AYE 2010 Conference

Sunday, November 7 – Thursday November 11, 2010

More Conference Information | Sign up for the newsletter

Sunday Session
AYE WARMUP TUTORIAL, all day with Esther Derby, Don Gray, Johanna Rothman, Steve Smith (Warmup) (Optional, extra tuition)

Sunday Evening
WELCOMING BUFFET DINNER, 7pm

Monday Morning Sessions
Connect the Dots: How Simple Diagrams Reveal Hidden Dynamics (Session 1), Don Gray
Lifting the Veil: How Visible and Invisible Structures Drive Organizational Behavior(Session 2), Esther Derby
You are Here. You Want to Go There? (Session 3), Johanna Rothman
“Feeling” isn’t a Four-Letter Word (Session 4), Steve Smith

Monday Afternoon Sessions

Reading the River: Using the organizational currents to get you where you want to go (Session 5), Don Gray
Mind Meld: Improving Customer Conversations(Session 6), Esther Derby
Coaching the Coaches (Session 19), Jerry Weinberg
Organizing Teams for Productivity (Session 8), Steve Smith

Tuesday Morning Sessions
Team Patterns (Session 9), Don Gray
Seeing How the Work Works (Session 10) Esther Derby
Coaching is a Two-Way Relationship (Session 11), Johanna Rothman
Coaching Your Personal Board of Directors (Session 12), Steve Smith

Tuesday Afternoon Sessions
Coaching the Coaches (Session 13), Jerry Weinberg
All Together Now: Facilitating Group Decisions (Session 14), Esther Derby
Agile Program Management: Another Approach to Large Projects (Session 15), Johanna Rothman
Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Managing Risks (Session 16), Steve Smith

Wednesday Morning Sessions
Where Do We Go From Here? (Session 17), Don Gray
Fresh Catch (Session 18), Esther Derby
The Budgeting Black Hole: Predicting the Unknowable (Session 7), Johanna Rothman
Power, Authority and Teams (Session 20), Steve Smith

Wednesday Afternoon Sessions
Coaching Team Improvement (Session 21), Don Gray
Move Over Big Boss (Session 22), Esther Derby
Coping With Change in Your Life (Session 23), Johanna Rothman
Fresh Catch (Session 24), Steve Smith

Wednesday Evening
AYE CLOSING DINNER, 7pm

Thursday All-day Workshops (end at 4:30 pm)
Know Your Options: Solve, Manage, Cope, or Exit (Esther Derby, Don Gray, Johanna Rothman, and Steve Smith) (Session 25) (Optional, extra tuition)
Back to Top


SESSION DESCRIPTIONS

The AYE Warmup Tutorial
(Esther Derby, Don Gray, Johanna Rothman, and Steve Smith)

After the 2000 AYE conference, participants commented that a pre-conference tutorial would add value for new participants. They envisioned a full-day event that introduced participants to the vocabulary, such as “ENTJ” and “congruence”, shared by the people who would return to the conference. They suggested that a tutorial would not only provide value to those who had not encountered the vocabulary before, but also to those who had and wanted a review. Since then, we have offered the “Warm-Up Tutorial” to make it easier for everyone to participate from a shared understanding of the basics. It’s been a big hit.

The design of an AYE session is different than most conferences. The basic format of the typical conference session is one or two presenters talking from the front of the room to people seated in row after row of chairs. At AYE, session leaders use simulations to create shared experiences. People are often out of their chairs solving problems. When they are in chairs, they sit facing each other discussing their experiences and gaining insights from them. We believe that this approach enhances learning, and we’ll use it in this tutorial too. That means that you’ll have an opportunity to participate, determine what happens to a great extent, and have fun doing it.

We’ll introduce you to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and several of the tools, techniques and concepts of Virginia Satir, such as: triads, safety, feedback, congruence, making contact, the communication stances, and the interaction model.

Join all the hosts to warm-up before the conference starts by experiencing the shared vocabulary, models, and freedoms of the AYE Conference.
Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 1: Connect the Dots: How Simple Diagrams Reveal Hidden Dynamics
(Don Gray)

According to Russell Ackoff, “Today’s problems are yesterday’s solutions.” We’re taught to solve problems in school. School problems involve linear thinking and simplifications. This allows the teacher verify we’ve learned what they think is important and find the “one right answer” to the problem.

Unfortunately, solving problems this way doesn’t work well when dealing with people. People behave in complex ways, not in linear fashion. They adapt and change in ways we don’t expect when we try to improve. In an effort to find the “one right answer” we simplify and ignore relevant data. This means we build incomplete pictures of the problem we’re trying to solve.

I worked with one client who wanted their agile teams to improve estimating. Management decided to grade team members on how well they met their time estimates every two weeks. This made team members unwilling to pull work into a sprint. Even though they could get more work done, it meant they would be graded down for missing their estimate.

In this session you’ll learn a way to connect the dots that gives a more complete picture. Having a more complete picture means fewer surprises. The value in this process comes from finding things you didn’t consider and missed cause-effect relationships.
Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 02

Session 2: Lifting the Veil: How Visible and Invisible Structures Drive Organizational Behavior
(Esther Derby)

Managers want to improve results in their organizations, and use the tools available to them. One of the common most common tools is re-organization. Managers seek the optimum arrangement of people, processes, and work to achieve goals–creating new teams, here, new reporting relationships there, and a ramped up process or two. These changes can have a dramatic effect, though often the one desired.

It’s easy to say that the change was ill-conceived, ill-designed, poorly implemented, or scuttled by resisters. While that is sometimes true, even a sound design will fail when it doesn’t take into account the informal and invisible structures that pervade organizational life. Seeing the hidden structures opens possibilities for action and avoids pitfalls.

In this session, we’ll do a simple simulation and they analyze patterns of behavior based on the visible and invisible structures at play. We’ll also peek behind the veil of your organization as we work in small groups to analyze the interaction of structure and behavior where you work. When the invisible becomes visible, you will see more options for action.
Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 3: You Are Here. You Want to Go There?
(Johanna Rothman)

Do you wonder if your projects are progressing as smoothly as they could be? You may be considering a transition to agile and would like to know how far away you are. You might be considering a reorganization for more effective projects. Whatever change you’re considering, you need to know where you are now.

Relying on your gut is not enough. Data will help you understand what people think and feel about their work, where the bottlenecks are, and how product development actually works in your organization.

An assessment of your project, process, or organization provides you a qualitative and quantitative view of your current situation. A valuable assessment doesn’t have to cost a million bucks and it doesn’t have to come from the outside.

I’ll share some of the questions I use to start an assessment and we’ll address how you can adapt those questions and manage the issues of assessing from inside the organization. You’ll have the opportunity to conduct an assessment conversation with another person, to gather data, and then examine the data to see some organizational and/or project patterns. You’ll see areas to consider for intervention, and we’ll discuss how to make specific–rather than one-size-fits-all–recommendations for your organization.

Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 4: “Feeling” is Not a Four-Letter Word
(Steve Smith)

Some people think feelings don’t belong in the workplace. They believe rationality is the best approach to solving all problems.

Regardless of what people would like to think, people don’t stop having feelings and emotions just because they are at work. Feelings are facts. When managed properly, they become an asset to solving problems.

However, when feelings are ignored, they are the biggest barrier to successfully problem solving. For instance, if you carelessly interrupt Leonordo in mid-sentence and switch subjects without regard for him or what he is saying, he will become angry. Others who are treated the same way may feel hurt and just stop contributing.

In Leonordo’s case, he becomes embarrassed about his anger. He tells you neither about his anger nor his embarrassment. He sulks and plots his revenge. When he does exact his revenge in an ensuing conversation, he disguises his feelings as pure rationality. You argue with him over facts that you don’t know about so you go round and round working on a problem you can’t solve.

We will use simulations and group discussions to explore feelings and questions like: How can people who prefer using their feelings to solve problems work better with people who have other preferences? How can people who prefer pure rationality work better with people who don’t? How can we transform feelings so that they aren’t barriers to successful problem solving?

This session will be equally valuable to managers and individual contributors, anyone who has feelings or works with people who have feelings.

Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 5: Reading the River: Using the organizational currents to get you where you want to go
(Don Gray)

Advanced kayaking involves using the river current to help you get where you want to go. Too much effort means you’re working against, not with the river. With experience you learn a proper line, short stroke, and good lean works better than a lot of muscle.

It’s the same with your development process. You can change big. Big changes take effort, time, money and resources. Or you can change small. Small, simple changes properly executed and stacked one on top the other can get you where you want to go, more customer value out the door.

In this session we’ll develop a process. We’ll use questions like:
- What causes the most pain?
- What provides the most value?
- What is the simplest thing that could work?
to help find improvements so we’re working with, not against the river.

Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 6: Mind Meld: Improving Customer Conversations
(Esther Derby)

It’s not easy to build the right product. People sometimes don’t know exactly what they need, want things that won’t help, and don’t imagine what’s possible.

Agile project capture requirements on cards that contain a statement of want and benefit and notes on how to confirm the need is met. The intention isn’t to fully document the requirement on the card, but to make a note and create a reminder for a conversation with the customer.

Whether you are using agile methods or traditional requirements, valuable products start with understanding the customers context, their problems, what they want, and how they use a product.

However, most people aren’t born with the ability to speak naturally in user stories or fully formed requirements statements. So we must learn how to ask the right questions, draw out pertinent information and understand the customer’s world in those conversations.

In this session, you’ll learn about different types of questions, and when to use them to learn about how the customer currently uses a product, the problems they experience with the product, and problems that new features in the product might solve. Then, we’ll put that to work in practice interviews.

Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 7: The Budgeting Black Hole: Predicting the Unknowable
(Johanna Rothman)

Does budgeting waste your time? In many organizations, the finance people are frustrated with the managers’ inability to predict the budget accurately. Managers feel frustrated by having to predict a budget they are held accountable to–but the budget is fiction within weeks, if not days.

An organization cannot run well without a budget. But a budget doesn’t have to be a time-consuming annual frustrating futile exercise in prediction–knowing that the budget ism’t worth the paper it’s written on. Incremental budgeting, along with incremental delivery of work provides the finance people with the data they need, and the product developers with the framework they need.

So if incremental budgeting is such a nirvana, how do you get there? How often do you budget/rebudget? What are the triggering actions for rebudgeting? We will explore these questions in the context of a project, where we will periodically deliver value to the organization. We will see which work actually delivers value and can help predict budgets, and which work does not deliver value that helps with budgets. We’ll explore how management actions and delivering increments of work enables incremental budgeting.

Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 8: Organizing Teams for Productivity
(Steve Smith)

When you are a member of team, what hopes do you have for productivity? My hope is for synergy — productivity that is clearly superior to what the sum of the individual members’ productivity might have been working separately.

Productive teamwork — that’s the desire. But how do you organize the team to achieve it?

A school of thought is epitomized by Michael Winner, a British film director, who says, “A team effort is a lot of people doing what I say.” I have a negative reaction to this point of view. But Mr. Winner’s approach to teamwork has produced successful films.

Another school of thought is epitomized in the Agile Manifesto, “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.” This school of thought sings to me. And I have seen it produce remarkable results in the context of software development.

What are the limits to directed and self-organizing teams? That’s an example of a question we will explore. We will use simulation and group discussion to explore the role that context, teamwork and management plays in organizing successful teams.

This session will be especially valuable to managers who are involved in the creation of project teams and for individual contributors who seek more information to advice management on creating successful project teams.
Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 9: Team Patterns
(Don Gray)

Sitting around the table with the ScrumMaster and his team, I quickly noticed Jack was the team’s big dog. Once he weighed in on the user story, discussion ceased, the team agreed with him, and the discussion moved on. When I re-connected with the client two years later, I learned that Jack had been transferred and the team’s velocity almost doubled.

Welcome to the “Uneven Participation” team trap. When a team experiences uneven participation one person or small group dominates the team’s interactions. Quiet team members fall by the way side. The team loses valuable input and dialogue. Frustration sets in and lack of buy-in creates false consensus, yet another team trap. Team traps occur when team interactions reduce the team’s ability to deliver value to the organization.

Using a series of projects, we’ll explore team traps and develop strategies for dealing with them.

Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 10: Seeing How the Work Works
(Esther Derby)

Often, when managers want to improve results in their organization, they focus on hiring “better” people, removing dead wood, increasing skills, and boosting motivation. Of course, organizations need smart people with the skills and desire to do the job. But even smart people can’t excel in a workflow that generates re-work, delays information and stymies them at every turn.

For example, one manager I know wanted to break down the skill silos in his development group by raising each developer’s knowledge of every module. But the results where the opposite of what he’d expected. It wasn’t until he put pencil to paper and followed the work flow that he realized what his plan had set in motion.

In this session, we’ll sketch how work flows through a group. We’ll look for hand-offs, delays, and fixing work and see how they affect the productivity of the group. Then we’ll see what ideas we have about improving the work flow to make everyone more productive.
Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 11: Coaching is a Two-Way Relationship
(Johanna Rothman)

Many of us have experienced sports coaches, where they helped us stretch for the crawl, turn in dance, or catch a ball. But sports coaching tends to be just one kind of coaching–and not necessarily the kinds of coaching you need to provide or hear at work.

Coaching is one of the most important–and most difficult–responsibilities of leaders. Too often, people struggle and fail when it comes to coaching others. Coaches may try to impose their style on someone else for whom it doesn’t fit. Some coaches try to transfer “best practices” regardless of how well they fit the organization. Other coaches talk too much.

Coaching is a two-way relationship between a coach and the coachee. But not all the learning is on the coachee’s side. If a coach is not learning as he or she proceeds with the coaching, the coach shortchanges the coachee.

We will explore how to recognize when you are the right coach–and when you’re not. We will explore multiple coaching techniques so you can select the ones that most fit you, the other person, and the context. We will practice coaching in several ways and see which ones you prefer, and which ones you might need to practice more. And we’ll see how to learn as you coach.

Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 12: Coaching Your Personal Board of Directors
(Steve Smith)

Each person has a personal board of directors. The board members are the parts of ourselves that are constantly interacting inside our head. If your board members constantly bicker and fight, these inner conflicts manifest themselves as dysfunctional behavior.

Pioneering family therapist Virginia Satir used a process, a Parts Party, to aid people in accepting, transforming and integrating their parts. With their parts no longer feuding, people behaved more functionally.

We will use a variation of a Parts Party to convene a meeting of a participant’s personal board of directors, for instance a meeting between the parts who head marketing, sales, finance, education and recreation. Every participant will have a role in the process of creating and running the meetings. Our goal is to reveal the state of the interactions of today’s board members and transform them to be more functional and effective.

This session will be equally valuable to managers and individual contributors.

Join me to learn how to coach your board of directors to work together so their work adds more value to your personal and professional life.

Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 13: Coaching the Coaches
(Jerry Weinberg)

This session is a coaching practicum, with participants coaching one another as coaches. These coaching scenarios will be the basis for illustrating deep principles of good coaching, such as,

  • Making contact
  • Creating and adapting a contract
  • Coaching vs. consulting
  • Coaching vs. managing
  • Following the Rule of Three
  • Perceiving the Big Picture
  • Using meta-questions
  • Handling “resistance”

Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 14: All Together Now: Facilitating Group Decisions
(Esther Derby)

Have you had the experience of watching smart people argue endlessly over which technology to use? Have you walked out of a meeting believing the group had agreed, only to find out that five different people thought they’d agreed to five different things?

People in our industry pride themselves on their brain power and ability to make good decisions. And most of us are good at thinking, learning, and deciding–on our own. When we work collaboratively on interdependent work, though, we need to think and decide as a group if we want to realize the benefits of the team effect.

In this session, we’ll experience a group decision. Then, we’ll look at the pieces and parts of the process to see what we can learn about how groups think and decide togther. We’ll tease out the techniques that will help you help groups take advantage of all their expertise, see other points of view, and arrive at high-quality decisions.
Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 15: Agile Program Management: Another Approach to Large Projects
(Johanna Rothman)

Have you ever waited weeks for one piece of functionality so you could release a large project? Have you been in the situation where the software is waiting for the hardware? Or, where the database admin held up the entire release because his work wasn’t coordinated with the feature-based teams?

Program management is the art of coordinating several sub-projects to a common objective. Until the parts are assembled into the whole, the parts have no value to the organization.

Agile approaches help manage risk for projects, and we can scale agile approaches to programs.

In this session, we will create a program and run it in an agile way. We’ll experience how to report and obtain status, how to create and maintain a coherent architecture, and how to coordinate teams who are focused on their sub-project deliverables to create an overall deliverable for the organization. We’ll examine the issues of how to organize the teams, synchronize iterations, and know when you are ready to release.

Whether you work in an organization that uses agile methods or more traditional approaches, you can learn new ideas about managing programs in this session.

Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 16: Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Managing Risks
(Steve Smith)

Risk management is a gamble. Y0u bet — invest time and energy — to protect the organization from risks that may harm it.

You can receive abundant guidance on how to place bets to protect an organization from the risks to technology systems, such as from floods, blizzards and earthquakes. But much less guidance about managing the risks to human systems, such as a team.

For example, I worked on a team who suffered from a flu epidemic. Member after member became sick. Productivity sunk forcing the scuttling of carefully crafted schedules.

Many organizations ignore the whole question of risks to human systems. Whether its done consciously or unconsciously, they have chosen to don’t worry and be happy.

We will use simulations and group discussion to explore: Patterns in how organizations consciously and unconsciously manage risks in their human systems; which risks participants believe deserve attention; which risks don’t deserve attention; and strategies for gaining risk management investment — bets on protecting the organization.
Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 17: Where Do We Go From Here?
(Don Gray)

Efficiency means doing things right. Effectiveness involves doing the right things. Becoming more productive requires being both effecient and effective. But how do we do that? Employing the Agile Principle of “the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly” the team can do both. In short, the team conducts a retrospective.

Retrospectives form the basis for continuous improvement. The continuous cycle of inspect and adapt allows the team to experiment with changes. Some changes may focus on efficieny while other changes look to effectiveness. The iterative, incremental changes allow the team to check the results and decide if they want integrate the change into their process or try something else.

In this session we’ll do a project, and participants will experience a process for creating:
- a common understanding built on each member’s experience
- shared insights gleaned from the common understanding
- an agreement on what to do next

Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 18: Fresh Catch
(Esther Derby)

We’ve reserved the Fresh Catch for sessions that reflect our newest thinking.

Watch this space!
Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 19: Coaching the Coaches
(Jerry Weinberg)

This session is a coaching practicum, with participants coaching one another as coaches. These coaching scenarios will be the basis for illustrating deep principles of good coaching, such as,

  • Making contact
  • Creating and adapting a contract
  • Coaching vs. consulting
  • Coaching vs. managing
  • Following the Rule of Three
  • Perceiving the Big Picture
  • Using meta-questions
  • Handling “resistance”

Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 20: Power, Authority and Teams
(Steve Smith)

What are the boundaries to management’s power and authority when it comes to teams?

Clashes between management and members of a team happen in both traditional and agile organizations.

Joseph, a manager, may clash with the members of a team if he feels they are usurping his power and authority. He may interpret a team’s communication as concern about only their needs and zero for his. He would like them to respect his role and realize his manager expects him to exercise power and control the same way as other managers in the organization.

Team clash with managers, like Joseph, when they feel management’s request aren’t relevant to their goals. Requests that seem frivolous, such as annual performance reviews, puzzle the team. They wonder — why is management slowing us down? They think — leave us alone; let us do our work.

These clashes create a boundary between management and the team. Many organizations refuse to discuss that boundary. But for us, people from many organizations, it’s a boundary that’s discussable.

We will use simulations and small group discussions to explore the the dynamics of power and authority between teams and management looking for boundary patterns. And we will propose methods for changing those boundaries.

This session will benefit managers who seek to partner with teams that report to them while simultaneously staying up-to-date and influential. It will also benefit members of teams who want to ally with management so everyone produces the results they need.
Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 21: Coaching Team Improvement
(Don Gray)

Learning new skills and development processes requires time and effort. In the end, we hope for improved productivity. Having someone with experience in the new area coach the team can reduce the time and effort needed to get this improvement.

Coaching has many facets. One part involves facilitation – helping make the change process easier. Another part has coaches giving advice to the team around options the team might consider, but leaves the decision to the team.Occasionally the options advice becomes more guiding suggeting” What would happen if you tried this?” Another part of coaching could be pairing with a team member demonstrating and practicing techniques.

In this session we’ll do exercises exploring the coaching facets and how they affect performance. Participants will learn strategies and actions to add to their coaching toolbox.

Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 22: Move Over Big Boss, the Servant Leader is Moving In: From Mandate and Monitor to Guide and Support
(Esther Derby)

For years, managers have been taught that their job is to delegate and direct, mandate and monitor. And, one might argue, they’ve been quite successful.

But new research shows that traditional management and directing people what to do isn’t always the most effective way to get things done. This is especially true with the younger generations entering the workforce, and in organizations who have decided to harness the creativity of self-organizing teams.

If you’re a manager who wants to re-think management and renegotiate your relationship with the teams you support, this workshop will provide you will tools to navigate that change.

We’ll learn tools that will help you determine which decisions the team owns, which they participate in, and which ones are the sole prevue of management. We’ll look at how to establish the boundary within which the team has free-reign. And we’ll examine the too-typical oscillating pattern of too much/too little management control.

Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 23: Coping With Change in Your Life
(Johanna Rothman)

In September 2009, I lost the hearing in my right ear, was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor, and was told my vertigo was likely permanent. These events pushed me to re-examine how I live my life.

We may not want change, but it happens anyway. What defines us as a person is how we adapt to change.
In this session, we will take a look at what makes us adaptable, how we make choices and how to build a more adaptable approach to our lives. It doesn’t matter if your change is about eating habits, writing, managing projects, developing, testing, or in your personal relationships, the change process is the same. The key is discovering the tools you need for adaptation.

We will explore the kinds of tools you can use through your change and how to create a life where adaptation is something you practice.

Back to Top

Session 24: Fresh Catch
(Steve Smith)

We’ve reserved the Fresh Catch for sessions that reflect our newest thinking.

Watch this space!
Comments and More
Back to Top

Session 25: Thursday Workshop: Know Your Options: Solve, Manage, Cope, or Exit
(Esther Derby, Don Gray, Johanna Rothman, and Steve Smith)


You’ve spent the last few day at AYE learning how to recognize and solve problems. But, as you may have experienced, not all your problems can be solved, especially if they are part of a larger system.

Suppose, as a leader of a weekly meeting, you notice that people arrive 10 minutes late because their prior meeting ends on the hour and your meeting starts on the hour. You can manage the problem by starting your meeting at 10 minute past the hour. You haven’t solved the big meeting problem–which may be ineffective meetings, self-inflicted coordination overhead, or poor formal communication channels–but you have managed the problem within your purview.

Other problems do not have a solution. You must find a way to cope with them (or not). For example, if you have an abusive boss, you may be able to recognize that his anger comes from his own vulnerability and let it roll off your back. But for some people in the same situation, that coping may not work. When the personal price for coping is too high, it’s time to exit.

In this workshop, Esther, Don, Johanna, and Steve will guide you through examining problems through simulations and group discussion. You will learn which approach–solving, managing, coping or exiting–may provide better results to your organization and, most importantly, to yourself.

Please join us for a full-day of exploring problems, fun and learning.

Back to Top

Not sure about participating in AYE yet? Sign up for our low-volume email list.