SimBlogging: AYE 2008 Retrospective

SimBlogging‘ offers a his and hers viewpoint as Pascal and Portia timebox-blog simultaneously

What Went Well

Journey to Arizona: My AYE adventure started at Terminal 5 where I met up with Pascal to fly to Phoenix, Arizona. Thanks to Julie, a Senior Customer Service Agent from British Airways, we both got upgraded to World Traveller Plus. I’ve gained considerable insight into the airline industry having worked in the industry for the past 6 months. Working with people with a passion for airplanes and travel has allowed me to experience air passenger travel with new eyes since.

Beautiful Arizona: The November weather in Arizona is glorious. The skies are a bright, clear blue and the sun simply glows. I found myself sitting outdoors in shortsleeves, basking in the shade to avoid being burnt to a crisp. Now that’s something that’s never happened to me before. Another striking thing about Arizona is the strips of carefully tended green grass. Back in London, it rains a lot by comparison and so the grass is mostly green. Here in Arizona, I find myself scanning the landscape for grass and appreciating each strip because I know someone decided to plant it there and have continued to look after it since.

The Folks at AYE: My biggest takeway from AYE is the high concentration of open and friendly participants. The number of participants was capped to 75 which gave us a chance to really mingle with the 5 organiser-trainers, Don Gray, Steve Smith, Esther Derby, Johanna Rothman and, of course, Jerry Weinberg. Most important of all, the smaller-than-average conference gathering gave the participants a chance to get to know one another better.

Agile Fairytales at AYE: Following on from Don’s friendly suggestion that we run the Snow White and Seven Dwarves Game as a Birds-of-a-Feather session at the conference, over 23 people attended the session. Pascal and I continued to play the game with other participants over the course of the conference after lunch and during dessert. It goes to show that playing at the dinner table is no bad thing!

People, People, People: For me, going to a conference is all about meeting people. My write-home-on-a-postcard characters have to be: Evan the Standup Comedian (who played a key role as the protagonist in the chaotic, yet triumphant Satir Change Model exercise), Jeremy the Magician (with his scented marker and chameleon playing cards), Chris the Aspiring Dog Whisperer (with understands dogs AND people) and Cheryl, Rob and Mark from Team Blackberry (who get to develop funky tools to help us better manage our time and ourselves).

Session Highlights:

Cultural Day Out: Of course, no conference adventure is complete without a visit to the environs. On our last day in Phoenix, Pascal and I visited the Heard Museum where we learned about the different Indian tribes in the Arizona region. We had first come across this aspect of the sad and turbulent history of America on our visit to Toronto at Agile 2008. It reminded me of the importance of learning from history because it’s only by learning from our mistakes that we stand a chance of breaking the cycle of misunderstandings and atrocities. Esther demonstrates how retrospectives are a great way of transforming our experiences into lessons learnt.

Complaints With Recommendations

  • The AYE sessions I attended encouraged audience participation, but the session takeaways remained vague. It would be great to make explicit the learnings and actions from the discussions, as a group, to reinforce the lessons learnt so they can be applied more easily.
  • Day 1 saw the introduction of the Myers-Briggs Indicator Type (MBTI) with everyone identifying their type. Unfortunately, some people wrote their type on their name badge and started saying things like, ‘I’m an introvert, that’s why I’m not very good at networking’. It would be more useful to emphasise a preference is just that rather than who you are. That’s because we can all learn the less preferred behaviour to become more congruent.
  • The only session to hold a retrospective was the Agile Fairytale Mirror, Mirror BoF. It would be great to apply the Agile practice for all sessions as a way to get feedback from participants to help improve them.
  • I wish I’d spent more time chatting and sharing with other participants outside of the sessions. I could start or continue a conversation by email of course!
  • I wish I’d seen more of Arizona and its exotic fauna – nothing beats a bit of funky cacti against blue sky. I suggest hiring a car and doing a bit of a road trip next time!

2 Responses to “SimBlogging: AYE 2008 Retrospective”

  1. Thinking for a Change » SimBlogging: AYE 2008 Retrospective writes:

    […] ‘SimBlogging‘ offers a his and hers viewpoint where Pascal and Portia timebox-blog as a pair on the same topics simultaneously […]

  2. George Dinwiddie writes:

    Hi, Portia. I enjoyed meeting you at AYE 2008.

    I noticed your recommendation to “make explicit the learnings and actions from the discussions.” Having received various training from Jerry Weinberg, most recently the Experiential Training Workshop he presented Thursday with Esther Derby, I can tell you why these sessions do not do so.

    The learning of these sessions is not a transfer of knowledge from one person to another. It’s an elicitation of understanding within the participant. The goal is to create an environment where the participant will learn something–not so much to teach the participant something the session leader knows.

    It’s quite frequently the case that the participant may learn something different than the session leader intends. Should the session leader say, “No, you didn’t learn that. This is what you learned,” or allow the participant to own the learning?

    It always takes me awhile to digest the sessions at AYE. Sometimes when I go back through my notes, I notice new learnings much later, when I have a different perspective. And I can assure you that I’m still actively processing the lessons from the Problem Solving Leadership workshop I attended a couple years ago.

    While this style of learning may lead to less explicit lessons, it seems to lead to more permanent and profound ones.

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