Monday, December 16, 2013

Reviewing Lean Kanban Central Europe 2013

Exactly six weeks ago the Conference Lean Kanban Central Europe 2013 took place. After Munich in 2011 and Vienna in 2012, it was Hamburg this time - not only my home town but also one of the best places in the world:-)
My involvement was threefold: As organizer, board member and speaker. Here are my thoughts from these three different perspectives.

The organizer‘s perspective

What we try to do with LKCE is to create a special atmosphere. Therefore the venue is critical for us. We avoid typical conference hotels etc., which makes the organization more challenging and also more expensive, but I am confident that it‘s worth it.
This year we choose the Curio Haus as the venue, and it turned out really well. An old building with great atmosphere, plenty of space for socializing, two prestigious ball rooms and great staff!

In my opinion the only real downside was that the third rooms was too small. I didn‘t see that coming as I thought the attendees would behave differently - one big learning for next year!
Experience has told me that there are two very important things when organizing a conference (besides the venue and the program): Stable Wi-Fi and good coffee supply. Both worked great this time:-)
What I like about old buildings is that they provide great opportunities for extras. This year we used the big cartridges in the hallways for exhibiting 16 great quotes. When David Anderson saw this, he tweeted them one by one with the hash tag #EssenceOfKanban. Jasna Wittmann is the artist who did the great calligraphy!

Another thing we lay emphasis on is to have a great social event on the first evening. This is, again, a costy thing to do, but we see great value in attendees chatting with each other over a beer in an exciting atmosphere. This year we booked the Miniatur Wunderland, which is the world‘s biggest model railway with its 900 trains + 12,000 wagons traveling several hundreds of kilometers is brought to live. Over 200,000 figures in different parts of the world like Scandinavia and the North-East Sea with its 30,000 liters of water, Germany or America.

All in all I am very happy how the organization went and I want to say thank you to my colleagues who organized all this!

The board member‘s perspective

For the third time in a row we had the great board with Markus Andrezak, Pawel Brodzinski, Karl Scotland, Klaus Leopold an me (Hermanni Hyytiälä couldn‘t make it this time). These guys are not only really knowledgeable, but it‘s also a lot of fun to work with them!

The board members get a bottle of the Whisky "Work in Progress", which needs to be limited:-)
We choose to have a mixture between invited sessions and sessions choosen from our open review process. The program worked well for me. What we took away from the feedback was that there is demand for more practical sessions like experience reports and that we need to create even more opportunities for the attendees to get in touch with the speakers and other attendees. We already started a discussion how to do this...
I couldn‘t attend too many sessions, but my personal highlight was Stephen Bungay‘s keynote on The Executive‘s Trinity. Stephen is an expert on military history and strategy and the most eloquent speaker I have ever witnessed. Although I consider myself to be a pacifist, I find the concept of Auftragstaktik etc. really enlightening for business (and I am happy Stephen said in his talk people should do better things than slaughter each other!) I really recommend reading his book The Art of Action. His keynote from lkce13 is not publicly available on video, but if you are interested in leadership and management, you should read this free article.

The second talk I want to point you to is Troy Magennis‘ keynote on cycle time forecasting. Especially if you are working in a big project environment, predictability is important for you and you are not satisfied with your estimates, you should definitely check out his presentation! As far as I can tell, his stuff is rock solid and it contains a lot of surprising news. And it increased my interest in statistics:-) You can watch his keynote here.

Almost all presentations, including Pecha Kuchas, Lightning Talks and experience reports from companies like Ericsson, Siemens, Spotify, SAP, Jimdo have been videotaped and are available here.

The speaker‘s perspective

I had a full blown presentation about Kanban, Leadership and Alignment with Jimdo together with my dear fellow Fridtjof Detzner which went quite well.
In addition I gave a Pecha Kucha talk (20 slides on auto pilot, each 20 seconds). The Pecha Kuchas were well-received the last two years, so we decided to do them keynote-style this time (i.e. no parallel sessions). That was quite an amazing feeling to speak in front of 300 people in a big old ballroom! My topic was "Learning from Fake Charts". I wanted to talk about some things that puzzle me regarding things like Toyota, Complexity or Lean Startup, without taking myself too serious. So I came up with 12 fake charts to make my points. The preparation was really fun, and I was quite satisfied with the outcome. But once again I had to learn the hard way how much effort it takes to create and practice a smooth Pecha Kucha! If you have 6 minutes and 40 seconds, you should have a look at the video:

Next year

As I will leave it-agile and start working with Jimdo from January on, it-agile will loose some knowledge and experience about the conference‘s organization (although I am sure that most people over-rate my personal contribution to the success of the event). Therefore decision was made to simplify next year‘s organization and do it in Hamburg again. I think it‘s a good choice! LKCE14 will take place in the Curio Haus again (with a bigger third room, we promise!). The date is already set: Nov 11-12 2014. Check out
I will stay involved in the conference as a member of the board and by sharing ideas and experiences with the it-agile guys.
I am absolutely sure that the best LKCE conference is always the next one, so stay tuned!

P.S. We‘ve invented the KanBanana at the conference:-)