Archive for August, 2011
Karl Scotland and I have helped coordinate the organization of the bag stuffing each year for the last three years. It’s a great time because of the awesome group of volunteers showing up and the mindset of “I’m here to learn something while I help out” that’s so pervasive.
The flow of bags was very effective at the end of the day last year and this year we simply started where we left off last year with the same design. Thanks to some great pre-work, we knew where everything was and what needed to go in each bag, so the briefing of the volunteer staff took less than 15 minutes and we were ready to go.
The team got moving and each zone quickly solved any issues that arose, continually improving and adapting how they worked to the needs of their specific area. We got done a couple hours early, and everything pretty much “just worked” better than could be expected.
So, when I’m asked to lead a retrospective, what do I do? Everything went so well, and learning was incorporated so rapidly, that a simple plus/delta seems utterly pointless. The plusses have been amplified, and the deltas have been changed, why should we write them down? So here’s what we did…
We gathered in a standing circle, grabbed a spare piece of swag to use as a talking stick, and each answered one simple question: “What did you learn?”. After sharing, the group reflected the individual’s statement back in a simple phrase appropriate to a sticky note. . As each of us answered, we sat down to bring focus to the people still wanting to speak. Best of all, the “people in charge”  did and said very little, and learned quite a bit.
Why did it work? Well, as I mentioned above, many of the volunteers were there to learn. The bag stuffing has filled up in the first volunteer sign-up round (of four) each of the last two years. The process execution was well beyond “good enough”, so it seems like the right thing to do is help people take away more than just their own perspectives. With a majority of volunteers having English as a second (or more!) language, the reflection portion ensured that the individual’s perpective was conveyed clearly and helped to ensure that people were able to absorb the statements effectively. More interestingly to me, the “what did I learn” style questioning seems to have drawn out positive emotions in a way that other retrospective formats haven’t been able to do in my experience.
Here’s to next year!
 Karl captured them here.
 Specifically, Karl and I as facilitators were able to keep our mouths pretty well shut.
I’ve not been blogging lately. I haven’t really been pushing things to twitter, either. For a while, I thought I was just lazy, and perhaps tired from travel. I’ve lately come to see that this isn’t the case. Good or bad… I don’t write for myself.
I write for others. I write for people who care about what I have to say, who use it to improve their own lives. I write for people that have a passion for learning, for exploring ideas, for changing the world around them. What do these people want?
I really have no idea. Looking back at my blog, I realize that most of my posts are the result of an amazing conversation I’ve had with somebody, or the result of reading somebody else’s work and being inspired to extend or evolve it in some way. When I hear from others which bits they find valuable, they are uniformly the cases where I write because somebody says “you should post this.” My inspiration is a reflection of shared passions.
So what’s this mean? It’s changed my behavior a bit. I’ve not written anything “just to write it”. I’ve focused much more on the people and ideas that are around me, especially inside of Rally. I’ve paid more attention to which trends and areas I find myself passionate about. I brainstorm with my peers around ideas before starting my writing. I’m exploring crowdsourcing initial drafts internally to Rally, and may open that beyond. I’m looking at the needs of various groups to see which ones resonate as ways of selecting topics. I’ve started involving others in my writing.
Starting with this post, I’m actively inviting others in my community to pull content from me. Tell me what you feel I should write about, what ideas you’d like me to extend, what basics need better coverage. Help me to understand what’s valuable, what’s engaging, what will help you create your own reality. And I might just ask you to write with me.
Enter User Voice. On the right bar of the blog, you’ll see a tab flagged “Suggest Topics” Throw them out there, and I’ll listen. If you wish, vote up the ideas of others. Pull the content you value, the material that inspires yourselves and others. Join me in my new experiment.
…and for those who read… Thank you!