Sharing my ATD USA 2023 experiences, Part 2

Business Agility Lab poster for ATD USA 2023

This is the second in a series of posts sharing takeaways and experiences from ATD USA 2023 conference. I shared some already in Part 1 of this series.

Unexpected insights at the Business Agility Lab

I had seen the Business Agility Lab “bonus session” advertised before the conference. In my mind’s eye, I pictured executives in suits discussing how they could make their business practices more agile.

Tweet showing people interacting, drawing on flip charts, at the Business Agility LabThe first lab was held during the speaker’s dinner on Monday night. When I left the dinner, I decided to pop in and see just what this business agility stuff was all about. Ray Arell and Tobey Aumann, two leading practitioners I have admired for probably 20 years now, were two of the facilitators. The participants were radiating energy while they drew cartoons. This all caught my interest! The other two facilitators, Shawna Cullinan and Rhea Stadick, looked friendly and inspiring. They even invited me to join in their last activity.

I was tired from facilitating our tutorial all day, but resolved to attend the next day’s lab. (Apologies – I did not note down who was explaining what during the lab. The interaction was seamless and I lost track. So I’m not giving any individual credit. All four facilitators were AMAZING.)

Wardley Maps

Tuesday’s Business Agility Lab was about Wardley mapping. It’s a way to visualize and discuss business strategy, invented by Simon Wardley (search on it and you’ll find tons of sites about it!) Despite doing quite poorly at attempting to draw a map after a clear demonstration, I see how valuable this practice can be. It helps visualize the value of each component of a product or feature. It maps that against how new or innovative the component is. Is it something widely available, a commodity? Or is it something that would be a big gamble?

I can’t say I learned enough to be able to actually use Wardley mapping. I do want to learn more about it. I’ve used impact mapping and mind mapping to help teams brainstorm and visualize product and feature roadmaps. I like how the Wardley maps emphasize value as well as evolutionary stage of components. And in general, I love visual techniques that let people collaborate. Our brains work better when we use our hands to draw and move things around.

“Trade-off Sliders”

At Wednesday’s Business Agility Lab, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about “trade-off sliders”. These look

Reliability, accountability, performance, and scalability are written down with a sliding scale next to each that goes from highest to lowest priority
Quality Sliders

very much like a technique I learned from Margaret Dineen which she calls “priority sliders“. Janet Gregory and I call them “quality sliders” and had included an exercise in our previous day’s tutorial to let people practice using them. You get the delivery team and stakeholders together, note down all the quality attributes that might be important to the product or feature you’re about to work on, and rate the priority of each.

Trade-off sliders are the same idea. The technique we practiced in the lab had a twist: you get everyone together to agree on the priority of each quality attribute, and, you make everyone sign the resulting chart. The ritual of signature shows, “we are in agreement”. Another tip: send an email about what was agreed to everyone concerned.

This is important for future discussions of what is most important! I liked that we used sticky notes on the flip chart paper instead of drawing a mark. That makes it easier to move the priorities around as you discuss them. One of those things that, in hindsight, seems obvious!


The best part of any conference is connecting with old and new friends. I had interesting and fun conversations at mealtimes and in the hallways. The Meet & Greet at the start of Monday evening was a great chance to meet new folks. Agile Testing Days provides so many opportunities for conversations in a comfortable setting.

I knew I’d love the Oktoberfest party. I love oompah bands! This one played traditional songs, the ones I remember waltzing and polka-ing too in my younger days in Texas. And, they performed oompah takes on classics from the Great American Songbook as well as show tunes. I’m afraid most people did not share my enthusiasm for dancing to the awesome music. I’m told that people got out on the dance floor in droves after the band retired and modern music came on the speakers.

Lisa and Allison behind a picture board sticking our faces through so that it looks like we are raising big beer steins. I don't know what to call these things.

My workshop co-facilitator, Allison Lazarz, and I enjoyed the silly stuff too! Look for more of my sharing takeaways and experiences from ATD USA 2023 in my next post. I’ll talk about Allison’s and my “Plan Better Testing” workshop too.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Recent Posts: