An Open Space Conference for Agile Coaches
On June 11th and 12th I was fortunate to be able to attend Agile Coach Camp Canada 2010 in Waterloo Ontario. The event was held in the William G. Davis Computer Research Centre (“DC” building) at the University of Waterloo. I was invited to the camp by Declan Whelan who is a well recognized Agile Coach and one of the primary organizers of the camp. I checked out the site and saw already signed up were a couple first rate Agile Coaches Michael Sahota and Gil Broza whom I already know as well as a lot of other well known Agile Coaches whom I wanted to meet, so I figured it would be worth attending. I was not disappointed. This blog entry contains my observations as well as some photos and video I shot during the day and a half long event.
Over the years I have attended many conferences but this is the first Open Space conference I have ever attended. As I discovered, Open Space conferences are driven by an agenda created at the conference by the attendees.
You can check out the tweet stream for the conference at: #accca
After the Un-Keynote and a game of Ball Point (a lesson in Scrum and iterative process improvement) came the Lightning Talks. Lightning Talks are a series of rapid succession 90 second long presentations on any topic related to Agile. Here are some quick notes I made on ideas that struck me during the talks. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the following, but much of it is thought provoking.
- Not a lot has been written about creating aligned optimized teams. Agile is about optimizing teams.
- An important part of the process of optimizing your team is to get it invigorated and focused.
- Core hours – A concept of setting aside 5½ hours during the working day where developers do not check e-mail, Twitter, Facebook or take phone calls. This part of the day is focused solely on the project. Outside of the Core Hours, developers can spend their time on those other things that are distractions. Focused attention minimizes distractions, keeps people focused. Check out “Does the Internet Make You Dumber?”
- The results are not the point. Check out Igniting The Third Factor by Dr. Peter Jensen the Sports Psychology Coach of the gold medal winning Women’s Canadian Olympic Hockey Team. It’s about getting teams excited and delivering under budget, ahead of schedule and exceeding expectations.
- Many of the metaphors in coaching and leadership including martial arts metaphors such as Sensei are silly, a waste of time and irritate people. Arguing the metaphor misses the point.
- Pop psychology – Left Brain (artistic) / Right Brain (analytical) is old neurology and it is wrong.
- Listening is the willingness to change. You don’t necessarily need to change, but you need to be open to the possibility.
- The Agile Manifesto still holds true.
- What about the people in the Agile world? Why are we making people fit into the methodologies? Not everyone can adapt to the new ways of doing things. The Agile coaches need to think about the people, not just the process.
- Testers are often excluded from the Agile process as the Agile process seems to include only the developers. There is a big disconnect between the development team and their story cards and the people testing. What about Session Based Test Management? Testers need to be involved in all phases including charter, scheduling, reviewing of results and debrief.
- Can’t, won’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t, etc… all victim words and no team can become a high performance team if they use these words. This victimization approach is the team being victims of themselves. “It must really suck when Joe comes in and micro-manages you…” commiserate to build trust, then ban the words from the team. Check out Chris Avery responsibility model – move from the blame game to “What are we going to do as a team to improve?” The Agile Coach must help the team get past this.
As I mentioned, I have never attended an Un Conference. I was curious about how a successful conference could be held without any pre determined sessions, and without people making presentations. The notion behind an Un Conference is that attendees decide what they want to discuss, suggest topics and then attend the sessions that are of interest to them. If a session isn’t working for you and you are not getting out of it what you want, or if something else may be more interesting at that moment, then move to a new one. This is not just your right to do so, it is your obligation as a participant. Each session has a facilitator to lead the session, but the participants take it in the direction that is of interest to them. Everyone is involved as little or as much as they want. What I observed and participated in was an interesting, engaging and oft times very animated set of discussions on a variety of topics.
Here is a list of the sessions topic decided upon at the conference. Many of the links have summaries of the sessions that were submitted by the session facilitator. At the end of the morning and afternoon sessions, each session facilitator presented the findings to the entire group. Their presentations were limited to three minutes.
Here is some video I shot of some of the summaries. I apologize for the shaky handheld camera and the sometimes awkward start and end to some of the presentations. I was using a Nikon D90 that I’ve only owned for a couple of days and consequently still have to learn a lot about before I can pull off smooth video. Solution: Fire the camera operator (me) and get a better one…
Session Summary Part One of Four
Session Summary Part Two of Four
Session Summary Part Three of Four
Session Summary Part Four of Four
Closing Circle Video Part One of Three
Closing Circle Video Part Two of Three
Closing Circle Video Part Three of Three
I didn’t quite know what to expect from this event, nor did I have any idea what an Open Space conference would be like. My conclusion is that it was a superb event that was thought provoking and that challenged a lot of the preconceived notions of everyone there. For me, one of the most interesting observations was that in a day and a half long conference whose premise is how to manage technology (software) projects, there was no discussion of technology, and only cursory discussion of process or project management. Instead, I experienced a user driven agenda that focused on communication and how to get the best out of software development teams – team being the operative word here.
I was impressed with the passion, dedication and willingness of everyone to maintain an open mind and to share their experience. I left at the end of the day on Saturday with many new ideas, some new friends and an expanded awareness not just of Agile processes, but of the Agile Community. The next Canadian Agile Coach Camp will be held in 2011 in Montreal – I hope to attend, and I hope to see you there.
As always, I look forward to your comments.
Tags: Agile, Agile Coach, Agile Development, Agile Methods, Agile Project, gil broza, lightning talks, michael sahota, Open Space, process improvement, Project Management, Scrum, Software Development, university of waterloo