The conference is aimed at people who want a deeper understanding of how to bring the principles of Agile to their wider organisation.

The last time I attended one of these, I had no idea ‘Agile’ was even a noun. This time, I was a bit more versed in what these people are on about, and was able to soak up the learnings at 1st Conference.

Learnings here can easily be absorbed and repurposed by leaders of all stripes, even if they don’t touch a computer all day. Agile may have started as a grassroots movement to change and adapt workflows for IT projects, but today it’s seeping into the mainstream.

The speakers provided a full-throated, diverse range of delivery methods and perspectives.

  • Barefooted Austrian-English change experts reframing humans as pattern-matching machines.
  • Former-CommBank-turned-current-AGL execs discussing the work/life-changing nature of a mid-run heart attack.
  • Toyota high-ups showing how organisational change can sometimes mean taking a business back to its essence.
  • Former military hot shots demonstrating the role of adaptive leadership from Afghanistan to Melbourne.
  • Agility specialists providing a useful map of the movement from the past to the future.
  • Truth-speakers revealing greedy shareholders and feckless CEOs as the reason teams don’t have more resources for innovation.

1st Conference – Highlights from Tabar on Vimeo.

It was a lot to take in, but rarely dull.

The workshop sessions themselves were equally wideranging. Obviously, every sector has its jargon, but looking past the ‘kanbans’, ‘retros’ and ‘Golean circles’, it wasn’t difficult to see how topics such as ‘Efficiently Building Trust in Leadership’ and ‘Facilitating with Finesse’ were: (a) practical applications of a theoretical mindset; and (b) applicable beyond the walls of the computer lab.

I took not only some interesting thoughts on topics like ‘Using Fast-Feedback Experiments to Understand Problems’ and ‘How Tabletop Games Can Reveal Iterative Knowledge Growth’, but also a free kanban of my own to Blu-tack above my work desk.

And a ‘Heart of Agile’ sticker to put in my notebook. And far too many delicious mini-quiches at lunchtime.

But let’s move on to the heart of any conference, of any movement – its community. And here, you won’t find the usual IT stereotype. I’ve been to conferences where it may as well have been a series of YouTube videos, for all the discussion and interaction taking place.

Not here.

This is an engaged and positive group of people with a broad range of views.

I certainly didn’t expect to come away from a tech conference having discussed the role of Lech Walesa in bringing down global Communism, how best to present ‘Colonel Mustard’ without words or sound effects, the specific pressures of being an introverted leader, or why I should align with the ‘cubing movement’ because of my surname.

But put a Peroni and delicious chicken-based canape in a man’s hand after a long day of learnings, and anything can happen…

Image source: 1st Conference