Reflections on Agile Coach Camp

Reflections on Agile Coach Camp

I’ve been reflecting on my Agile Coach Camp US West experience (April 10 to 12, 2015), remembering how hopeful I felt throughout the weekend. Now that it’s been a week, I want to capture a few of my takeaways, hoping that it will contribute to a wider dialogue surrounding the weekend. My guess is that given the diversity of people attending, there are as many perspectives as there are people.

1. My top “aha” was around the power of games to stimulate creativity through play, and how important this is for Agile teams. The theme was so prevalent in the Open Space sessions that I wasn’t able to attend them all:

  • Bryan Beecham’s teaching Test-Driven Development (TDD) through Legos
  • Zach Bonaker facilitated a “Fax” game, with alternating drawing and word descriptions to see what results at the end
  • Jason Kerney had a session that used Story Cubes to help teams write User Stories
  • Sue Johnston used Lego’s to get creative around several topics in her sessions
  • I used Grok cards to facilitate a group check-in for silent empathy

I noticed that some of our more technical colleagues had a difficult time getting creative.

2. Several of the topics related to the importance of self-care for Coaches involved in Agile transformations (aka. Sue’s “renovations”)

  • Allison Pollard held space for a session on “Sustaining Energy for Agile Transformations”, which generated three pages of strategies (see photos):

strategies to support coaches through enterprise transformations

  • I facilitated a session covering the importance of a daily practice for cultivating presence through self-empathy from Nonviolent Communication (NVC), and how empathy/honesty are essential skills for coaching Agile teams — and staying connected to ourselves, making us less likely to react instinctually in “fight/flight/freeze.”

3. At the closing circle, I noticed how again and again, people celebrated that we’re finally making it okay for organizations to be human. “When we get to bring our full selves to work, the business wins, people have lives with meaning, autonomy and we all have more fun doing it.”

After camp, I was explaining to my son Alex what the weekend was about. I started up the iPad version of Story Cubes, shook it up, and within moments he completed his first story. He excitedly asked me to time him for his next story — which he completed in about 30 seconds. Then he told me to try. My story came in at a minute and a half. With a big grin on his face, he announced that he was faster than me! Given the opportunity to play, he demonstrated how to become Agile. My takeaway is that we have to re-discover and invite our inner-child to play along side our technical selves to be Agile.

I’d love to hear how this post lands for you. Would you like to add anything to the conversation?

6 Comments

  1. James Black

    Thanks James for your post.
    I think Sue hit the nail on the head with the “safe to join” comment. To many times you attend conferences and people are afraid to bring our their inner agile geekness, but the coach camps provide the right setting for a great group of people who care about their learning and what to share something with the world.

    • @James – thanks for reinforcing the importance of safety. As a coach, I find that sometimes all it takes is a brave soul to venture into vulnerability to show that “it’s okay”. I like to think that coaches have this unique opportunity to be risky to create a portal of safety… (Star Trek imagery coming through 🙂

      Like Gandhi suggested, we can show up (model) the behavior that we’d like to see in the world — cool things tend to happen (sometimes).

      Woo hoo! We having fun yet?

  2. I enjoyed attending the Coach Camp too, and I have to say that you really picked out an important pattern. I think we become our most creative selves when we play games or make stories, because it’s emotionally safe to change inside the process. Change is so central to value creation, improvement and innovation.

    Maybe games, stories and change are 3 happy cousins…they seem to get along together so nicely, don’t they?

    Thanks for contributing so much insight to the Coach Camp, and adjoining trainings, James. It really sank in deep with me. I think I’m a better person for it.

    Let’s keep that momentum alive.

    -Jon

    • @Jon – thanks for extending the conversation. I totally agree that “Change is so central to value creation, improvement and innovation. Maybe games, stories and change are 3 happy cousins…” When “change” or “work” becomes more like play, it seems to tap into an innate drive within — we get to simultaneously be like a child and an adult as we co-create stuff with others, like building forts in a sandbox. In our case, we’re not only creating products, but a more life-serving workspace — who knows if this could break out into society in general?

      I’m also intrigued that so many (e.g. Jeff Patton) have tapped into the power of story telling to stimulate conversations that lead to defining the product backlog that we’re going to build to. Thanks again for adding your voice to this!

  3. Hi James

    At the Agile Coach Camps I’ve attended in assorted places, I’ve always seen that hopefulness you mention. Our natural belief in possibility is amplified when we’re in the midst of thoughtful, creative people who want to help make the world of work better.

    When people like this are together, we’ll try new things. It’s safe to join, to experience, to learn, to be wrong, to speak up, to laugh, or cry, or express heartfelt aspirations for our teams, for our organizations and for ourselves. We build new connections, not just with ideas, but with each other. And we sense that we’re part of something bigger than we know.

    Cheers – Sue

    • @Sue – I loved reading “Our natural belief in possibility is amplified when we’re in the midst of thoughtful, creative people who want to help make the world of work better.” This highlights the needs for safety in order for creativity to come out. I’m inspired to hold space for this as a coach!

      I also enjoyed reading: “We build new connections, not just with ideas, but with each other. And we sense that we’re part of something bigger than we know.” As I read this, I’m hopeful that we are indeed contributing meaningfully to something bigger – that we are collaborating to make the world we’d like to live in!

      Thanks for expanding the conversation!

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