Back from XP Days Benelux, on to XP Days London

Last week I attended the XP Days Benelux. It’s the fourth time I go there, and it’s been a mild shock to realize how often I was there. The first time I went there was because I had the pleasure to meet Pascal, who was kind enough to help us run the first Essap. It was a big bet for us to do something as big as a Summer School. Luckily, we had help from Pascal and Francesco.

I was just starting to get my bearings in the Agile world back in 2006. Pascal came to Essap and taught us about estimating, planning and executing a plan, with his and Vera‘s ingenious XP Game. And that was not his only contribution… he was, like, a *real agilist* who had a long tradition and a strong community behind. In 2006 we had just started the Milano XP User Group. It was great to meet someone who had a much bigger experience of working with agility.

There is this peculiar thing about the Benelux Agile community. They are real cosmopolitans. They speak English easily, since their countries speak many different languages and they are used to speak English even among themselves. They really *live* the agile values. I mean, if you want to succeed with agile, you better start living your life with the agile values. The organization of the XP Days reflects this.

For instance, it’s not like in old-school conferences where you send you session proposal and then it’s either rejected or approved. At Xp Days you are supposed to send a first draft, then you receive feedback on your proposal, then you improve your proposal with the feedback. This reflects the value of feedback, and the principle that good things are not done in one shot, but iteratively.

In the room where the plenary sessions were held, the core values of this group of agilists were exposed prominently. See in the first picture here, they are those sheets of papers high up to the right of the projector screen. They are unreadable in the photo, but they were well readable if you were in the room. They were

  • courage,
  • openness,
  • focus,
  • respect,
  • committment.

One other example of agile values in action is the many forms of feedback that are encouraged. For every session, you’re encouraged to write your feedback on a small card for that session. At the closing of each day, people who attended each sessions are asked to tell everybody what they learned (in 60 seconds! The timebox is another agile principle.) When you leave the conference you are asked to write a feedback sheet for the conference in general. “Give the gift of feedback”, is what the organizers say.

So my trail in the world of agile has been very much influenced from the beginning by the Benelux agilists. It’s a great trail to be in :-) Over the years I got to meet many more friends there, and it’s great to meet new ones every year. Some, like Yves, Marc and Willem, continued Pascal’s tradition and came to help us organize Essap in 2008.

My and Antonio‘s contribution to the XP Days this year was the session on the Birthday Greetings Kata. Thanks to all participants! We learned a lot of valuable feedback on how to improve this session, and I’m ready for the next stop, which will be in London.

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