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Instead of just accepting the things we are told, question them, ask why and check that these are indeed true. Working in a different teams it is good to experiment together and see what works and what doesn’t.

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What are you and the team trying to achieve? Propose what you want to change to achieve this outcome. By making a change what would you expect to happen and why and then test out this theory.

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Science and agile isn’t too different, we plan as a team what we want to deliver, do the work, talk to the end users to get feedback (study) and then act on this information to adjust the plan.

The first moon landing was one of mankind’s biggest experiment. Much of the technology had not been invented yet. How did they do this? They had to break up the  problem down into small chunks. What is the most simple thing they could do? Start small and then iterate. The Ranger programme was a series of failures of getting a spaceship to the moon until the 7th attempt. By splitting it up into small parts there was less money and risk invested upfront and allowing them to learn from their mistakes and optimising the solution without losing life.

There is a game where you are given spaghetti, tape, a ball of rope and a marshmallow. The aim of the game is to build the highest tower with the marshmallow on the top. In the experiment, kindergarten kids come behind only architects and CEOs. This is because they iterate on a small structure rather than plan a larger one. Another good example of how experimentation works.

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  1. Understand the direction or challenge
  2. Where are we now
  3. Establish the next target condition
  4. Iterate towards the target condition

This has been utilised in industry for years. Americans used to go over and study Toyota’s process and to try and implement this in their factories. Each time they went back to Toyota, the process had changed. This is when they realised that there was a continuous improvement cycle and that they should look within their company to get advice and ideas on how to be better.

Stuff is more complicated than we realise and there are things that play games with our minds. Seeing is believing. Reality is not real. Dave shows example of optical illusions. We do not see absolutes, our brains fill in the gaps between reality and perception. It seems we shouldn’t trust our eyes. Think about what colour is that dress?

Dave played us some sound waves to show us how our brain is great at filling in the gaps and learning. To begin with our brains just heard squeaky noise, but then he played us the words. The next time we heard the sound wave we could hear words in the noise. Most of reality is made up by our brain, which can be shown by the sounds waves, by the fact we can still read sentences with all the letters in the muddled up as long as the first and last letters are correct.

Shorten cycle time > be experimental > build better software

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And remember, everything is interesting, just change how you look at it.

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