I have been attending Agile Coach Camp for the past several years. My first ‘camp’ experience was Indianapolis. Having never attended I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was nervous but not disappointed.
Immediately I felt a sense of belonging. These are my people. There are a few reasons I keep coming back. First, it’s the people. You are not just an attendee, you are a friend, its one large extended family. There is a kinship. Everyone makes you feel welcome. Lifelong friendships and business partnerships have started at camp. The second reason is how much I learn. I am always amazed at the amount of knowledge in the room. More importantly, the willingness to share that knowledge. I always leave having learned something new or a different way of looking at an old idea, a new approach. Finally, it’s the openness. Most everyone (let’s keep it real) is open to the conversation, to listening to other people’s thoughts and ideas. We may not always agree but we are always respectful.
So, whether this would be your first camp or a returning attendee, I hope you can find time in your schedule to attend. If you see me there, please say Hi. I love meeting fellow agilest.
In April 2008, I was fairly new to Agile and a little uncertain about many things, having just been laid off from the company where I’d worked for 11 years. Over dinner one evening, a friend casually mentioned “There’s this coach camp thing happening soon – you might want to check it out”. When I got home from dinner I looked up the event (“it’s this weekend!?”) and scanned the position papers to see who would be there (“wow! I would really like to learn from them!”). So I took a deep breath, submitted my own position paper, and made the arrangements to travel on my own into the great unknown to see what this was all about.
What I found was:
Community – At ACC I encountered a fascinating mix of folk who shared a common passion for agility, ranging from a couple of the authors of the Agile Manifesto to beginners like myself. What really touched me was how everyone in the room was so approachable and willing to share their expertise and experiences. And there were so many women! I really felt like I had found my tribe. And I met people from all over the world who have since become friends, colleagues, and business partners. Connections made at ACC 2008 in Ann Arbor have directly led me to being part of Agile Partnership, to Play4Agile in Germany (the start of another professional love affair), and to being invited to serve as a theme chair at Agile India in 2014. And to serving the global agile community as a member the board of directors of the Agile Alliance…and to who knows where next?
Open Space – Deb Preuss (one of the instigators of Agile Coach Camp) had previously tried to explain Open Space to me, and to be completely honest my initial reaction was “Really!? That can’t possibly work. That is *not* how professional people have serious meetings”. But when I saw Open Space in action, facilitated by someone who understood how to create just enough of a container to foster self-organization, I began to see the light. So I’m an Open Space facilitator now. I’ve facilitated an Open Space for 800+ people. And on another memorable occasion I facilitated an Open Space for a group that included Harrison Owen – I keep his
marketplace poster offering a session on “self-organization” on my office wall.
Inspiration– The useful information exchanged during sessions, the extreme amount of fun both during the Open Space and hanging out after hours, and the new friends I made all contributed to giving me a sense of connection and optimism about my work as an agile practitioner that energized and accelerated my work.
Attending ACC helped me figure out what I want to be when I grow up (note: I’m still waiting on the ‘grow up’ part), and laid the seeds for a number of things that have happened since then. Agile Coach Camp Canada 2011 in Montreal grew from a conversation that began at ACCUS 2008 while playing “Yes, And…” during a session on Active Listening (“wouldn’t it be great if we could do something like this in Montreal?”) and which picked up steam at the first ACCCA in Waterloo in 2010 where a carload of agile folks from Montreal came looking for me “because we heard you want to organize something like this in Montreal – we’d like to help!”. My ACCCA 2010 experiences also gave me the confidence to pitch my very first conference talk later that year at Agile Tour Montreal, which has in turn led to dozens of talks.
Since 2008, I’ve attended 16 Agile Coach Camps in 3 different countries and have connected remotely with a couple of others – there are now at least a dozen ACCs around the globe each year – because for me ACC is the place where I learn the most. I encourage you to come and join us for ACC 2018 in Ann Arbor. Maybe it will change your life too.