2009 AYE conference report

The 2009 AYE (Amplify Your Effectiveness) conference was started by Jerry Weinberg about 10 years ago. The conference is designed for people working in the software industry but aims to increase their effectiveness by increasing awareness at the personal and team levels.

This years conference was held at the Embassy Suites hotel in Phoenix Arizona on Nov 9th, 10th, and 11th. The weather was hot and sunny as you'd expect in a desert city. The hotel is clean and spacious and air conditioned, the rooms likewise, and the staff friendly and helpful. It has a large heated outdoor pool with an accompanying jacuzzi, a spacious veranda area and an open-tent area for eating outdoors.

I've read that Jerry started the conference to win a bet he made whilst attending another conference he was not impressed with. It's therefore not too surprising that anything remotely resembling a powerpoint presentation is banned and always has been. Instead the conference emphasizes simulation and experience. The website at http://www.ayeconference.com/ contains a wiki full of material spanning many years and is well worth a look if you are interested in attending.

Each participant's name badge revealed their Myers Briggs personality type (you are asked to do an online test before you arrive). This provided an interesting topic of conversation but was only very lightly used during the scheduled sessions. Many of the sessions were role play type games, typically organized into teams.

The conference is limited to 80 participants on a first come first served basis. $300 dollars reserved a space and the total cost depended on how early you paid in full (reserve later and its dearer). Paying at the earliest opportunity meant another $900 to pay. Plenty of drink and snacks are provided together with a buffet style midday meal. On top of this the hotel room costs about $100 a night which includes an excellent breakfast. Add to this an evening meal and the flight.

The conference felt a lot like a non-technical version of the ACCU conference. It had a very relaxed atmosphere and yet at the same time was quite intense at times. I really enjoyed it and found it a very valuable experience. I met lots of great people and plan to attend in 2010.

Agile Coaching

is the title of an excellent book by Rachel Davies and Liz Sedley. As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
Coaches work one step at a time rather than creating a whirl-wind of change.
Patience is one of the most important qualities of a coach.
We find the hardest part of listening is resisting the temptation to jump in too early with advice or to switch the conversation to a similar story that happened to you.
People usually speak much slower than you can think, which is why it is so hard to give your full attention when someone else is talking.
You have to do more than suggest a course of action for people to follow it. You need to lead the way by explaining why it's important and then show them how to get started with it.
Your focus is process improvement, not individual performance.
Each change they adopt reduces their resistance to the next change.
Take care not to ask questions when you actually want to give guidance.
When people start caring only about their own tasks, teamwork starts to break down.
Useful information should be visible to all and not hidden away in computers. Plans kept electronically are information fridges; they give up their information only when they are opened.