Conferences, especially those based around management and operations, are so often focused on the “business” of things. How can you increase your margins? How can you get the most out of your workforce? Where is the next big wave that will take your company in to the stratosphere? We rarely talk about people as individuals, instead seeing them as little cogs that we fit together until we have a machine that, while not well-oiled, is at least less likely to fall apart.
Lean Agile Scotland 2015 was a pleasant surprise on all fronts. While they claimed not to have a theme, there was a definite trend of talks about actual human beings. The opening keynote from Richard Sheridan set the tone with a guide to injecting “joy” into your workplace. I had half expected something a little bit hippy dippy and fluffy, but what we actually got was a practical, achievable model for making your workplace a happier place. I was pleased to note that much of what was talked about it already in action here at Red Badger. I was going to say that all we were missing was an office dog, but even that has been remedied this week with a visit from Winston!
Bookending the first day was a talk about how happiness is exactly the wrong thing to aim for. While this may sound like a complete contradiction, it actually complemented the first talk beautifully. We all get so focused on chasing a mood, something that cannot possibly be maintained, that we tie ourselves up in knots. Instead we should be looking for an internal balance and sense of purpose. Sounds simple, but so much of what they were saying rang true for me that I am already looking inwards and trying to figure out how I can apply the same concepts to myself.
The focus on personal growth, culture and introspection was one that I feel I needed, and one that came at exactly the right point. I finally feel like I’m doing well at my job, but having the confidence to say that doesn’t even remotely come naturally. I think the most profound turning point of the week was the workshop “exploring your courage and vulnerability”. As a noisy introvert (the more anxious I am, the more words I use) I often feel fairly stranded at big events like this, but Gitte and Tobbe’s workshop made me feel like part of a really great community, and made me realise that I often trip myself up just by virtue of assuming people don’t care about what I have to say. I’m lucky to work at a company that accepts me and mentors me, so it’s silly that I still hold myself back.
Of course it wasn’t all soppy, there was some pretty hefty technical and intellectual content in there as well. One of the talks I unfortunately missed but intend to watch back is Matt Wynne’s “beyond BDD” talk. One of the hallmarks of a great conference is how much you feel you missed, and this, along with Chris McDermott’s “Systems all the way down!” talk definitely fall into that category. On the philosophical end of the spectrum, Will Evans wins the award for most confusingly interesting talk of the conference, with his talk “Heretics, High Priests and Hagiolatry”. You know you’re in for a rough ride when even the title contains words you don’t understand!
I also conquered some personal battles by standing up during Chris Matts’ Friday morning keynote and addressing the audience in response to a call for audience participation. It might seem tiny, but for me it was a huge step towards public speaking and wouldn’t have been possible if the preceding two days hadn’t been so inspiring.
I have a huge amount to still process from the conference, and could likely write a blog post on every single talk that I attended. However, I definitely have one overriding takeaway from the whole thing. That Red Badger are doing things right. I’m not saying we’re perfect, no company is, but the growing and learning we’re doing is going in the right direction. I had continuous swells of pride as people talked about what they were trying to do, as I knew that in many cases we are already doing it. Similarly, things that we aren’t already doing, I know we have a business that will be willing to listen.
I also learned that Hagiolatry is the worship of Saints, but I haven’t yet worked out how to use that in a business context.