What most enticed me about coming to AYE was the fact that this conference felt different.   I had talked to folks who previously attended and heard nothing but positive feedback and that this was one of the better conferences to attend if you were someone like me and weren’t able to make very many conferences each year.

The sessions being presented at AYE seemed much more relavent to me at this point in my life and career.  I also felt these experiences would help me meet some great people, share some ideas and help with me with challenges I’m experiencing at my current company.  Of course it doesn’t hurt that it’s sunny, 30 degrees and the resort is just fantastic!

The toughest part about day 1 was actually selecting which sessions to go to.   As I mentioned, I didn’t really know what to expect so my choices today were based on exploring and trying to figure out what I really wanted to get out of this conference.

Morning Session: Managing Change: Knowing When, Knowing How (Steve Smith)

We started off with everyone doing a quick introduction and each person also answered how they felt about change.  Personally, I love change.  It’s challenging, exciting and it gives me the opportunity to help make something better.  I also enjoy helping people cope with change, in the context of adopting Agile,  so I was particularly interested in Satir’s Model.

Steve gave us an article on Satir’s Model and then we started an exercise that would take our “star” ( which was a randomly chosen attendee) through the model.  The attendees were split into 4 groups and each group assumed either Status Quo/Resistance, Foreign Element, Chaos, New Status Quo.

Each group had an objective and I’ll paraphrase, but if you’re not familiar with Satir’s model, I’d recommend reading this.

Status Quo: keep the “star”  in his comfort zone and resist change

Foreign Element: an insertion of some element that causes disruption, something that tried to pull the star out of status quo

Chaos: create chaos for the star

New Status Quo: inject an idea and create and complete the change

This exercise was extremely creative and each group came up with fantastic ideas.  I was in the status quo group and we built a physical wall out of chairs, people and tablecloths to keep the foreign element out and tried to create a soothing atmosphere for our star because based on our interview, we felt it would keep him with us.

Our plan failed miserably!  The Foreign Element group was extremely disruptive and there was actually some pushing and shoving at some point and the Chaos team actually mentioned that the Foreign Element group created all the chaos so there wasn’t much for them to do.

It’s difficult to describe the entire exercise, it was something you would need to experience to truly understand what we went through.

While the exercise might have been chaotic and, at times, frustrating, the message I interpreted was loud and clear:

Try as you may, change cannot be controlled.

There are certain ways of helping and coaching people at various stages of Satir’s model but by and large, change will happen and you probably do not know where the end result is or how to get to there.  I was able to tie this into much of the training classes I deliver where people just want the answer.   Sorry, there is no user manual for implementing Agile.  It will be disruptive, it will be chaotic, we probably won’t know exactly how we are going to get to the end goal but we do have the tools and knowledge to help us work together towards the solution.  The key is motivation and the desire to change.  I cannot help you if you don’t want to accept my help.

Afternoon Session – Saying No That Really Means No

This one was a session I really wanted to attend.  After experiencing this session I was satisfied to learn that I already knew this.  I seem to be asked similar questions we talked about in the session during my training classes.  The most frequent comment seems to be “we just don’t say no around here“.  My reply is usually along the lines of  “so how’s that working out for you?

It’s pretty simple, if you can’t say no when you mean no, your yes is meaningless.  There is always an alternative so look for the solution and it’s never as simple as yes or no.  Regardless of the “we have no choice” mantra that seems to plague most companies I’ve worked with, there is always a choice it’s just a matter of figuring out the solution.  There’s not much else to comment about on this session other than Jerry Weinberg is simply brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to his stories.

Event BOF (Birds of a Feather) Session: Re-inventing Yourself

This was an extra, optional session hosted by Johanna Rothman.  There was no description but the title was enough to get me to sign up along with 30 other folks.

Our goal was to create a career timeline and try and identify our own patterns so we could re-invent ourselves and prevent us from repeating those patterns.  Simple enough, if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.

I’ll save the details of my pattern for a later post, but the next step was to pair up with someone and talk about your patterns and answer a few questions to come to some type of realization.   This helped me a great deal and I immediately connected with what Johanna was saying.  She did give us homework of writing out what 1 day of a perfect job would be like and then offered a follow-up session where we will come up with an action plan to get there.

Summing it Up

Sorry for the long post, provided you’re still reading of course, but this was a great first day.   It was an eye-opening experience and coming in I knew there was a great deal that I don’t know but after today I realized I knew more than I though I did.  Today’s sessions re-assured me and also helped set my focus for the rest of the conference.