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Agile Leadership Summit

Agile Leadership Summit—Leading Agile Culture Change

Thursday, November 13 • 5:30pm–7:30pm and Friday, November 14 • 8:30am–3:30pm

(Additional registration is required to attend)   

Pollyanna Pixton,
Summit Chair

“We can’t do agile until the culture changes” is an often-heard lament from teams that want to adopt agile methods. The culture must move from plan- and schedule-driven—and this transition is not easy. In the Agile Leadership Summit, leaders who have achieved—or are in the process of achieving—this culture change share their challenges, successes, and struggles.

The Agile Leadership Summit is your chance to join your peers and agile industry veterans—Brian Drummond, senior engineering manager, LinkedIn, Inc.; Todd Little, vice president of product development, IHS; and Richard Erwin, senior director, Clinical Operations, PaxVax, Inc.—to explore the unique challenges facing software development leaders as they transform organizations to support agile methods. Hear what’s working—and not working—for them and share your experiences and successes.

During the Welcome Reception on Thursday evening, Mike Kehler, senior director engineering at Symantec Corporation, kicks off the gathering and shares his keys to leading agile transformations through environmental change. Take the opportunity to discuss your agile leadership issues that will become the basis for the Summit’s interactive sessions. In the Think Tank Session on Friday, work together in small groups to discuss your challenges and brainstorm solutions. Over lunch, speakers address your questions in a panel discussion. New this year, join us for speaker-led roundtable sessions to work on your specific challenges in small group collaboration. The conversation does not end when the Summit adjourns. Informal discussions will continue around the pool into the evening.

Share your experiences with the speakers and other delegates during the networking breaks. You’ll have ample time to form a network of resources you can rely on for years to come.


The Agile Leadership Summit is a perfect opportunity for you to:

  • Meet and network with other leaders in the industry
  • Participate in insightful and informative sessions focusing on agile adoption leadership issues
  • Join in the “think tank” discussion with leaders in the trenches
  • Develop new ideas and action plans for culture change within your organization

5:30pm–6:30pm • Summit Kick-Off Reception (Think Tank Issues Identified for Discussion on Friday)

6:30pm–7:30pm • Leading through an Agile Transformation

  Mike Kehler, senior director engineering, Symantec Corporation

Symantec tried implementing agile once—and it failed. Now they are trying a second time. Although still a work in progress, it shows encouraging signs of success. What has made the difference? To begin with, Symantec brought in an experienced leader who had done large scale agile several times and trained their leaders first. But that is not enough. The leaders discovered “learned helplessness” in the ranks that required more attention to make agile work. Mike Kehler shares his learnings and observations as he elaborates on keys of success including executive sponsorship and leadership training; coaching, collaboration, and diverting from “top down” management; building muscle in both leadership and in the team; and putting ownership back into the teams where it belongs. However, fundamentals such as understanding your customer’s needs and having a highly skilled and motivated team still matter. Ownership holds people accountable at all levels. Some people fear accountability and seek a process to blame if they fail. Symantec’s leadership is attacking this head on, and Mike talks about their successes and failure.




With more than twenty years of software development and product delivery experience, Mike Kehler is leading agilea doption for many new projects. Mike recently led the development of the 2014 release of Backup Exec and is currently leading a new concept engineering team at Symantec. He has extensive background in endpoint backup and cloud-hosted solutions. Prior to his career at Symantec, Mike developed Unix-based file and print server solutions for the emerging Macintosh desktop publishing industry, where he wore many hats and learned the critical importance of working directly with customers.

7:30am–8:30am • Registration and Breakfast

8:30am–8:45am • Welcome

8:45am–9:30amLeadership Evolution in a Hyper-Growth Company

  Brian Drummond, senior engineering manager and principal agile coach, LinkedIn, Inc.

Rapidly growing companies provide excellent environments for observing and experimenting in leadership evolution. Under hyper-growth business conditions, the effects of decision-making are much more obvious, immediate, and pronounced in their impact on organizational health and product development efficiency and quality. LinkedIn Corporation, a premier professional social networking company, is in hyper-growth mode, scaling rapidly in the past several years in organizational size as well as product offerings and service capacity. Travel along the timeline of LinkedIn’s dramatic journey—barely ten years from a kitchen-table startup to today’s emerging enterprise powerhouse. Take away a leadership guide and concrete decision-making techniques that are applicable to any organization seeking rapid and positive change.


Brian Drummond, a veteran of California’s Silicon Valley tech culture, has rich and deep experience in software product development and team leadership. Currently a senior engineering manager and a principal agile coach at LinkedIn, Brian’s career spans fledgling startups (as both a co-founder and early employee), to mid-sized companies (Yahoo!, Apple, Adobe, Xerox), to established large scale enterprises (IBM, U.S. Government) in a variety of influential roles. An experienced speaker and writer, Brian’s passion as a coach and teacher is to share his experiences and learnings of successful leadership to raise the knowledge waterline for everyone. Brian’s professional career profile is at LinkedIn (of course).

9:30am–10:15am • Empowering Global Teams

  Todd Little, vice president of product development, IHS

The agile movement got its start with small, collocated teams. Sometimes we have that luxury, but software development in most enterprises is more frequently a global operation with distributed teams―often across multiple locations and time zones. Even if you are only split between two locations, you will experience significant challenges to effective agility. Todd Little’s current organization is scattered across ten different development sites in six different countries. At his previous employer, another global organization, Todd faced similar challenges. Join him as he shares several direct experiences in answering the challenges he faced: What structures and dynamics have been successful with globally distributed teams? How do you identify when your current global distribution is not workable, and what can you do about it? Todd also describes the cultural issues you’ll face and how to mitigate these risks.


Todd Little is vice president of product development for IHS. Todd has been involved in most aspects of software development with a focus on commercial software applications for oil and gas exploration and production. A co-author of the “Declaration of Interdependence for Agile Leadership” and a founding member and past president of the Agile Leadership Network, he has served as a board member for both the Agile Alliance and the Agile Leadership Network. Todd co-authored Stand Back and Deliver: Accelerating Business Agility, has written several articles for IEEE Software, and posts his publications and presentations on his website

10:15am–10:45am • Networking Break

10:45am–11:45am • Think Tank Discussion: Solutions to Top Issues in Roundtables

11:45am–12:15pm • Networking Lunch Buffet (Grab & Go)

12:15pm–1:15pm • PanelAdvice for Leaders: Leading Culture Change

1:15pm–2:00pm • Even Doctors Use Agile

  Richard Erwin, senior director, Clinical Operations, PaxVax, Inc.

A new medicine’s successful development typically takes more than a decade of research and a commitment in the billion-dollar range. Physicians, scientists, and an array of specialists work collaboratively to discover, develop, and commercialize potential new therapies. Perhaps the most important task facing these teams is designing and planning the experimental studies to prove the viability of a newly emerging product. And yet, analysts and think tanks have routinely bemoaned the inefficiencies of industry-wide design and planning practice. Recently two industry behemoths—Eli Lilly & Company and Quintiles—embarked on a three-year year joint effort to renovate the tools, methods, and information sources used by drug development teams to plan and design their large-scale research programs. The Semio project involved the wholesale re-thinking and agile re-engineering of established tradecraft, demanding new views and attitudes regarding the emergence of new and advanced global data analytics and decision making. Join Richard Erwin as he discusses agile principles of collocation, customer interaction, tools, data transparency, and more.


Richard Erwin is a medical research and development entrepreneur with twenty-five years of experience in new product development in global healthcare and a history of successful start-ups and global development partnerships. At PaxVax, Inc., a global vaccine firm based in Redwood City, CA, Richard leads the execution of a global cholera vaccine development program and is head for all clinical operations people and process. He has been a subject matter expert and deployment lead for a suite of agile software tools developed jointly between Eli Lilly & Co and Quintiles, and was an early member of development for the biotech firm, Amgen.

2:00pm–2:30pm • Networking Break

2:30pm–3:15pm • Speaker Round Tables

3:15pm–3:30pm • Wrap Up and Ongoing Informal Discussion with Speakers and Attendees