SPA 2008 (1)

Back from SPA

I’ve just returned from 4 days of intensive, relaxing, active and interactive sessions and discussions at the annual SPA conference. The fun started early for me, because I traveled to the conference in the company of Portia, the Wicked Witch of the West and Vera, the Good Witch of the North.

Beware of the dwarves!

Snow WhiteIn “Mirror, Mirror on the wall“, Portia Tung and Chris Coopers-Bland told us the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and then held up a mirror to the participants. Identifying people we know as characters from the fairytale told us a lot about ourselves and how we see people. We all know people who are like Snow White or Grumpy or even the occasional Evil Queen. Or are they really? What is it in our behaviour and way of looking at the world that makes them appear so? At the end of the exercise we all found ways to act differently with these people.

In a second exercise we had to make up a team for a task with the characters from the “Snow White and the 7 dwarves” kanban deck. This allowed us to become more aware of team composition, by combining people with characteristics that reinforce each other. The 7 dwarves characters acted like the Belbin Team Roles, but were a lot more fun. This was the second episode in the “Agile Fairytales” series, after the “Yellow Brick Road“. Watch out for more agile fairytales at a conference near you.

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

Real life options

I helped out with Chris Matts‘ and Portia Tung‘s session on Real Options. Real options are a deceptively simple idea. But it’s very difficult to explain, as we found out during the session. Real Options underlie both Lean and Agile. They allow us to deal with uncertainty more effectively.

The session had a lot of energy and chaos in a very small, packed conference room. We tried to do too much in the session, which meant that the message probably wasn’t as clear as possible. Real Options generated some more discussion at the conference. I’m still mulling over the implications of Real Options and how best to explain them. On the way back from the conference, Portia, Vera and I developed different ways to explain (and experience) real options. More about Real Options in the future! Meanwhile, check out this InfoQ article about Real Options.

The creative process and teamwork techniques

One of the six thinking hatsIn the evening, Portia, Vera, Charles Weir and I discussed the Mirror Mirror session. The session mentioned some teamwork tools and Charles wanted to know more. So, we developed a session using the “Creative Process“, that would give Charles the information he wanted. This all went very quickly and smoothly, a great example of creative, collaborative work.

The next day, we presented this session as a BoF (Birds of a Feather). Again, we experienced a group of people doing creative, collaborative work and coming up with results.

Each of us listed teamwork techniques that we had used successfully. We selected the four most popular ones and created “Sales pitches” for each of them. Finally, someone presented the tools to the whole group. As you can see, selling the “6 Thinking Hats” technique doesn’t have to be boring.

The results of the BoF are available on the SPA wiki.

Team work techniques 2Team work techniques 1

More later…

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