Agile/XP Universe Conference 2002, Open Space Track
Some Very Rough Facilitator Notes
UPDATE: Roughly eight years after the story I tell below, I was facilitating a board retreat for the Agile Alliance and board members were explaining to me the lasting significance of what we did at this first conference. One of the things the Alliance developed was the Agile Open program, that makes small grants for seed funding for regional conferences to be organized in Open Space. Some other folks started a long-running series of Agile Coach Camps that gather in Open Space. And many years later, something called "Open Jam" continues as an evolving descendant of the Open Space track described below. Not to mention the many Scrum Gatherings and Agile Days and other conference events spawned by this first one, or all the open space meetings that those attendees went home and opened on their own. This really was the beginning of something...
Subject: hybrid ost at agile software conference (long, fun, wiki)
Date: Wed, 07 Aug 2002 00:39:46 -0500
From: Michael Herman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: OSLIST <OSLIST@LISTSERV.BOISESTATE.EDU>
here's one for the archives. traditional conference. four days. 200-400 expected when planning began. 330 showed up. workshops. tutorials, which are paid for in advance. academic papers, juried in advance. programmers from around the world. keynote speakers. a number of industry gurus. and 2 days of ost spread over last 3 days of the conference. opening after lunch on day 2, the official opening day of the conference, after morning of 3 keynote speakers in darkened room and powerpoint slides FULL of text, graphs, numbers. "birds of a feather" self-organizing special interest groups held during lunches at one end of the dining room. open space 'closing' scheduled on 4th afternoon AFTER the 'farewell' series of keynotes. carpeted walls that resisted long-term sticking even by 4-inch heavy duty duct tape. no invitation written, except for posting of 4 principles and one law on teh conference website. minimal upfront discussion with conference planners responsible for ost 'track'. no conversation with rest of program committee. have i said anything that gives you any hope that this has been a fantastic couple of days, with one day left tomorrow???? <grin>
the group is agile software alliance and extreme programming universe. the conference theme is 'a conference for sharing and learning about agile software development processes -- HOW LITTLE CAN WE DO AND STILL BUILD GREAT SOFTWARE?'
...getting a little brighter, now, eh? they are a group of consortia and developer companies and individual programmers who work by this manifesto...
Manifesto for Agile Software Development
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
in short, these folks are working in open space, or nearly so, everyday. they have things called 'standup meetings' every morning. what we would call morning news. they work in 'iterative cycles.' each cycle starts with pairs of programmers each selecting a 'story card' that is a programming task and spending a set time (hours or days) working on that task together, then reconvening as a team to report results at the end of the session. then picking new cards, reshuffling pairs as needed, where roadblocks prevented completion. they rewrite their overall project plans every three to five work days. they talk a lot about how to get planning-driven IT groups to be more agile. they talk about moving at the speed of change. heartening stuff, no?
anyway, this is what we're up to...
day one - workshops, tutorials, academic papers all day
- morning of keynotes, 10-15 mins of open space intro to whole group, then 1.5 hours for lunch.
- more workshops, tutorials and papers, AND... the opening circle for about one third of people, 110 people
- two open space breakout sessions that afternoon, seven topics, no evening news scheduled
- major keynote evening
- more workshops, papers, tutorials AND four open space sessions (75 and 90 minute sessions) adn 15 minutes for morning news/review of opening for those who missed it
- half hour breaks between sessions, as with rest of conference. 1.5 hours lunch. no evening news scheduled.
- big reception in evening
day four - (still to happen)
- workshops, tutorials, papers in morning AND morning news, one breakout, 30min break and last 90min of morn for closing circle with whoever comes, reopening of space for any special projects that might want to be initiated based on proceedings of conference, and also time to discuss links between agile and open space (blatant crossing of facilitator boundaries, of course).
- lunch and farewell keynotes, then 2 more hours available to work in open space on any special projects identified in teh morning and offered to whole group during farewell comments.
- no way to know how many participants have taken part in os
- 20-25 people POPPED out of chairs immediately at opening
- perhaps 35 sessions convened total
- at least one formal 'guru panel discussion' abandoned the formal structure and met in a circle
- some papers rejected by committee showed up in ost
- all proceedings captured in a wiki --- the open space equivalent in web-based software -- see http://www.c2.com for more about this AMAZING stuff. the proceedings are being entered, read, edited, and other non-ost proceedings like birds of feather groups being posted in webbased format, very simple, then the whole thing will be moved to web so it can just continue on, seamlessly. must be the future of something, these wiki things!
- many many ost tutorials and coaching sessions springing up around the facilitator, who will add ost info to proceedings documentation in wiki. facilitator also soaking up local wiki experience from real experts. taking notes for OSONOS (you are coming to australia aren't you????)
WHAT ELSE CAN I SAY? HAVE I BROKEN EVERY RULE IN THE BOOK?
- stayed up almost all night last night installing my own wikiwikiweb software on my website. went in for day two on just two hours sleep.
- staying at home, 35 miles away, so no room to go nap in... this must be just about all the rules broken.
- session topics start falling down from carpeted walls middle of first session. we use huge strips of wide duct tape to tape them back up. overnight, all posters fall down and 10-foot long strips of 4" duct tape gets nearly hopelessly stuck to itself in apparent attempt to eat all of the session topics.
some things that have made a difference...
- first, of course, is that many (but not all) of these folks have open space in their bones AND STILL...
- the opening introduction before lunch gave folks a chance to get ready for opening after
- we announced the a bit of the opening at the intro, principles, law, history of ost so to orient those missing
- also announced that anyone in the room would be able to answer questions... assume 'everybody knows' and just ask
- didn't try to compete with main conference with evening news sessions
- did four of nine breakouts spaces in main room, with computers and 5 others on other side of formal session meeting rooms, at birdfeather locations, which were only birdfeather groups during lunches. this let open space 'embrace/hold' rest of confreance. some complained about the stretch for bees/flies, but others stopped into formal sessions and bumped into people along the way.
- described the format to ourselves as follows, to avoid any competition... 'birds of a feather' groups (whose organizer refused to roll them into open space) came to be understood as special interest groups for issues that were already very well known to many participants. papers, tutorials, workshops formal stuff were issues well known to a few, who were now informing the many. open space was for those issues and opps that nobody yet knew how they might be resolved or where they might lead. the growing edge of the agile world.
- the one rule we didn't break is that we did have a theme: the future of software. agile, development, sales, careers, companies, customers and the rest of the industry was explicitly named as fair game for discussion.
- much talk in opening keynotes about the challenges, needs, etc for connecting planning-driven hierarchical slow development with agile development groups. in the end, they've had first hand experience with this marriage of pre-planned formal conf and ost conference. many want to see more open space at future conferences and i'm all for it. <grin> m
some other observations from closing day, today...
- morning news didn't happen at 8:30, four sessions just started at 8:45
- one of those went 2.5 hours.
- second morning session was for closing. perhaps 30 people cycled through a circle of 20 people.
- then back into lunch and closing keynoters.
- closing was combination of (1) noticing that os track was ending, (2) reflecting on what had happened (3) noticing if any major projects wanted to be announced for anyone to stay and work on in the afternoon, after farewell keynotes and (4) questions about how agile and os fit together.
- most of conversation was on how to grow ost more into the conference, and still publish papers and do tutorials, also how to go home and open space...
- results of early morning planning meeting determined that next year will have more open space. many want all open space, but there is the issue of publishing papers, etc. whatever they do will be great, i'm sure.
some other things that we thought might be next step into
- at next conference, leave opening after lunch on day 2 (after official conference opening on morn of day 2), but do the opening with whole conference, not as a track. then close the whole confereance in open space circle, as well. merge the formal agenda into the ost wall.
- if open and close were done for all, then could keep morn/eve news. if now, then would nix morning news on last day.
- could select/publish papers but make 'posting a topic in open space' part of contract with selected authors
- could announce authors as invited speakers.
- could make a few rooms techno equipped for overheads, etc and give invited speakers first shot at those spaces
- could hookup one of the computers to a projector so that participants could browse the proceedings on the wiki on one wall, a fully browsable, bigger than life news wall (wiki's are hard to print because they're non-linear. also, since they require absolutely no cutting and pasting to aggregate and are super simple to browse, they can be continually edited and linked as the conference continues. amazing stuff, really.
- wiki is live and public on web as noted above. in less time than it took me to drive 35 miles home in traffic. the expectation is that a number of people will be posting invitations to regional gatherings to be experiments in open space, and that the proceedings will continue to be posted back to the wiki, for further consideration.
- was noted that many topics posted in open space were from 'testers' a separate group/function that nobody realized was interested in the work of the conference. the result is that the work of the developers and testers has beginning to grow together in new ways.
- last comment, that a poll done by show of hands revealed that perhaps two thirds or more of participants still around for the farewell keynote had participated in at least part of the open space. a few more voted 'no but wish i did.' some other folks had left already, of course. my guess is that those folks were big open spacers who used their two feet to duck out on the last speeches!