SPA 2008: A Retrospective

I’m fairly certain there’s no better way of spending four Spring days in Bedfordshire, England than at the Software Practice Advancement (SPA) conference. I left feeling re-energised with plenty of food for thought on what continuous improvement (Kaizen) really means.

What worked well: The Highlights

  • Playing the Snow White and Seven Dwarves Game with 16 grownups, described by participants as ‘curious, fun with excellent materials’ and got lots of feedback on how to improve the game.
  • Co-presenting a Real Options session with Chris Matts and Pascal Van Cauwenberghe and explored alternative ways of how to think about Real Options. I think we were over-ambitious in our refactoring of the session – fortunately, the SPA audience remained enthusiastic and receptive to innovation!
  • Co-creating a Teamwork Techniques BoF (Birds of a Feather) with Pascal and Charles Weir. It was a great example of collaborative working and learning through doing. The session was successful because it leveraged the experience and knowledge of all the participants which enhanced the quality of learning, usefulness of materials and the amount of fun had by all. The techniques covered included Creative Thinking process, Edward de Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats, Chris Avery’s Responsibility Model and Burndown charts.
  • Attended an excellent session on Awesome Acceptance Testing by Joe Walnes and Dan North. The thoughtful delivery made a usually dry (but very important) topic interesting, entertaining, educational and enabling.
  • Attended John Nolan’s session on Getting to ‘No’ on how to say ‘No’ in a constructive way.

Ideas for making SPA even better

  • More sessions like Joe and Dan’s with a well-defined purpose, tangible and pragmatic advice and entertaining presenters
  • More genuinely-interactive learning like the Teamwork Techniques BoF
  • Form quartets based on at least common interest to make them more meaningful rather than dividing people into random groups of 4
  • More opportunities for active conference attendee participation
  • More emphasis on accelerated learning and personal development in terms of session structure and content because the best software is developed by teams of effective individuals

Thank You!

  • To Pascal and Vera for their enthusiasm, feedback, support and being great idea factories.
  • To David Peterson, Maria Bortes and Dyan Corutiu for participating in the rehearsal session and providing constructive feedback that helped us use the cards more.
  • To Chris Cooper-Bland for co-presenting and assembling the final presentation and believing in dwarfish appeal.

And a big T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U as usual to Jim for bringing Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to life as cards and making the game real.

2 Responses to “SPA 2008: A Retrospective”

  1. Thinking for a Change » Accelerate learning writes:

    […] and I used these techniques to create and deliver a succesful BOF session at SPA in record time. Portia and I disregarded some of the principles (e.g. alternate between physically active and passive learning activities) when reworking the Real […]

  2. Thinking for a Change » SPA 2008 (1) writes:

    […] More about the dwarves (and other sessions) on Portia’s blog. […]

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