Sunday, April 25, 2010
Thoughts on #lssc10
On Friday night I flew out of Atlanta for London and Hamburg, after a successful Lean Software & Systems Conference at the JW Marriott. It had been almost a year in planning. I thought it would be appropriate to take a moment to reflect on a project successfully delivered.
Planning for #lssc10 started on the final day of the Lean & Kanban Conference in Miami in May 2009. Software Engineering Professionals (SEP) impressed with what they saw in Miami and keen to help grow the community, offered me their Director of Marketing, Kelly Wilson as the event planner for 2010, in exchange for title/organizer sponsorship. Kelly is a professional experienced event planner. I jumped at the offer. This mitigated the first major risk for 2010.
In total Kelly must have devoted about 14 weeks of effort to #lssc10. SEP were by far the largest contributor to the success of the event.
The next job was to a pick a venue. We picked the city of Atlanta because it was still in the Eastern time zone and closer to Europe and South America and had a major hub airport. We also hoped that the Atlanta Agile and PMI communities would be excited by our event and turn out in force. We planned for 300 people - a massive step up on 57 in Miami. We hoped for 80 from Atlanta. In the end, it wasn’t to be. We got less than 10 from Atlanta. However, the choice of Atlanta was still good for travelers and worked well for international guests.
Within Atlanta we solicited bids via the Vistor’s Bureau from suitable venues. We narrowed this down to 3 candidates, one in downtown, one in midtown and the other in Buckhead. We ended up picking the JW Marriott in Buckhead. I believe that the two main risks in any conference are the event planner and the venue and the past week has shown that we successfully mitigated both. The JW Marriott really worked out. People liked the location. They liked the proximity to public transport and straight train ride to the airport. They liked the intimacy of the venue and close proximity of all the rooms which made for easy transition between sessions and lots of coverage for the exhibit booths.
The next big executive decision was the program. I pushed back on some Lean SSC principles and ran with a 3 track, 2 key note format, with an open space on day 3, plus a title sponsor talk, over the same 2.5 days as 2009. This gave us 43 sessions up from 19 in 2009. That’s a lot more complexity and cost to carry. However, it also worked out.
One of the more interesting comments since the event has been “the lack of Kanban content.” It’s interesting that this was the perception from some of the more advanced, expert members of our community. Lean Software & Systems 2010 actually had more Kanban content than any other event held anywhere, previous to this. In fact there were 10 Kanban track sessions, plus 10 experience reports, nearly all Kanban related, plus a the title sponsor talk that included a case study from a major investment firm, again about Kanban, plus Kanban games in the Open space, and Kanban related lightning talks. It’s actually a tribute to the quantity, quality and diversity of the other content that some Kanban experts chose to spend their time in other sessions and hence perceived a lack of Kanban content at the conference.
The conference also met all my major goals: set the direction for the community; show the growth and vibrancy of the community; demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt that Lean and Kanban are a force for good and genuine trend in software engineering and IT related work.
The key note speeches were probably the 3rd major risk. Some questioned the choice of Bob Charette as they weren’t familiar with him or his work. However, both Don Reinertsen and Robert Charette were incredibly well received and their talks defined the direction I want the community to follow - a new definition of Lean that includes economics, risk management and systems thinking. Together Bob and Don laid out both a strategic direction for us to follow and specific areas of interest for us to pursue at a practical, pragmatic, actionable level.
One of the highlights for me was standing in the exhibit area just absorbing the atmosphere and thinking that this time last year, none of this existed. We had 4 vendors showing Kanban tools on their booths and two others represented amongst the speakers. We had a definable sub-community of tool vendors and creators.
I was also delighted to present the first ever Brickell Key Awards, commemorating the formation of our community and organization in Miami in 2009. The award went to two very worthy winners, Alisson Vale and David Joyce. I’ve blogged over at Limited WIP Society about these.
I’m out of time today. I’ll blog more thoughts about the event soon. I’m off to teach Kanban in Hamburg now.