Agile on the Beach?

Agile on the Beach. Is this a real conference? I was sceptical, until I checked the 2012 lineup and discovered that this conference – probably more than other agile conferences – tackled business as well as technical challenges. It’s also pretty good value. So I packed my bags and went to Falmouth. (By the way – it’s further than you think: over 4 hours by train from Bristol: BRI to PYN).

I was hoping to get some insights into a number of agile challenges. Particularly: the customer transition to agile; contracts; and agile in government. I was very happy to find that the conference exceeded expectations on all three counts.

What follows is a series of blog posts about the sessions I went to. Some of them need a bit of background reading so I will be posting them in a piecemeal fashion. There was plenty more, incidentally: on craftsmanship (including a fun sounding coding ‘dojo’); agile teams; and agile in business. I attended mostly, but not exclusively, the latter.

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Papers and referencing

I’ve been using the Mac version of a program called Papers2 (also available on Windows). I am slowly getting converted to the program, if you are looking for a better way to organise your academic reading I recommend you give it a try (you can download a trial version for 30 days). Here are some initial notes and tips:

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Future of the UK automobile industry?

I am rarely this timely with my blog posts but was alerted to this announcement by my colleague Andrew Graves:

The government and automotive industry are investing £500 million each over the next ten years in an Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) to research, develop and commercialise the technologies for the vehicles of the future.

via Billion pound commitment to power UK auto sector to the future – Press releases – Inside Government – GOV.UK.

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Christensen #3 – Building a Theory

In perhaps the most interesting (and certainly the most novel) lecture, Clay gave a meta-explanation of the Innovator’s Dilemma, using it to illustrate the process of building a theory.

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Christensen #2 – Disruptive Innovation and the Panda’s Thumb

Much of this lecture came from ‘The Innovator’s Solution‘ – a well judged (and marketed) follow up to Christensen’s seminal ‘Innovator’s Dilemma‘ book. The phrase Panda’s Thumb, btw, comes from Stephen Jay Gould, a brilliant evolutionary biologist who used the term to describe evolutionary hangovers (the appendix?) which cease to have a useful function.

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Christensen #1 – Disruptive Innovation and the economy

After recapping the theory of disruptive innovation, Clay turned his attention to the macroeconomic implications of this theory. Incidentally, if you haven’t heard the famous steel mill example, its a cracking good yarn (the better for being true). You can catch the whole lecture here:

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Taking note of disruption

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When I was working for Hewlett Packard, I was largely involved in artificial intelligence research. I had little time for management theory, except when it affected me. That happened 3 times. The first was Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, the second Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma, and last was Chesbrough’s Open Innovation. Thus, it was natural when I came to Bath that I should choose these theories to explore in the Innovation and Technology Management MSc programme.

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Fracking – er ….

On my todo list is to do a bit more ‘digging’ (forgive the pun) about fracking.

This looks like a good place to start (UKERC links to EU reports so hopefully reasonably unbiased)

The study on energy market impacts shows that unconventional gas developments in the US have led to greater Liquefied Natural Gas supplies becoming available at global level, indirectly influencing EU gas prices.

The study on climate impacts shows that shale gas produced in the EU causes more GHG emissions than conventional natural gas produced in the EU, but – if well managed – less than imported gas from outside the EU, be it via pipeline or by LNG due to the impacts on emissions from long-distance gas transport.

The study on environmental impacts shows that extracting shale gas generally imposes a larger environmental footprint than conventional gas development. Risks of surface and ground water contamination, water resource depletion, air and noise emissions, land take, disturbance to biodiversity and impacts related to traffic are deemed to be high in the case of cumulative projects.

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It’s not whether, but when.

I am almost finished reading Renato Orsato’s Sustainability Strategies which is also explained on SlideShare and on video

Competitive Environmental Strategies

Competitive Environmental Strategies

Orsato produces a number of interesting case studies illustrating strategies (that is to say CHOICES) about how to compete on price, brand, efficiency or compliance.  He pulls in Porter’s ideas about strategic choices (cost vs differentiation) as well as Resource Based View (ie products and processes) to create the diagram above.

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Porter’s Social Progress Index

Just been reading up a little on the Social Progress Index (SPI), particularly the useful details on the methodology.

The SPI is composed of 3 dimensions, each of which is given a score baed on a basket of measures from reputable sources such as the WHO. The dimensions have some passing resemblance to Maslow’s hierarchy; Basic Needs, Wellbring and Opportunity. Porter and his colleagues have worked hard to make sure the dimensions are (i) internally consistent and (ii) based on both globally available and reputable data.

In the SPI, no dimension (or measure) is given priority – nevertheless, the choice of dimensions (and measures, to a lesser extent)  cannot help to be subjectice and reflects the bias/preference/worldview of the author. SPI for example is very much based on human needs and less so on ecological balance (though it is included as one of the aspects of wellbeing)

An alternative measure, the ‘Happy Planet Index’ can be usefully compared to SPI. The two measures give very different results – the SPI winner is Sweden and the HPI winner Costa Rica. At least at the time of writing. Two countries I have yet to visit. (now – how to do so without wrecking the planet….. )

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