On October 21, 2014, I held a workshop at Agile DC conference titled ‘3 Techniques to Raise the Communication Bar on your Agile Team’. I had an hour to convey the three techniques that I had proposed in the workshop summary to a room of close to 50 people. I introduced the audience briefly to Clean Language and we practiced listening skills using the basic questions. Then we learned two techniques from the Systemic Modeling work of Caitlin Walker. Clean Setup and Clean Feedback.
I’ve compiled all the Clean Feedback forms from the participants and posted them here. I’ve also compiled and posted on my blog a full list of followup books and other internet content that will help participants if you wish to continue your journey learning Clean Language. [As a side note, in the intervening month, my conference interview on Clean Language with Todd Charron at Agile 2014 conference was released and that can be found here at InfoQ website.]
Here are my key takeaways from presenting at AgileDC. Each bullet has my observation, the meaning, and the impact – which is the general format for giving Clean Feedback.
1.) I had a strict 1 hour limit. I must be crazy to even attempt my ambitions in such a short time, and the impact is that I probably will not do an hour long intro again in the same way. I would probably pare down the number of exercises and keep it really simple, as suggested by George Dinwiddie in a post-conference twitter conversation. Even though I had a lot of great feedback, the pace was too fast.
2.) The room was full and the feedback reflected that participants were grateful to have interactive exercises as a format at the end of the day. Exercises are very effective and energizing and really help to engage the ‘what’ of the session better than slides. I will continue to hone the exercise rhythm for future workshops so there is enough time to debrief each time as well as to do short live-demos in front of the larger group. I may also try to do workshops with fewer people where there is more opportunity to interact with everyone during the exercises.
3.) A number of people expressed that they enjoyed the workshop – in person – afterwards. Even my boss came and asked for a session for the other coaches back at headquarters. I wanted nothing more than for folks to have a great memory and enough exposure to know that Clean Language techniques exist and that team communication can be enhanced by questions, curiosity, intentionality, and feedback. The impact for me – knowing that some got what I intended – means that I will continue to find ways to teach and share these techniques and to practice them in smaller groups. I currently have a three hour workshop planned with the Mid-Atlantic Facilitator’s group on January 30th, in Washington DC. You can register here if you are local to DC.
4.) Longer term follow up with participants is rare, though I have no doubt that some were stirred by just this brief exposure. I may add a field on the feedback form in the future to optionally collect emails from participants that want to receive more information.
Lastly, a few people were interested not just in the how – which they got from practicing, but the wider context of why. I’ve included some of the key points taken from Caitlin Walker’s book, From Contempt to Curiosity, in this poster, which I had hanging in the workshop space. I don’t think many had a chance to really look at the posters I prepared. The points on this particular one are a great way to close this post – giving you more food for thought (and me too).