Politeness wins, everyone loses: My experience from the Agile Finland Seminar May 2010

I don’t have a blog for posts regarding Agile or software development so I’ll post this here. If these posts seem to invade this blog then I will have to consider refactoring them into a separate blog.

Yesterday I went to the Agile Finland Seminar May 2010. The venue was Nokia’s building in Ruoholahti, Helsinki. The speaker was Lyssa Adkins, author Coaching Agile Teams. The schedule of the seminar consisted of two 45 minute slots: the first was for Ms. Adkins’ speech and the second was for discussion. The arrangements, the venue and the coffee and sandwiches were great, no complaints on those. The content of the seminar however left much to be hoped for. And it wasn’t just because of the organizers and the speaker.

The speech contained some interesting insights, but in general was too broad and generic for my liking. Lyssa Adkins did not go into specifics or details when describing the attitude and mode of working when coaching but instead used metaphors and big words. The best that I got out of the talk was that agile coaching crosses over with several other disciplines, for example teaching, facilitating and conflict resolution, but even on that she did not offer many examples or concrete advice.

The Silent Man by !borghetti from Flickr (cc-licensed)The discussion part was even worse for me: there were a couple of polite questions for the speaker but conversation died pretty quickly. It seemed like the speaker tried to keep the conversation open and not force her own agenda on it, but I don’t think the resulting silence justified the decision. The blame does not go solely to the speaker in my mind. I could have voiced my concern about the vague nature of the speech and asked for specifics on how to achieve those things Ms. Adkins was talking about, but politeness restricted me from confronting the speaker in such a “rude” way. I think that the same applied to at least some other attendees and hence we missed a great opportunity to talk about key coaching issues with a real expert.

So, the main thing for me to take home from the seminar was to try to become better at asking the hard and often not so polite questions without sounding like a complete jackass. Or, failing that, doing that when needed even though that would mean that I would come across like a complete jackass.

So, thanks for the organizers, and sorry that we blew it. I promise to do better next time 😉

The image: The Silent Man by !borghetti, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0

4 thoughts on “Politeness wins, everyone loses: My experience from the Agile Finland Seminar May 2010

    • Thanks for the comment.

      I feel the need to re-iterate that I don’t necessarily see the talk or the seminar as a complete failure, even though I may have sounded quite harsh on the original post. The tools you gave to evaluate myself as an agile coach are valuable to me and I’ll probably use them in some way in the future. It’s just my regret that we didn’t use the whole potential of the event as I saw it. But as I said we’ll do better next time.

  1. Anttiki:

    I didn’t take this as a harsh thing at all. Here’s my belief: we will all do better next time. (By the way, I think I did do better at Agile Holland this week – I gave more information about what’s “in” each of the coach’s allied disciplines, such as Coach as Facilitator, Coach as Teacher, etc).

    • Glad to hear that and congrats on improving the talk. I hope I’ll be able to catch one of your presentations or coaching sessions later sometime!

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