The great array of sessions you see before you in the Lean Agile Scotland programme doesn't happen by accident - it is the end result of a process that happens over several weeks, involving many people.
Once the Call for Speakers closes our team of volunteer reviewers spend some time reading, rating and commenting on each session. After this has been completed, I sit down with my co-chair Steve Smith and Software Acumen's programme manager Allison Beaumont to create the conference programme.
We are in the lucky position that there are invariably more good sessions than we have space for, so it is at this point we have to make some difficult decisions, balancing logistical considerations with pulling together conference themes and a range of topics across the three days.
To help us with this, we look at a draft programme through the eyes of our participants, using six personas: the novice/curious agilist, the beginner lean/agile coach, the experience lean/agile coach, the product person, the developer and the manager/leader.
The novice/curious is someone who might be at a lean/agile conference for the first time and has used lean/agile processes for less than a year. For this person something like Using the Toyota Improvement Kata to solve hard problems by Adarsh Shah and Hibri Marzook might be interesting.
The beginner lean/agile coach is one who has worked with these processes for some years and is starting to help others either in a specific coach role or as part of their job. We hope they might be interested in sessions such as Cultivating space for learning by Faye Thompson.
After having worked as a coach for some time we expect you to turn into the experienced lean/agile coach and want something more challenging such as 3 cups of tea with a map: having conversations with Wardley maps by Jabe Bloom.
The product person hopefully would be interested in sessions such as Continuous delivery: a product manager’s perspective by Neha Datt and Marcel Britsch.
An example from the programme for a developer could be Trunk-based development, continuous deployment and why you should adopt them by Neil Crawford. For this persona we also throw in some testing sessions, although other personas might be interested in those as well.
And finally for the manager/leader we have sessions like What’s in a title? - Everything and nothing by Maria Kedemo.
Now of course we do not want to force people into personas and we by no means will expect them to stay in their “tracks”, we merely use these to make sure we have a diverse programme with something for everyone on each day/time slot. As an example of a session for everybody we have Visual facilitation - basic toolkit with Magdalena Kiaca and Monica Madrid Costa.
Taking each persona in turn we make our way through the programme, thinking about which sessions might appeal to that persona. We aim to avoid having a set of sessions together that are either pitched at a fairly basic or fairly advanced level, therefore ensuring there is an appropriate selection to choose from in each set of sessions. For example on Wednesday we have a series of sessions about people that might be interesting for the coach persona. It starts with Questions are powerful – use them effectively by Tony Bruce, followed by Improving your listening mojo by Stevie Borne and The power of habits by Amir Peled
And that’s it! If we’ve done our job properly at this point we should have a programme where each session is in a room that is the right size (so we don’t have to turn people away from a session they’d ideally want to attend), with the right layout (so that discussions or other activities can take place easily if they are part of the session), and where at each point there is at least one session that will be of interest to each of our participants. We think we’ve got it right - take a look at this year’s programme and see what you think!