AgileCoachCamp Norway 2011 – Day 1
Just arrived home from the AgileCoachCamp Norway 2011 (#accn). Full of inspirations, connections, ideas… I think there is no better way to spend a weekend than an AgileCoachCamp. That’s why Sergey Dmitriev and I started working on the idea of a Norwegian CoachCamp after the XP2010 conference in Trondheim. A few friends and colleagues joined us, and over a few months… We made it happen. It was amazing.
The only flight from Berlin was late at night, so I arrived on Friday night a bit after midnight… Missing introductions, and a surprise visit by UncleBob. Ivana Gancheva suggested an introduction expanding on the superpowers in the positioning papers we had for registration:
- What have you done to gain and further develop your superpower since you were born?
- What are you planning to do about it during this camp?
- How can we help you to accomplishing your goal?
As I was too late to take part in this, I’ll share my answers here. The superpower I put into the position paper reads: “I can lure or seduce people to do the things they really want to do.” Some weeks later, having thought and talked about this a lot, I rephrase my superpower as follows:
“I am the TeamhEARo. I can listen to the things people don’t say. I can make them do things they don’t yet know they want to do.” This obviously carries the danger with it of manipulating people, which I obviously do not want to do, so my answers are:
- Listen. Listen. Try to keep my mouth shut, wait, and continue to listen.
- Make an educated guess…
- Give me honest feedback when I don’t. (A special thanks goes to Jon Jagger for very honestly doing that without me actually having asked for it!)
To things were funny right from the beginning: Although I hadn’t met most of the participants before, most of them knew me! That’s one of the amazing things Twitter does for me… And although I hadn’t had a chance to give my “introduction”, I got honest feedback in the very first session:
We started the Saturday with an Agile Coaching Dojo. We gathered in groups of five. The “seeker” posed a problem she wanted help with. Two coaches had 12 min time to gain insight into the problem and assist the seeker in finding a solution, or a path to a possible solution. Two (in our group three) “observers” took notes during that time. In a short reflection the seeker and coaches expressed their learning in the exercise, followed by feedback from the observers… Then the roles rotate and the next seeker starts the next round, until everyone has been the seeker and everyone played every role.
As I was quite energetic that morning plus we had this time constraint (and wanted to produce a result…), we totally sucked in the first round. I was one of the coaches… We did an extensive reflection and decided to just try again, turning back time by 20 minutes and beginning with the seeker stating his problem. The second try was much better:-) Due to our extended reflection and our slight change of the rules we only managed to do four rounds. But we had decided to go for quality instead of quantity—and I can safely say I’ve seldom learned that much in such a short amount of time.
After lunch we started the Open Space. Sergey facilitated single-handedly in a way I truely admired. The first session was hosted by Ivana, on the topic “Collaboration vs. Zero-Sum Game”. The central question was, how do we induce a change in mindset, so that clients and suppliers can collaborate based on trust, instead of trying to cheat one another. How do we create a win-win situation instead of a zero-sum game? A lot of people contributed intensely on the subject. Ken Power took notes (and was so nice to share them), so that Ivana and I will soon create a seperate post on that topic.
Next was a session on Restrospective techniques, hosted by (if I remember correctly) Nils Haugen @nchaugen. Interesting, continuously relevant topic. From discussing different types of retrospectives and their respective frequency we arrived at talking in depth about sprint and release cycle lengths and the benefits of frequent or continuous integration. (So we basically switched from Retro techniques to Retro topics…) To be honest, I don’t see a point in that discussion – we know continuous integration is good. Ideal lengths of sprints and release cycles are highly context dependent, and not at all times the issue needing your most attention. The simple rule is: the shorter,the better. Few things in Agile are more important than getting better feedback faster.
I had proposed a session for the last slot of the OS on Sunday: Model with Lego your personal take-away from the conference using a method I use called StrategicPlay (the exercise is desribed in my XP2010 post).
Due to high demand (I only had Lego for 10 with me) I did another one on the first day, where I gave more background on the cognitive science background of the method. We modelled that morning’s Coaching Dojo exercise’s design, which was insightful and good fun! There even was a third Lego session after the Open Space, after lunch on Sunday. Will cover what we did, how and why that works and lots of pictures in another post.
In a session hosted by Ken Power – whom I had met in Trondheim and came to truely admire and appreciate this weekend – we dived into the topic of Coaching Coaches. How to establish Communities of practice inside a bigger enterprise, and how to establish a Coaching Circle, are the topics that still stick in my mind. A Coaching Circle is like a glade in the wood for the super-powered Agile coach. Meeting other coaches, taking our capes off and shutting down our coaching habits, we can open up and be our true selves in a safe environment and re-charge our batteries.
I’ve been part of a Coaching Circle during the last months, and without realising at first I came to value it dearly. Topic for yet another post, later…
Later. That’s a word really busying my mind lately. My friend Marc Bless and I’ve been working over the last weeks on a concept we call Lean Procrastination. I won’t cover it here to not deviate from the conference: it’s great fun with a serious core which we’re digging for. I proposed my third session on LeanProcrastination for the late night slot, rather with the idea of reserving my own time for it than with the expectation of attracting much attention… But, wonders of Open Space: whoever comes are the right people, and they were a lot. So I printed a few copies of what I’d written so far and we got into good discussions… Which cleared my view on some details and gave me the honest feeling that we need to fully redesign our workshop concept. Stay tuned for more… Later.
Dojos, Katas and Funny Games
There was a lot going on in the space of coding: Katas, dojos, kata/dojo site design… As always, I opted out of those topics due to higher prioritisation of people-centric ones… But I’m resolved to change that. I hearby promise that on the next (un)conference with a coding session, I’m in. However embarrassing that may turn out to be. Emily Bache, Johannes Brodwall and Jon Jagger impressed and inspired me greatly with their enthusiasm!
At night, after dinner, Ivana and I hosted a session on Funny Games and started by playing Bibbedi-Bibbedi-Bob. That’s a very funny game to get a group from bored to laughing-out-loud within less 10 minutes. We learned it at the AgileCoachCamp Germany and at XP2010 from the amazing fun monger Mike Sutton. We had a lot of fun with this and other games, which made for a nice transition to the ensuing session on Lean Procrastination, which I have already told you about. Earlier:-)