XP Days London 2007 – The Yellow Brick Road

Off to see the Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of OzPortia Tung and Duncan Pierce hosted the “Yellow Brick Road” session.

The session kicked off with some speed-networking, which was excellent to get us moving after the coffee break. Then we bubblesorted ourselves, based on the agility of our organisations. We formed groups of three, with similar organisation backgrounds (“just started with agile”) for the remainder of the session. I worked with Douglas Squirrel and Simon Woolf.

Portia and Duncan had prepared some cool cards with characters from the Wizard of Oz. We had to choose a character that we identified with. Guess which one I chose.

We each identified some difficult situations we struggled with. Unsurprisingly, we had several of those in common. Each of us took turns exploring one of the situations, with another participant “playing” the role of someone else in the situation by asking questions. The third participant acted as observer. It was really fun “acting” like a person you don’t know, just by asking questions. It helps to explore the situation and your feelings when you’re act as if you’re “in” the situation and someone keeps on “investigating” you while pretending to be one of the characters in the situation.

The Yellow Brick Road Cast

In the end, we get to be the character we want to be. We have the heart, the brains and the courage. We just have to use them. Each of us filled in 3 (white) bricks with SMART actions we will take as the first steps on the road to Oz. One of my tasks has already been planned: in less than three weeks I will lead a retrospective for the largest project at my customer. This one earns me double “points”, because this task is also on my “short term evidence”. These are the goals that I set myself to achieve before the end of 2007, during Bootcamp.

This session is an experiment in “peer coaching”. The three participants can ask each other for help for a year. Let’s see how that works out. I think I’m going to ask Douglas and Simon for some help with my second brick…

This session had a good mix of short, timeboxed tasks for the participants and explanation from Portia and Duncan, so that the session kept “going”. The energetic start, with speed-meeting and bubblesorting, got everybody moving and made you work with two people who you had never met, but had a lot in common with. This kind of session is ideal at the start of a conference.

I really like the idea of using fairy tales, stories and metaphors to look at a situation from a different angle. To make this session perfect, I would make the use of the characters more clear and constrain the exploration of the situations a bit more. This could be done by making the rules stronger (e.g. “only ask non-closed questions”) and making the actors stick to their chosen character. Hmm… which other fairy tales could we use to apply to projects and organisations?

Portia will host a session at SPA 2008 (16-19 March). I’ll be there. Hope you will be too.

Off to the pub

And then we were off to the nearby pub for Guinness and mash and steak/chicken pie. And lots more talking with old and new acquaintances from around Europe and some crazy, crazy Finns.

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