Agile events and conferences provide such a great opportunity to learn from one another and connect us back to the larger community. At Agile2017 this past August, I was fortunate enough to be involved with an extremely engaging and rewarding effort called Agile Therapy.
Agile Alliance designed this experience to provide a welcoming atmosphere, and to support those at the conference who were early in their agile journey by connecting them, or other attendees, with a roster of experts to discuss any topics or challenges they were facing. While relaxing or mingling with other attendees, Agile Therapy created an environment to have some really impactful conversations.
There was dedicated space in the lounge area open to conference attendees throughout the entire event. Participants could sign up for a specific 20-minute block of time and sit with an expert that they could use to bounce ideas off of, ask for advice, or just vent and be heard. There was a lot of interest in Agile Therapy, with every available time slot filled early each morning. This included some repeat attendees, who came back to discuss different topics.
With a solid roster of experts that spanned the areas of technical, user experience, organizational transformation, and different agile approaches, the Agile Therapy sessions had a bit of something for everyone. At any given time, the area had three to five different experts available to chat with. Some visits focused more on organizational challenges and interpersonal dynamics, others around user experience concepts and retrospective approaches. There were fewer attendees interested in technical topics, but experts in these areas made their time available whenever called upon.
Instead of capturing feedback with a form, we asked participants to fill out a sheet after their session. This page had a simple statement that said “After Agile Therapy I feel:” with room for a few words, but also space to draw a picture. As you can see, we had quite a lot of happy, and creative, customers!
An interesting observation that many of the experts and I experienced first-hand was the high number of attendees, both at Agile Therapy and the conference at large, focused on the tactical elements of a specific approach, rather than the underlying reason for doing it. There is a significant difference in providing a step-by-step recipe versus having a more exploratory conversation rooted in agile principles. Agile Therapy provided a great opportunity for the experts and attendees alike to practice these types of conversations – taking a step back, looking for alternatives, and doing a bit of investigation.
While some attendees started by looking for more of a “checklist”, they were often able to uncover options to consider moving forward, with greater insight to their environment and efforts. It was great to see that type of growth, and fulfilling to help fellow agilists in this way!
In speaking with our experts following the event, it was clear those who signed up for the sessions were not the only ones who got a lot of benefit from the conversations. I personally was thankful for the opportunity to step in and help, and it was so great to chat with other attendees, hear their experiences, and share ideas.
There’s a lot of recognition to go around, starting with the folks at Agile Alliance, including the board, for making the time and space for this event to happen. A loud “Thank you!” goes out to our experts who took hours of their time to talk with others and share their expertise. Another shout out goes to the event staff that really stepped up with setting up the space, coordinating sessions, and keeping the whole machine running.
Lastly and most importantly, I’d like to thank those that were brave enough to come by and start the conversation. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like you are the only one experiencing a particular challenge, and it can be very uncomfortable and lonely. I talked to several folks who, after Agile Therapy, remarked that they didn’t feel alone anymore. That type of feedback brought a huge smile to my face, and I am very grateful to have been involved in such a fulfilling and engaging effort.
It is likely that Agile Alliance will continue to offer this type of environment to conference attendees in the future. These interactions are what a lot of folks look forward to as the agile community grows and evolves. If you are looking for someone to talk agile with, we’d love to see you at a future event!