First of all, what is up with this blog title? At Essent we really love our abbreviations, so let me spell it out in full. Our Lean Agile Center of Excellence was represented at the Digital Specialist Day of 2022.
Within Essent, we have a group of Agile Coaches and a Portfolio Manager who are the core for Agile, Lean and SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework for enterprises) improvements throughout Essent, the so-called LACE. We are here to inspire, train, coach, and facilitate teams and ARTs (Agile Release Trains) to continuously become better at achieving the desired results. I myself am one of these Agile Coaches.
From AgileNow to Digital Specialist Day
Over the last few years, E.ON (Essent is part of the E.On group since 2020) organized a yearly event called AgileNow to drive forward the topic of Agility in the E.ON Group. For 2022, E.ON’s Agile Guild decided to join forces with other guilds in the Group to put on a large event for all Digital Specialists. This gave participants the chance to learn about the other guilds' topics as well as get inspired. So, on November 23rd and 24th, we met for the Digital Specialist Days and pursued exactly the same goals as before: to connect, learn and share.
A total of around 300 Agilists and Digital specialists gathered in the ‘Rot-Weiss Stadion’ in Essen, Germany, to listen to several (international) speakers, have discussions on different topics related to Digital specialisms and Agile ways of working, and of course to share experiences and to network.
Of course, our day started with a road trip with four ‘Brabanders’, Sander, Frank, Annelies and I, towards Essen with some freshly baked croissants and coffee.
We joined the plenary room at the event site to kick off the two-day event. After a so-called ‘fireside chat’ I jumped into my first break-out about the future of the Agile Guild
The hosts of the session were very interested to hear about the ideas the participants had about growing a successful community and were searching for what they had to provide to the group to be successful. Our main idea at Essent is that communities build themselves and are only disturbed when ‘managed’ or told what to do. That is why we have a coach that helps in setting up a community, mainly facilitating and mentoring so that the people in the community can, after a short while, pick it up themselves and make it work. That input was surprising to the hosts of the session and inspired them to look at it from another perspective.
> Interested to read more about how we build a Scrum Master community? This can be read here in an earlier post.
After lunch, I joined a Keynote about Agile leadership where the speakers shared their views on different types of leadership. They elaborated on how encouraging leadership in all colleagues helps to balance between over-reliance on frameworks and developing and supporting people to be the best version of themselves. In this talk, they mainly considered a different type of leadership, one that pervades the whole organization. The biggest takeaway was that to positively influence and develop others, you must start with yourself.
After the keynote, we watched the last part of the Germany-Japan soccer match and checked into the hotel (Frank made the reservation, so guess who got the biggest room!?). Furthermore, we ended the day with a good Vietnamese dinner and some proper evaluation of everything we heard today. So, night night and on to tomorrow!
Day 2 – Jurgen Appelo
The opening of the day was an interesting presentation about User Experience and the value of it by Jurgen Appelo; a popular blogger about Agile software development (and a fellow Dutch!). He explains how you will never innovate when you just give customers what they want at a faster rate. If you truly want to be innovative you need to dig deeper into customers’ needs and desires and look for the real job to be done. It’s about really understanding what makes your customers happy, even when they don’t understand that themselves.
Women in Tech
I started the day with an inspiring panel discussion about Women in Tech. 3 impressive women came onto the stage (Claire Whitmore – UK Head of Digital Technology and Expert Services, Franziska Eickhoff – Head of Data Analytics, Deliah Hecker – Referent Technology). Host Cerys leads the conversion through various topics, like women in tech throughout the years, challenges that women in tech face, stigmas that (still) exist, and goals for the future. Although of course, some challenges were also applicable to men, it was eye-opening on various levels. Did you for instance know that when you are looking for women in your company, it’s best to leave the job application open for at least 1 or 2 weekends? It is shown that men are more likely to use the evenings and mornings to apply for a new job, while women find the weekend a more suitable moment to find the peace of mind to apply for a job.
An Agile Bundeswehr
A bizarre comparison at first glance is when Christoph Heck, fleet captain of the German Armed Forces told us about agile structures and agile leadership in the "Bundeswehr". Chris provided insight into how such an organization (260.000 active duty military personnel and civilians) is able to use the principles of agility. He showed the foundations that are required to ensure this organization can deliver the right response just in time. During the presentation, the seemingly big difference between the armed forces and software development, got smaller and smaller when thinking about the importance of teamwork, interaction, trust, innovation, and collaboration.
After we all came out of our last presentations and discussions, it was time for our road trip back to Holland! Fortunately Sander and Frank found an amazing apres-ski Spotify list (ugh)... On to more inspirational and refreshing events in 2023!