Johannes Thönes

Software-Developer, ThoughtWorker, Permanent Journeyman, Ruby Enthusiast, Java and Devils Advocate.

ACE! Conference 2013 - My Impressions

I had the opportunity to spend the last two days at the ACE! Conference in Krakow, Poland. ACE! is a nice conference about Agile and Lean practices - this year the guiding theme was Kanban.



The conference is one track and every speaker has 30 minutes or an hour to present his topic. At the end, there is no opportunity for questions - that is were the open spaces are for.

There are open spaces for two hours on both days. You can and should use this time to talk directly with the speaker about their ideas or your questions and suggestions. This allows you to really dive into the topics - rather than only getting the answer to one question. And of course, you can discuss any other topic you like.


I’m not going to cover all topics - you can find them here. And there should be videos out soon. But I will summarise a bit.

As the guiding theme was Kanban, there was a lot about Kanban in the program. The recurrent theme to me was to look at the human side of Lean and Agile, mostly on Kanban as example: How can we communicate with Kaban? Why are we doing Kanban? And when should we stop doing it? How do we understand and respect individuals as part of the Kanban process?

We also had a very interesting discussion about Personal Kanban in the ‘Personal Lean and Agile’ open space. It definitely made me curious to finally read the book and see how I can combine it with my Personal Retrospectives.

There are three talks I would like to mention specifically. You might want to watch them once the videos are available:

  • The Keynote by Dave Snowden were he introduced the Cynefin framework, which is a very intersting idea to get into your mind. Also he introduced the concept of an invention as an helpful error: serendipity. A very interesting idea.

  • Jasper Sonnevelt talked about Kanban, remember why? were he reminded us, that we introduce Lean and Agile for a reason - not for itself. And that we need to challenge the system, to spot the big improvement potentials.

  • In The Other Side of Kanban Chris McDermott explained the importance of understanding and respect for the people in a Agile or Lean adoption process. Especially to those who are resistant.


So, how was it for me?

I met a lot of people and was engaged in a lot of interesting conversations. The open spaces especially support interactions between participants. I really liked that.

I come back, with a ton of new ideas what to do and at least five books which I would really like to read (well, there have been some before in this category).

The way the open spaces were ran, could be improved.

What I think is sad, was that sometimes open spaces were in polish. I know, that its hard to discuss in a foreign language. But please think of the people, who want to join a open space later.

Also the groups were a bit big - in some conversations I had the feeling, a lot of people were not really able to engage in the discussion. Maybe more smaller spaces could help?

Of course, in such a conference the number of things you find to be directly applicable to your context are limited. However, there were a lot of things which got me thinking - what is all you can expect from a conference. And there is at least one thing I would like to try out.

In conclusion: I really liked the conference. The discussions and topics were very interesting. The people were open and positive - and Krakow is a lovely city to visit.