Not A Problem… The “Fluffy Stuff” Isn’t That Important Anyway

There are 17 different stages at the Agile2011 conference in Salt Lake City that cover a wide variety of topics. Though there are obviously technical stages (it is a software conference after all), what would probably look odd to hardware developers browsing the program is the number of stages dedicated to the non-technical (aka: the “fluffy stuff”).

Yes, you did read stages dedicated to the “fluffy stuff”, not just individual sessions. The 5 that stick out to me are:

I know that these topics are important to agile developers so I wasn’t too surprised to see them. What did surprise me though is that not only are these topics covered at Agile2011, they’re well covered with an average of 15 sessions for each stage! Now, I’ve never been to previous Agile2xxx conferences, or any software conferences for that matter, so I know nothing of content and quality (both of which I’m assuming are decent). But by the simple fact that these sessions take up almost a 3rd of the program, the folks that put this on seem to think they’re worth the time and effort.

In another universe… could you imagine going to DVCon and seeing a track called Collaboration, Culture & Teams with 22 sessions? Would SNUG, User2User or CDNLive have a track called Coaching & Mentoring with 15 sessions. How about just 1 session? One bright light I do see is at DAC where they have a “Management Day” on June 7th. Other than that, topics stay pretty technical at all of the above. I list these conferences because they are reasonably accessible for the average joe and generally well attended. If there are other conferences I’ve missed that do fit the bill, I’d appreciate you letting me know.

I’ll venture a guess that the sessions I point out don’t get run at hardware conferences because we hardware guys don’t have much of an appetite for the “fluffy stuff”. Even though leadership is important, even though we could probably learn something by listening to how out peers work with customers, even though there are times when we need to coach and/or mentor colleagues, we probably rely more on what we’re born with and experience first hand than what we learn. Or maybe as a group we figure that technical excellence will compensate for lacking the “fluffy stuff”? Maybe we already know what we need to know! Who knows for sure.

It is hard to argue against the fact that “fluffy stuff” plays a tremendous role in hardware development. There’s no denying it. And we could likely get better… much better… though it seems we’re a little behind when it comes to realizing it!


Q: Got an opinion for why the agile software crowd spends so much time on “fluffy stuff” like leadership, coaching and mentoring while we hardware folks appear indifferent? I’d like to hear what you think!