Todd will be presenting the following sessions
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  • Todd Little
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    Todd Little - Feedback Loops are the Key to the Learning Mindset

    Todd Little
    Todd Little
    Chairman
    Kanban University
    schedule 1 year ago
    Sold Out!
    45 Mins
    Talk
    Intermediate

    At the core of the agile mindset is learning. Continuous learning is only possible through active feedback loops. Linear approaches do not support learning and are doomed to fail in a world of uncertainty. The key is maintaining healthy feedback loops which incorporate new knowledge which enables learning leading to success. An iterative approach with broken feedback loops is similarly doomed.

    From Todd’s background as a Chemical and Petroleum engineer the idea of feedback and control loops was natural and to a large extent how he got involved in the agile community. Todd will explain the basics of feedback loops and how they can enable agility and learning, or when broken they can destroy agility and enable other behaviors such as organizational politics.

  • Todd Little
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    Todd Little - Beyond Estimates: Forecasting with Little’s Law

    Todd Little
    Todd Little
    Chairman
    Kanban University
    schedule 1 year ago
    Sold Out!
    45 Mins
    Workshop
    Beginner

    Little’s Law has been used in queuing theory for over half a century. It is an elegant explanation of the relationship between average throughput, Work in Progress (WIP), and cycle time. In a stable environment it gives us a good understanding of the performance of the system which can used for forecasting.

    But where are the story points and estimation? Certainly, size must matter. But does it? In this workshop we explore Little’s Law through theory and the experience of simulations. Each attendee will come away with a better understanding of Little’s Law and the core assumptions necessary for it to be applicable and useful in forecasting. Through the simulation you will experience why estimation of individual items is often not necessary in an environment where Little’s Law applies.

1. What got you started/interested in Agile?

I'm a Chemical and Petroleum Engineer by training and was developing software for use by Petroleum Engineers.  Empirical control is natural for us, so I couldn't understand all the push in the 90's for more linear processes.  I discovered the work of Jim Highsmith and Kent Beck and finally someone was talking about developing software the way I'd been doing it.  Eventually I got connected to the Agile conference. I co-founded it with Alistair Cockburn and then I ran it for the next 3 years managing the merger of the Agile Development Conference and XP/Agile Universe into Agile2005. I stayed active in the community while at the same time having executive roles at Landmark Graphics/Halliburton and then IHS.  In 2016 I exited the oilpatch and focused full time on the agile world.

2. What do you think is the biggest challenge faced by the Agile community today?

To many people are looking for the magic process to fix things.  There isn't one.  There isn't a magic reorganization or model that will fix everything.  In fact reorganization is one of the last things we recommend in our Kanban teachings.  Organizations are paying consultants and not learning.  They are not using feedback loops and they are not using their brains effectively to improve.  Agility is not following a recipe.  Think about how anti-agile that actually is!  Agility does not come from a waterfall planned "transformation."

3. Tell us about the session(s) you will be presenting at the conference and why did you choose those topics?

I have 2 sessions.  The first in the Mindset day is about Feedback Loops.  I go back to my roots as a Chemical Engineer and look at the foundations of feedback loops an empirical process control, or closed loop control.  The reason for feedback loops is to learn.  But systems are actually quite complex and there are multiple sometimes competing variables to control.  I look to provide some insights that I have had over the years regarding feedback loops and tie it back to my roots.

My second session is a workshop on "Beyond Esitmates: Forecasting with Little's Law."  It's not just the name that draws me to Little's Law.  I've been exploring challenges with estimation since the late 90's and in 2005 I wrote a somewhat controversial peer reviewed article in IEEE Software called "Uncertainty Surrounding the Cone of Uncertainty."  I've continued my quest to better understand estimation only to come to the realization that much of our attempts to get better at estimation are not helping us make better forecasts or decisions.  Little's Law is actually a quite simple concept and helps us understand the reasons why we can usually get just as useful forecasts using throughput as we can get if we do detailed estimates.  It's not easy for people to give up their estimates as our industry has obsessed with estimates for so long.  The emotional attachment can be quite strong.  So for a while I tried to show people with data that the estimates do not help.  And that worked for some, but I finally realized that it would be much more powerful if people actually could experience the situation.  So that is the workshop.  The entire audience becomes my Monte Carlo simulation engine and in the end they experience the difference between throughput and velocity forecasts.  Since there is randomness involved I can't know for sure how it will turn out, but I have a pretty good idea how it should turn out.

4. What are some of the key takeaways from your session(s) at Agile India?

On Feedback Loops: 

  • Understand the foundation of feedback loops and how they apply to learning
  • See what happens when feedback loops are broken
  • Look at how to shorten the cycle time of feedback loops

On Little's Law:

  • Experience the difference between forecasting using throughput and velocity
  • Experience the reality of the expected range of error for estimates
  • Determine for yourself the actual value that you are getting from your detailed estimation

 

5. Which are your favourite sessions at Agile India this year? (Sessions that you are looking forward to attending)

I always like hearing from Dave Snowden.  I reference Cynefin in my talk on Feedback Loops.  

6. Any personal remarks/message you want to share with the Agile Community?

I've been coming back to Agile India since Naresh first invited me in 2014.  It is one of my favorite events as it is very clear that the attendees are passionate about learning.

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