ACE! conference in Krakow

Already in the introduction of the ACE! conference in the Multikino of Krakow one could see that the conference would fulfil what had been promised: being agile in the sense of focusing on the “user’s” (= attendee’s) needs. Nearly half of the program was to be created and shaped by us via open space topics (as the organizer claimed, he is often wrong when he assumes what people want, or even more complex, what people need). There was an expert corner where you could have had a one-to-one talk with some of the speakers of the conference. We had a creative space, a quiet space, and of course the feedback corner - that is a must at an agile conference!

But enough about the setup. The conference offered really nice and interesting talks, from which I want to share my highlights with you. Due to the fact that I am really bad at summarizing and coming to the most important point of a topic, I will do it my way: I share my most favorite quote from different talks, and just associate what it was about, and what I’ve learned from it. Hopefully that will also trigger some thoughts of yours 😉.

“Relationship status: my wife asked me what I wanted for dinner, and then told me I was wrong.”

This beautiful quote actually comes from a tweet that the speaker of the talk “Creating cultures of empathy” quoted herself. It highlights the fact that we often take our expectations, own opinions, and interpretations into account when communicating with others. To avoid the confusing of our intepretation with the “actual” message, it helps to rephrase the words of your communication partner to clarify that you understood correctly. What I also took out of the keynote: empathy as a noun is an idea, as an action it is a choice - this choice we need to make every day 💪.

“Everyone can be a team player in the fitting context.”

That was said during the talk “Build a product based on values” and was to emphasize that “having values” is not enough. The company or team values also need to fit to the employee’s skills. Only if our values are actually matching our competencies, we can move towards our goals. That’s also why it doesn’t help if values are forced down from the top, either you choose the employees also based on the company values, or you find out the shared values from your current employees.

“Pair programming with a stranger is like navigating through a city with someone you don’t know; it’s probably an axe murderer and speaks a different language than you – and you still need to be nice.”

Wow, what an analogy! This speaker did know how to attract attention. Although at some points I had the impression that he painted the world mostly in black and white, I took some really interesting points out of his talk “10 years of being a tracer bullet through a phenomenon”:

  • We need a stable and healthy team, that trusts each other (see quote).
  • Different kinds of leadership are needed based on the context (“We suck in getting the patterns of context.”).
  • For being truly agile all involved parties need to change.
  • Don’t pretend that you have the power to change something if you don’t.
  • Agile at the core is not just about people also about purpose!

You can see by now how many interesting talks and people were part of the conference. And I haven’t even told you everything yet: in the presentation about “MVP rediscovered” I got reminded how important it is to have your assumption clear for yourself, tested, and proofed before you take further steps into production. In my open space sessions we philosophized if we really believe in agile or lean, we talked about how to adapt to the Spotify-model, and how we can stop the “empathy-insanity and build cool shit” (conclusion: just with a certain level of empathy you are able to build useful, cool shit 😃).


I had a great and interesting time. To be completely honest, at some point I wished for more “depth”. Most of the presentation has been geared to be understood by every attendee. That led to a more general talk, often summarized on the surface (especially the “Women in Tech”-thread was too simple and generalizing from my perspective). On the other hand, with this conference format it was also up to me to have interesting and deeper discussions. I also contributed myself, and was able to get some really nice learnings from that!

About the author

Elisa Wiedmann is a certified Scrum Master, who passionately applies the knowledge of her psychology degree to the development of the teams, and thereby fosters agile culture.