Introducing new ideas

One of the nicest things at AYE was a complete surprise: actually seeing a copy of the much-anticipated book "Fearless Change: patterns for introducing new ideas" (by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising). It's full of illuminating ideas and contains strategies applicable in many project situations. (An overview of the material was presented at XP2004 and you can see the slides online.)

NB: Harvard Business School Working Knowledge recently had these wise words to say about "The challenges of paradigmatic change": Third, be patient and wait until the time is right. Paradigmatic change requires a unique set of conditions. Sometimes, the organization will reject the change several times before a critical mass of managers finally recognizes the need for change and the utility of the new paradigm. Focus on winning the war and not every battle.

AYE afterword

AYE was an unusual conference. Hands-on workshops replaced the usual words spoken to a silent audience from a "sage on a stage". Gaining a better awareness of everyday work experiences and feelings was emphasised over learning yet another "silver bullet" tool. The conversations and self-examination that took place over lunch and dinner were as much the point of the conference as the organised sessions. There were plenty of attendees with over a decade of experience who demonstrated that intelligence, curiousity, and capability do not have to diminish after 30 or parenthood. Like I said, as far as my experience goes, AYE was unusual.
I imagine that an older "touchy feely people person" like myself was always going to get more out of AYE. There was plenty of talk of centering, and grounding, and being present in the present: concepts that are perhaps anathema to consultants who see technical answers to all business problems. But, for those who feel that much of software development is not work with computers but with people, there was a lot to take away and digest. Does AYE actually "amplify your effectiveness"? Perhaps. Does AYE provide tools with which you can start to "amplify your effectiveness"? Definitely.
Postscript: check out these pictures taken by Steven Smith at AYE (including one of me!)

AYE (Wednesday)

Maybe the sessions that I attended on Wednesday appeared to be about recognising and vocalising emotion because I was sad that it was the last day of the conference.
The morning Writers workshop run by Johanna Rothman and Naomi Karten provided a safe environment to share even the most personal writings and feelings; and the afternoon Reflection leading to action session led me to contemplate the emotional responses to AYE that I experienced and want to act upon.
I would like to say a big thank you to the hosts and the other attendees for making it such a great conference: I know that as I go home I am taking a part of AYE with me.

AYE (Tuesday)

It took me a while to work out what I think that the two sessions that I attended today had in common, but it was probably understanding the reactions of people on the receiving end of change. The morning session was Increasing your effectiveness as a change agent, which converged on the concept of organic change - a low key start with early success that can build into something larger - as a way of avoiding the fear-based defense responses to large, sudden, externally imposed change.
The hows, whens and whys of measuring group dynamics (such as the response to change) was covered in the afternoon session (Non-quantitative metrics, run by Naomi Karten). Both sessions brought home to me just how easy it is to overlook or misunderstand the reaction of an existing team when an external consultant arrives: it has been another very worthwhile day!


The "Birds-Of-a-Feather" group to be at on Monday evening was the Agile BOF: a dozen or so of us got together to eat pizza, swap ideas, and discuss what an AYE-Agile attractor might look like. Roughly half of us had actual Agile project experience (or more, if you count years of experience and take Jeff McKenna's into account!), and running the evening as a goldfish bowl panel allowed everyone a chance to contribute to the discussion. Several attendees asked what the clear distinction is between TDD, XP and Agile, but the discussion also wandered into topics such as the difference in team dynamic, technical architecture, and ROI in Agile projects. It was nice to hear the enthusiastic point of views of people that I haven't met before (such as John Brewer), as well as indulging my own passion for evangelising the benefits of Agile methods.

AYE (Monday)

I attended two sessions today that shared the theme of finding ways to break out from an unproductive way of thinking. The first was Don Gray and Becky Winant's "Making conscious decisions for change", which explored how changing perception leads to changes in behaviour. We discussed mental models (deletion, distortion, construction, generalisation), modalities of thinking, associated and disassociated experience, the interaction between the "here and now" (present) and the "then and there" (past), and creating options through awareness of our assumptions. All of these techniques and concepts provided me with powerful insight into how I might coach teams better through some common project problems.
After lunch Martine Devos and Jerry Weinberg ran a session on Organisational Mapping. This is a technique for exploring the multidimensional complexity ignored in more traditional org charts (such as who has money or budget to spend, where people are located, who communicates with whom, who gets along and who doesn't, etc). Interestingly we found as we drew our own maps that inanimate objects (e.g. story walls) and intangible things (e.g. rumours, or ghosts of previous managers or employees) occupy a place within these maps.
When comparing several maps of the same organisation in an "art show" what was striking was how much they varied, and why. To each individual their map was true. Taken together (especially taking the aspects shown in one map but omitted from others) they uncovered a deeper truth: one that could be used to break out of habitual behaviour. We were able to see this in action as Jerry explored with five members of one organisation how the "wall of mistrust" shown on their maps was both self-constructed and easily surmountable.
It also stopped raining today. It was wierd to be in desert country with rain pouring down, though apparently Phoenix does have a monsoon season (normally August, according to Linda Rising who lives locally). But now the sun is shining again, and the date palms look less incongruous and the pool more inviting...

AYE pre-conference day

I hadn't originally planned to attend the Sunday tutorial as it meant I would lose yet another day away from my family, but Alan persuaded me otherwise (pointing me at some very complimentary reviews from previous years). I'm glad he did: it really deepened my existing (albeit mostly theoretical) knowledge of tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Satir's interaction model and Satir's change model. At the end of the day we discussed congruent behaviour and coping stances with examples provided by a bizarre (but effective) set of masked visitors for which Esther Derby deserves an acting award of some kind!
After the tutorial there was a pre-conference dinner in which I took the opportunity to sit next to The Great Man (!) Jerry Weinberg. He had some nice words to say about XP and a lot of amusing anecdotes to share: it was a fabulous way to wrap up the day.

On the way to AYE

I'm lucky enough to be attending the AYE conference this year. I should have been going with Alan Francis but he's just started working in Sydney (Australia). Dave Hoover is taking his place instead - I'm looking forward to meeting him after the email exchanges we've had since he started working at ThoughtWorks. And I'm also looking forward to catching up with Rachel Davies whose enthusiasm at the London eXtreme Tuesday Club* really helped me start out along the professional road that led me here at this place in time.

*Obligatory plug: the XTC is running its fourth London XPDay this year. Register today to hear some of the best agile software professionals explain what they do and why!

MockObjects in the Thames Valley

Duncan Pierce and I hosted a MockObjects workshop for the Thames Valley Agile SIG on Thursday night. There wasn't a large turnout but on the plus side that gave us more of a chance to talk about the link between using mocks , and CRC cards, and "tell don't ask" design. If you are interested in XP or other agile techniques, and are within travelling distance of Oxford, I'd recommend coming along to swap war stories and exchange ideas. We're planning to play some of Bill Wake's games in our December session which should be fun.