Agile 2018 for learning... or something better?


The last “global” agile conference I attended was Agile 2010 (and my first to present at!). It’s been a few years and I’m now in a position to try and lobby budget for a team of scrum masters in my company to get training/education, and I wonder what this community here would suggest:

  • send them to Agile 2018 (or conferences like this)
  • send them to higher level certification courses (they have their CSM’s)
  • send them to local / smaller events throughout the year

I start with Agile 2018 because for me, these conferences were immense in helping me learn/grow and also in extending my community of mentors and peers. Back then, every major name was found at them, and you could catch them in the hallway for 30 minutes chats. I just haven’t been in so long that I don’t know the value anymore (I posted about this in my welcome/intro post).

Without directing the conversation further… here are the best two questions to drive this thread:

  • if you are early in your agile journey, what have you found as the most valuable learning resource that your company budgeted for (or you wish they did instead of you)?
  • if you are a coach, what do you feel are the best budget investments for a company to make in it’s agile leaders for ongoing training/learning at all levels of experience?



Hey Kevin,

I’m still early in my journey. I have derived incredible value from attending a weekly lean coffee morning. There are 6-8 of us that meet up (and it is in meetup) for coffee and breakfast each Tuesday. The group is a bit of a mix and like this place comes from a diversity of backgrounds and opinions. It has been fantastic.

Supporting and facilitating attendance to these smaller meetups will aid interested people and demonstrates a commitment to their continuing learning.

I can’t talk to the conference front. I have heard many varying experiences. The only conference I have ever been to for Agile was last Monday and it was non-typical - workshop based as opposed to talks.

What I would love is a budget to spend on my development. Ultimately if I was given $3500 AU, I could afford to attend a course of my choice and attend 1 small conference or go to a premier conference or whatever. Self determination here might actually be a better path.

My experience is that people know what they need, know what they would like to do and would appreciate the chance to exercise their free will. If you need the justification, when they put out their requests to spend their “budget” ask them to give you a why. I’m sure you and the organisation could find a quite reasonable business justification for why it works.

I guess meet people where they are on the journey.


If there’s local, smaller events that might be a cheap and simple start. I remember you saying you’re out of Philly, AgilePhilly has fairly frequent meetups. And there’s a lean coffee run out of Princeton that has some pretty good topics.

Some of the regional conferences are fairly inexpensive and may also be a good learning experience. We have quite a few conference frequent fliers that post here (@chrismurman, @Scrummando, @Colleen) who seem to be at every one, they may be able to offer suggestions.

If this is the org’s first time out the gate with setting aside budget for this type of activity the local smaller avenue is probably easiest. Once attendees start demonstrating value the org will hopefully double down on the investment.

We at the AU are trying to put together a conference this year and it looks like the stars may align, so you might be in luck!


way to be confident Jay… just bc we’ve been trying for 18 months doesn’t mean we won’t actually ship…


I am completely confident we’ll pull it off, but don’t want to jinx it!


Be generous and embrace diversity!

Everyone can learn from everything if he is open minded. An open mindset is fostered by a huge variety of experiences. I had some of my greatest learnings in events I would not have thought of before.

I would give a budget to the scrum masters, provide a deadline until when it is to be consumed, and let them report on the way they have spent the budget and what it did to them. I am sure you will find great stories.

  1. For me, the most valuable learning resource / experience was to take a 5-day boot camp with Lyssa Adkins, and then 6 months later, assist at the same.

  2. Ongoing training for teams: +1 to @hdietrich’s idea. Provide a budget with a timebox. See what emerges.


My first post was potentially too open-ended…

Just to clarify… I’m in a position to try and make a case for budget from above, but need to justify it… I’m not in a position to decide budget amount and let the scrum masters self-select. I’m trying to decide how best to make the case by pointing at existing things, explaining their value, and then pointing at their cost to justify the budget.

The yearly conferences are expensive, and I’m trying to decide whether to push for that one thing vs. several smaller things that (typically) cost less. Specific examples are helpful!


@kschlabach I’m not clear on your organization environment… so I don’t know if it’s at all possible to begin to change the conversation…

“Let’s start with the same budget as last year, but experiment with how we use it to grow our people”

What if you then

And then let self-organization and self-management by individuals and team kick in,
with a clear guiding vision, some boundaries around time and money, and feedback

You might want to layer in a first-pass decision-making matrix (e.g. < $500, JFDI…)

Also see: "let the teams decide"


How about… Agile is accepted in the local region (US), but the budget comes from the HQ region (AUS) and there’s been a case-by-case approval budget in the past (and HQ is shaky on their love for agile as they aren’t adopting it fully there yet).

I’m drafting thoughts/ideas for my management to leverage upwards with to get the number from $0 to something. This isn’t something I’ve been asked for, but something I want to push for.

Oh… and we are a “fast growth” company… which is sometimes willing to throw money at problems to go faster, but not the items that aren’t immediately tangible. (read between the lines, don’t want someone coming down on me on this one, I like my job). Another problem is that the US region has done so well (because agile?) that we’ve grown very fast and are now much bigger in body count/cost than the original teams “back home”.

Also… the point of my original question was double purposed… I have a bunch of junior folks that could benefit from “shu” and “ha” level learning environments, so making this list would allow me to empower them to self-select options.


How about you don’t use the “A” word at all…

Instead, frame it as “Here’s our proposed 2018 Training Budget”

You know the old scene:

  • CFO: What if we spend all this money on training our people and they leave?
  • CTO: What if we don’t and they stay?

If there’s a reluctance to retain people thru things like learning initiative, might as well know sooner than later :slight_smile:

Create a list of learning outcomes, that are directly tied to things HQ values… instead of “get better at agile”


Definitely find a local event. Agile and Beyond (in Detroit-ish) is about 1000 people, gets big name speakers and you could send a whole team for less than the price of 1 ticket to Agile 20XX.

The ‘big one’ is a good one to go to once for the sake of experiencing it, but $2400-ish plus travel and expenses is utterly ridiculous IMO. This was the first year they didn’t sell out. I think the virtual stuff and regional conferences have become much more popular.


To second @jasonlittle I also would suggest to look for Meetups or Barcamps in your region can do the thing.

Most of the magic of conferences and trainings does not come from the topic, but from the people interested in the topic. Quality comes from finding inspiration in listening to others.


@kschlabach Why do you bother around with your HQ if they will not understand the value of it?

You want to push for budget for learning. Tell the headquarter that you have to invest into faster development and less issues (resulting in less costs). Look for a well perceived training with a good marketing strategy, so you headquarter will buy in (in general they are also the most expensive ones) and secure the budget. Later on you save some money for the company if you select more appropriate conferences or trainings and everyone will be happy. I guess all you need is this kind of brown bag for your “lunch”.


Best advice I got when I first started was to find a local group on Show up and say as loud as possible “I’M NEW AND NEED HELP!!!”

Was fortunate to find a couple in Dallas that were filled with some amazing minds that mentored me and now view me as their peer. Was invited to speak to the group a couple times then I started applying to regional conferences. Then beyond that. Fortunate this year to be co-chairing a track at Agile 2018, which means I have a lot of work to do this year.

Everyone’s journey goes differently. While the smaller conferences do have some awesome stuff, it’s no gaurantee depending on which city you live in. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and pony up some dough for travel to a bigger one. But if a newcomer starts with curiosity and humiltiy (which goes for the rest of us as well!), good things are for sure on the way.


Shameless plug.


Small amount of shame.


I’ll second this. I’m still very much a newbie, but I’ve found the Lean Coffee meetup to be invaluable. Talking with people who have walked the path has been great. I’ve been to one conference and being self funded, this is what I can afford.


So, I’ll say learning is going to be different for everyone (but I’m sure you realize this). I’m 3 years into my Scrum Master role and I’ve been lucky enough to have been offered all the options you listed above.

I found the yearly conferences (Agile2018 “like”) to be invaluable. The options for learning range from beginner to advanced, there are straight talks, interactive learning, experience reports, etc. Then there is the incredible opportunities to network and build relationships with the Agile community that can offer the opportunity to continue to grow after the conference is over.

I’ve also attended regional conferences, and while they have great value, they don’t have the range that the yearly conference will give. Also, while you’re increasing your network “regionally” you miss the opportunity of meeting all the different attendees and speakers that a larger yearly conference can provide.

Higher level certifications can be great for those people that need that classroom learning method. However, while you may come away with some new theory, there is not as many people there that may help you apply it in the long run (other than your instructor). At a conference you learn something new and can immediately collaborate with people of all different experience levels - some who may have already implemented what you’ve just learned about - it helps to really send the message you just learned home. Don’t get me wrong, there is great value in certification courses but if it’s one or the other and your team’s never experienced an Agile 2018 “like” conference before, I’d suggest you send them and let them get advanced certifications next year :wink:

To @chrismurman @bradstokes point, I’d be no where if I hadn’t reached out to my local agile community and found other enthusiasts to lean on. But that shouldn’t be a strain on your training budget :yum: