A few weeks ago I attended the Agile Coach Camp Germany 2011. I had never attended anything like it before, it was well outside my comfort zone which means I was keeping an open mind and expecting a great opportunity to grow and learn. As a software developer who is motivated by agile values and principles I couldn’t help myself slotting into the role of wannabe change agent. As someone who has spent the last few years working for companies who think developing software is mostly about sitting isolated in front of a computer for eight hours a day, my people skills have taken a dive, which naturally affects my ability to lead change, especially without formal authority, in a negative way.
The theme of the event was "the inner fire". For most people that was the passion they already had for coaching. I definitely had an inner fire too, but it had a different nature. Just as fire keeps us warm and cooks food, it also burns houses and kills people. The inner fire that was driving me to attend something like the coach camp was basically frustration. It also burns but in a different way to passion. I was frustrated at myself for letting my "people skills" slip so much, and also frustrated at the outcome, that my efforts at leading change suffered as a result.
I attended a session on balance, which I hoped would directly address one of the frustrations I had in mind the previous evening. I remain confused on many of the following, I guess knobs that can be tweaked:
- Being a servant leader, getting out of the way and helping others achieve their vision vs asserting my own vision, and placing my own ideas above those of others.
- Serious, professional and boring vs playful, frivolous and abstract.
- How to express passion and excitement without coming across as a fanatic or zealot, or appearing to push an agenda, and thus putting one’s credibility into question.
The session turned out to focus on other topics such as work-life balance and that sort of thing. Still interesting but for me if work-life balance is an issue, you probably have the wrong job. I just don’t really want to separate the two that much. It would be like splitting life into boring and fun bits, why not just arrange things so you can make a living having fun instead? Olaf wrote a follow-up post on the topic here: Spotting the Balance. I may at some point write a post or two on the the particular points I mentioned above.
Then we had an interesting discussion on "The four evil root-causes from hell", which turned out to be more like symptoms than root causes. It was I believe based on the ideas mentioned in How to defend against the 10 things that drive your ScrumMaster crazy.
I then attended a session on "nonviolent communication". The first half was focused on the emotional benefits felt by the session leader. I thought it was a great way to start, once I worked out what sort of information he was trying to deliver and in what form, as I think the point of nonviolent communication seems to lie in the emotional space, rather than the more technical details of what it is, but some of the other participants had difficulty putting it into context without first knowing what non-violent communications was all about. This was however cleared up very well in the second half with practical examples supplied by session participants.
In the afternoon I helped the organizers of the upcoming SoCraTes 2011 conference go through some ideas, and formulate the Call for Contributions. Unfortunately I am far too busy wrapping up my Masters to really take part in the organization or even lead a session, but I am looking forward to attending, and it looks like there are far better sessions being planned than I could come up with anyway.
In the evening we had a few beers and attempted the Kata Potter, not very impressively. On Sunday morning I started off by "exploring my own values and mission", which was pretty introspective, almost naval gazing. It seems I value simplicity. After that I had a go at leading a session called "Leading change without authority or natural talent". I basically just collected a list of tips and ideas from the participants ans wrote them now, someone remarked later on twitter how similar it looked to the list of patterns in the "Fearless Change" book.
The last session I attended was book swashing, where we grabbed some books from the book table, and had five minutes to skim through and pick one thing to write about it, and then pass it on around the circle.
All in all a great event. I did come away with the feeling that I as a developer somehow think wrong, when it comes to dealing with people, and the coaches have a superior mindset in this regards, that we developers have to learn from, which is true to some extent, but I wonder if coaches overstate it because of the lens they are used to looking through. I think to a certain extent the coaches have something to learn from technical people as well, exactly what I am still unsure but it is worth considering.
Some other blog articles on the event are here: