Monday, September 26, 2011

Agile Coaching Camp wrapup

I approached my second (their third) day of #ACCUS after a full night's sleep. The evening social time was great, because it involved some fine people.
I had two sessions, one each in the first and last timeslots of the day.
Pairing Styles
The first was a little workshop to identify and evaluate pairing styles. I was there to collect data primarily, and I did. We mapped the styles I had identified and added to them. The best part was the conversation among the attendees as we tried to evaluate them. The emergent thesis is that styles are not inherently good or bad, but that they reveal the relationship of the partners. All styles could be energizing, or could be draining, depending primarily on:
  • The involvement they bring to the session
  • The degree to which they both focus on the code instead of each other
  • The degree to which each recognizes the contribution of the other
The Coaching Oracle Deck
This idea was based on Brian Eno's famous Oblique Strategies concept, and the fun of fortune cookies. Glen Smith and I played with the idea years ago (he introduced me to the idea), and even had a little program to pop up the strategies. Sadly, that code and the original list of ideas were lost. It came back up at Agile And Beyond in Ann Arbor this year, and I happened upon those cards while sorting through my stuff at ACCUS.
We play-tested it informally in the common area while sessions went on elsewhere. I figured it was worth a more formal play-test. 
I think that the session hit two snags. The first was that people were feeling much more emotionally involved as a result of other sessions going on that day, and the other was that I wasn't managing the pacing very well. Rather than play-testing a fun technique by stating a question and rating whether a randomly-drawn card just happened to be good advice in the scenario, we entered into a deeper talk about problems and possible directions. I really hadn't intended this to be a problem-solving session with deep emotional impact, but at an open space whatever happens is the only thing that could have. 
I suspect that the primary value of the cards is that they are generally good things to think about, the randomness of the draw means that they'll come out of left field, and considering them will help take us out of ourselves. This thesis was not supported by our session.  Instead, they were deeply considered, contextualized to the person drawing the card, and considered for their ability to point out a solution.
More on this as it happens.
Other Thoughts of the Day
I hear that a couple of the sessions had people in tears, and approximated a self-help session far more than a professional conference. Certainly I felt that way with the "checking in" part of the session at the end, and the direction many of the "appreciations" took. I'm okay with that, and don't deny other people's need for it, but I'm either a little cold or a little emotionally squeamish, or perhaps just too focused on enjoying the work we do together to really participate. My primary feeling when I hear that a session had people in tears was, "glad I missed that." Maybe those people got more out of the conference than I did, I can't really say. 
On the other hand, I have a stack of new ideas and had some of my intentions and interests vetted and validated. I'm going to dig into more topics that will help me learn, analyze, and adapt my work. That's one of the reasons I've attended.
I also have new friends and contacts, and have connected with friends and colleagues.  This is the other reason I drove across the midwest in the middle of the night rather than going directly home to my family.  
It was  a very net-positive weekend, and I recommend Agile Coaching Camp to all my readers.  
Next year, in Minneapolis!