Agile for Hardware 1.0 shares the success and the struggle
It’s over! Pioneers in hardware-oriented industries all over the world gathered at the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam to share stories of embracing Agility in hardware development at the eponymous conference, version 1.0. We had a fascinating time, and you?
The first edition of Agile for Hardware opens with an audience of about sixty people. A humble crowd, but chairman Ralph Hofman and event coordinator Johanna Raivio are more than pleased: “It’s fitting: there aren’t that many companies that have really embraced Agile ways of working yet. Those that have are hesitant to share their experience. These visitors here, are the pioneers.”
Indeed, most cases are from companies that are in some way taking their first steps with Agility in a physical product development. Up to the first case to break that mold, then: Lockheed Martin’s Robin Yeman takes the stage to describe how her company has already spent more than a decade pioneering with Agile product development.
In her industry, every law you can eliminate before you start ‘banging metal’ is a bonus. So, her company looked extensively at leading practices in software development. She spends much of her presentation discussing the importance of cadence and rhythm between the various teams.
Arjan Tuinhout’s presentation is another well-presented case of how multi-billion-Euro corporates can establish agility in their development process. He pays ample attention to the dilemma of project teams (temporary but focused) versus competence teams (sustainable, but scattered in terms of focus).
His candid disclaimer at the beginning about how ‘we are still figuring this out, so we’re not sure how everything will be in the end’ seems to apply to most narratives presented during the day. It’s clear how new this whole Agile for Hardware still is.
The audience quickly establishes itself as an attentive and appreciative crowd – each speaker is met with interested questions and presentations quickly last longer than expected because of the elaborations that follow – though this doesn’t seem to matter much.
Sharing tales during the break
At break time, the crowd launches into dozens of comparative discussions: “Where’s your company headed in terms of an Agile transformation? How is it becoming you? What are you grapping with?” It’s fascinating to hear so many versions of a similar struggle going on.
With three companies under his belt, Ampelmann founder Jan van der Tempel can be called something of an arch-entrepreneur. His most spectacular tale rings a bit of Steve Jobs’ story: leaving the company he first set up, only to find upon his return that its impressive growth to global proportions and responsibilities has caused a loss of risk-appetite and innovative behavior. How to re-instill the once-abundant Agile-by-accident mentality?
With Jan van der Tempel an experienced speaker who put a lot of attention into making Agility explicit rather than practicing it ´by accident´, Daan Geldermans of SKOON attempts to describe how exactly his newly-founded startup practices Agility, often without calling it by name. Evident and admirable is his company´s willingness to pivot their MVP container-battery, the ‘SKOONBOX’, away from their initial target, the shipping market. Seeking a better business case, they found a promising enough market in the form of mobile land-based energy solutions. That in itself is already rather Agile.
More animated discussions at lunchtime are followed by two rounds of three workshops each:
- COIN, the COntinuous INnovation Framework, by Arent van ‘t Spijker
- Building the MVP with Lego, with Davar Azarmi
- The Bottleneck Game, with Ali Hajou
Tanya Kudchadker and Wendy Versteeg have calculated keenly that their presentation on Agile at ASML is all but the closing talk, when everyone is longing for the drinks bar and some socializing. They smartly decide to turn the session on its head, first by requesting everybody to break habit by moving to another seat in the room, and then by throwing the crowd a ‘mini-case’ concerning the MVP of a theme park, challenging them to fire the creative brain for a bit.
Their own case presentation is fascinating as well: a real example of multi-billion Euro corporation trying to do things differently.
Lighting champion Signify presents Agile Coach Joris van Doorn, who has brought along electrical engineer Jan Vencken to explain how a certain Dallas-based Agile Release Train recently embraced Agility. They bring their account with enthusiasm and the energy proves contagious: hearing Jan describe, as an engineer, how thinking Agile brought him to quickly build MVPs and iterate solutions with zest and adventure is very convincing.
“I had the choice to either buy a 6,000-dollar charging bench or put one together myself from parts I could buy for 600. Before, I would have chosen to go by the book, but not anymore,” preaches Jan with a beaming smile.
Slides available to visitors only
We’d love to share in detail what stories the presenters at Agile for Hardware 1.0 had to share. Unfortunately, we’d never succeed in finding such candid speakers if we shared the details of their pioneering work with our entire audience.
With the formal part of the gathering concluded, the tone quickly changes as Ralph Hofman closes the Agile for Hardware event and a cheerful guide from the Heineken Experience takes the stage. The entire crowd quickly follows him into the labyrinth of grain siloes, brewing vats and the stories of malts, yeasts and hops that form the Heineken Experience guided tour. And after that, a refreshing beer for everyone present.
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So, if you’d like to learn the experiences of the early adopters in Agile for hardware development, do watch this space and sign up for Agile for Hardware 2.0 when it comes around next year!