I’m back from holidays, having been disconnected for the last ten days or so. I’ve finished uploading my holiday snaps (check them out here if you like) and checking all my emails so it’s time I got around to reflecting back on last year and what this new year may hold (even if it’s just that little bit late). I don’t do the whole New Year resolution thing although I try to revisit what goals I have.

In terms of conferences…

  • I attended the Retrospective Facilitator’s Gathering held in Phoenix this year that continued to fuel my existing passion for one of, what I consider, one of the most effective agile practices. It’s helped me communicate even more with people about my passion for the tool, continued to refine my approach and understanding of the tool and helped others to see the value they add. It’s also put me in touch with a whole heap of other people that share this similar passion. I’m sometimes referred to as *the* retrospective guy in the UK office and even though I don’t agree with that statement (I don’t know everything there is to know about retrospectives, and I’m certainly not perfect at running them – I’m just passionate about them). I’ve even helped to organise this year’s gathering.
  • I helped Tom Sulston out with his workshop, The Daily CI and I ran my Reface Your Team Space session at XP2007 in Como, Italy. Though I enjoyed the two sessions, I thought last year’s conference ran much smoother and had much better content than this year’s.

In terms of writing…

  • I published my first article on InfoQ after writing a series of blog entries on Onboarding Strategies. I want to continue to add and refine these as I still think there’s important lessons here that I hear teams fail to do everyday.

In terms of opensource…

  • Even though I’d contributed patches and bug fixes to some projects, last year I released my first real open source project, an API for printing to Zebra-branded printers written in .Net called Sharpzebra. I’ve hosted this project on Codeplex and I hope it eases someone else’s problems printing to this proprietary language.

In terms of growth and lessons learned…

  • I’ve read much more on Lean and Theory of Constraints this year, and starting to feel like I have a better grasp of the concepts. Applying them in a practical fashion in terms of noticeably different practices is the much more difficult step I need to take next. For other people’s reference, read books like “The Goal”, “The Elegant Solution”, “The Toyota Way”, “Lean Thinking”, and “Toyota Talent”. I’m sure there’s much more to read as well.
  • Only eight months after a disappointing situation, I finally made it to India to help conduct some training, giving me a full time focus on coaching, training and facilitation techniques. I also have to thank one of my fellow trainers, Rixt who’s been fantastic at helping me to be more aware of many other techniques and approaches that I then could practice and apply during the training sessions. I feel that the delivery methods for the course improved significantly over the three months the whole training team worked together on.
  • This year I also first officially lead (at least from a technical point of view) an all TW team, and under fixed bid conditions, high expectations from the client and a very complicated domain with a few new people, delivered a very successful project to a very happy client. Reflecting on the experience, I extracted out many of the onboarding strategies I wrote about, and then applied it as the team almost doubled in size for the next release.
  • I’m also very proud of the way, as a team, we handed the leadership over seamlessly to another person as I prepared to head to training. Transitioning the tech lead role is often executed haphazardly, leading to inconsistent visioning, confusion amongst the team and general chaos. I’m pleased that when I left the team, it was like they could work without me (which is a good place to be!)
  • I stayed at the same client for most of the year, although ended up on two different projects – one of which I worked on the year before. Seeing the same project, or introducing new people to the same project months later taught me so many lessons about what decisions or approached work or don’t work taking a long term view of a project. I can’t recommend it enough to anyone to make sure they understand the consequences of the choices they make beyond their own time on the project.
  • Tim Bacon (an alumni Thoughtworker and fellow agilist) introduced me to the Amplify Your Effectiveness crowd that seems to align strongly with members of the agile community. That, and the Getting Things Done crowd.
  • I created two new retrospective exercises, one that I’ve blogged about called The Three Word Starter, and another I’m yet to blog about though I tried with a couple of teams in India.
  • It’s not about what models you use, it’s about how you use them. This year, I’ve learned so many different models from so many different people, and although they appear trivial, watching people who really harness their energy constantly amazes me. I need to remind myself, it’s not about whether or not a tool is good – it’s how it’s used and how it’s applied.
  • Doing the things you say is much more powerful than simply saying things. It demonstrates commitment, and belief in the things that you value and is often an effective way of leading change in teams. I’ve seen people say things and then do something completely else, confusing people to no end. Others simply say things and don’t do anything about it, making it less likely to occur.
  • Effective feedback earlier is better than no feedback at all. It’s better than feedback too late to do anything to do with it. Of course, this takes energy yet it’s a very powerful thing if people respond to the feedback (it’s not always guaranteed). You can do at least your part by ensuring the feedback is timely, and well constructed.