Top 14 Takeaways from Agile Open Northwest Camp 2022

Erik A. Ekberg
5 min readJul 7, 2023
Image of the marketplace from Agile Open Northwest Camp 2022

Nurturing Agility Through Practice

Turning Agile Principles into Action

Contrasting Agile with Waterfall, Agile principles emphasize iterative feedback and the maximization of work not done.

By continuously seeking feedback and iterating throughout the development process, Agile teams can avoid wasting effort on unnecessary features and ensure that they are delivering the most valuable outcomes.

The practice of mobbing, for example, reduces hand-off costs and promotes continuous feedback and collaboration, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the development process.

Embrace Chaos and Learn Fast

In Agile, embracing chaos means accepting that uncertainty and change are inherent in complex domains.

Instead of trying to control every aspect, teams should focus on adapting quickly by learning quickly from successes and failures.

By experimenting, taking risks, and learning fast, teams can iterate and improve their solutions rapidly.

This iterative approach, coupled with the ability to embrace chaos, fosters innovation and agility.

Psychological Safety and Maturity

Creating a culture of psychological safety is crucial for enabling experimentation and learning.

When team members feel safe to share their ideas, take risks, and learn from failures, it fosters an environment of trust and growth.

Additionally, team maturity plays a significant role in recognizing when current approaches are ineffective and being open to change and improvement.

Agile Leader Community of Practice

Establishing an Agile Leader Community of Practice fosters a culture of servant leadership, transparency, trust, and psychological safety.

By sharing knowledge, experiences, and best practices, leaders can collectively work towards creating effective working environments and addressing systemic cultural issues.

This community serves as a platform for continuous learning and continuous improvement, helping leaders navigate the complexities of Agile transformation and support their teams effectively.

Value-Driven Conversations

While ceremonies in Agile frameworks may not have inherent value in themselves, their primary purpose is to spark conversation.

By providing a structured platform for discussing challenges, roadblocks, and progress, ceremonies can facilitate open dialogue, encourage collaboration, and promote shared understanding among team members.

It is essential to foster an environment where conversations are constructive and focused on problem-solving rather than resorting to public shaming or guilt which encourages generic reporting.

Conversations, and in turn ceremonies, should lead to action.

Goal -> Opportunity -> Solution

Prioritizing goals and understanding how opportunities align with those goals is crucial before diving into solutions.

By identifying and clarifying the goals behind a project or initiative first, teams can then explore and evaluate different opportunities or solutions that align with those goals.

Opportunities and solutions derived from the team’s diversity.

This approach ensures that the team remains focused on delivering value by meetings those goals and avoids getting caught up in solution-centric thinking without a clear understanding of what the solution is trying to achieve.

Optimizing the Software Development Lifecycle

Evolutionary Design + Iterative Development

Combining evolutionary design principles with iterative development fosters continuous improvement and innovation.

By experimenting, learning, and iterating frequently, teams can refine their solutions over time.

This approach encourages flexibility, as requirements and understanding evolve throughout the development process, ultimately leading to emergent software systems that are optimized for known business and customer outcomes.

Build Quality and Refactor

Building quality into software from the start is essential to avoid accumulating technical debt.

By prioritizing quality practices, such as clean code, testing, and regular refactoring, teams can prevent long-term stagnation caused by technical debt.

Taking a proactive approach to maintain code quality helps teams deliver sustainable solutions and ensures that valuable time is not wasted on addressing avoidable issues.

Software Development Philosophy

When it comes to software development, there are three key aspects to consider: functional, simplicity, and tested code.

Functional code aligns with business requirements and delivers customer value.

Simple code emphasizes readability and maintainability, making it easier for developers to understand and modify.

Tested code ensures reliability and reduces the risk of introducing bugs.

Balancing these three aspects is essential for delivering high-quality software that meets customer needs.

New Ways of Working

DOJO Academy

The DOJO Method offers a structured approach to real-time collaboration and learning.

By organizing work into 2-day cycles, teams can effectively plan, execute, and reflect on their progress.

The method encourages cross-disciplinary mobbing, where team members with different skills and expertise commit to collaborate on the most valuable work for just 2 days.

This approach reduces hand-off costs, fosters continuous learning, and enables teams to pivot quickly based on feedback, new insights, or reprioritization of the work.

The TEAL Approach

The TEAL approach emphasizes local psychological safety, dynamic reteaming, self-organization, and transparent communication.

Creating an environment of psychological safety enables individuals to take risks, experiment, and learn from failures.

Dynamic reteaming allows teams to align individuals’ passions with the work at hand and encourages cross-functional collaboration.

Self-organization empowers teams to make decisions and manage dependencies through open conversations.

Transparent communication and shared understanding of business objectives foster buy-in and drive effective autonomous decision-making.

Combined, local psychological safety, dynamic reteaming, self-organization, and transparent communication let the organization as a whole learn and adapt with little administrative overhead.

Different Mob Models

Using different mob models allows teams to leverage diverse perspectives and knowledge-sharing practices to meet short and long term business outcomes.

Whether it’s having everyone learn from each other, sharing expert knowledge to peers, learning something new together as a group, or utilizing the cross-functional expertise of two individuals, the power of collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas greatly enhances problem-solving and decision-making.

Crisis Reveals True Operational Practices

How an organization responds to a crisis reveals its true operational practices.

During a crisis, teams often eliminate unnecessary processes and focus on efficiency and effectiveness.

This presents an opportunity to reassess the value of different practices and streamline workflows.

By identifying and addressing inefficiencies during a crisis, organizations can emerge stronger and more resilient.

Product Ownership

Product owners play a critical role in advocating for customer value and driving business value.

In most companies, they serve as the bridge between the development team and the customer, constantly prioritizing work they feel will deliver the most significant value.

But at the end of the day, this is a bet.

Effective product owners exhibit servant leadership, promote transparency, and create a safe space for open conversations to discuss these bets.

They also design working environments that facilitate collaboration and empower teams to deliver high-quality solutions.

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Erik A. Ekberg

Software engineer with a background in human psychology and data analytics who affords both customer and engineer delight through Agile software architectures.