Balanced Team, September 2011

I was pleased again to be able to attend the Balanced Team conference this past weekend in San Francisco. Balanced Team is a conference about collaboration methods for technology development. It’s put on by a small group of designers, developers, testers and managers who are working to evolve new methods of cross-functional work.


Balanced team grew out of the first Agile/UX retreat held two years ago at Cooper in San Francisco. Conceived as a kind of summit meeting of Agilistas and User Experience people and attended by well-known thinkers and practitioners including Ward Cunningham and Alan Cooper, the meeting came together to ask why was it that two camps with compatible goals had such a difficult time working together.

The group continued to meet a few times a year, and the meetings evolved beyond their original two-camp focus. As Agile/UX teams started to have success together, they quickly found themselves bristling under the constraints of businesses that didn’t know how to manage these self-organizing teams. Attendees at subsequent meetings found themselves asking each other, how can we get business involved in our collaborations? The question was answered last year when the group found thought partners in the business world who were using Customer Development and Lean Startup methods.

And so we came together this year at Hot Studio in San Francisco to report on the progress we’ve made and the methods we’ve been using. Shawn Crowley of Atomic Object and Johanna Kollmann of EMC Consulting reported on using these approaches at a consulting agencies. Desiree Sy reported on her insights from within a large software company, Autodesk. Janice Fraser, Lane Halley and I reported on our work consulting with early-stage startups at LUXr. Zach Larson and Moses Hohman reported on their experience as startup founders. Dale Larson challenged the group to broaden the focus even more and talk about the collaborations that are possible with Sales and Marketing. The group heard an inspiring presentation from the team at Nordstrom Innovations Lab.

The highlight for me this year was to hear reports from such a wide breadth of contexts. This style of work is spreading, in fact, it’s on it’s way to becoming the new normal. In our closing reflections, one young designer said, I’m afraid I’ll never be able to go back to working any other way.

Videos, presentation, audio and slides are all available here



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