Author: Gerry Kirk

Introducing Agility Cafés: inspect and adapt, with a latté

Today a few of us from last week’s Business Agility workshop gathered at Dish to tackle issues getting in our way to delivering more value for ourselves, our companies and the clients we serve.

The format is simple: bring a topic or two you want help with, together we’ll prioritize them and tackle them in order of importance to the group. When the owner of the topic is satisfied with the response, we move on to the next one.

For our first gathering, we had 3 excellent topics:

  1. How to get management to buy into the full power of Scrum (and not just window dressing)
  2. How to satisfy customers
  3. How to make time for high, important but less urgent tasks aka why does the urgent always seem to take priority?

At the end, everyone rated the hour from 1 to 10 on a value received scale and shared what would have garnered a perfect score. Everyone scored high. The only improvement offered was one person’s wish to be more prepared with questions. All in all, a great first experiment.

Want to come to the weekly Agility Café? Contact Gerry to be put on the mailing list.

Food tip: the eggplant peanut soup at Dish pure awesomesauce

Watch history unfold as first female Sault Mayor inaugurated

I’ve never been to Council Chambers before, except to see my friend Mhem from Burma become a Canadian citizen. On Monday, I’ll made my second trip for another historic event. Debbie Amaroso became the first female mayor in Sault Ste. Marie. Debbie is an incredible person and I am excited about the passion she has for community engagement.

I was there with my iPhone, OWLE, and tripod streaming the event live. You can watch the recording below. The best part is the first five minutes, with the pipe and drum procession, singing of O Canada by a darling little girl, followed by Mayor Amaroso’s swearing in and speech.

Business Agility Workshop – Decision Making @ The Speed of Modern Business

Reposted from the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre web site:

Join the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre on Monday  November 29, 2010 for the Business Agility Workshop. This full-day workshop will be held at the Algoma Water Town Inn from 9:00 am until 4:30 pm. The cost to attend is $100, however if you register by November 17 you can take advantage of our early-bird discount and pay just $50.

Learn how to accelerate business performance by:

  • Eliminating bottlenecks to increase productivity
  • Embracing change for competitive advantage in an increasingly fast-paced world
  • Fostering creativity and innovation in the workplace
  • Delivering higher value faster by focusing on what is most important
  • Cultivating a motivated and happy workforce.

The workshop will feature interactive and hands-on learning exercises, focused instruction on techniques, time to discuss unique challenges, and practical tools and knowledge that you can begin using in your workplace immediately.

This workshop normally has a value of $400, but is being made available here for $100.
Register by November 17 – You can save even more with our early-bird discount and pay just $50.

Download the registration form here


Register by contacting:

Angie Wagner: (705)942-7927 ext. 3133 or [email protected]

Workshop facilitators:

Gerry Kirk helps organizations and groups self-organize to generate creative and innovative work spaces for higher productivity and happier environments. He works as a coach, trainer and consultant, specializing with small medium enterprises and distributed environments. Before coaching Gerry spent 10 years as a developer, QA manager, then project manager. His passion is building a community where everyone can reach their true potential and together create astonishing results. Locally, that includes Ignite Sault, Soo Podcamp and on a bigger scale Change Camp Sault.

Selena Delesie: Selena Delesie is a coach, trainer and consultant who runs her own company, Delesie Solutions. She has more than 10 years of experience in the software industry, primarily coaching, leading and managing for a broad-range of leading-edge technologies. Selena facilitates the evolution of good teams and organizations into great ones, using individualized and team-based coaching and interactive training experiences. She is an active speaker, participant and leader in a variety of software associations and conferences. Links to Selena’s published works, blog, website and contact information can be found at

Coaches: crowd-sourced solutions for starting Agile transitions

Agile 2010 is just around the corner, and I’m doing a little happy dance as this is the first time I’m leading a session at a major conference. Yeah, that rocks, and I’m team up with the talented and equally good looking Michael Sahota.

Agile 2010 Session: Look before you leap – Agile readiness assessments done right
When: Thursday, 1:30 pm (90 minutes)
Level: Expert
Who should come: Geared to experienced coaches hired to help new clients transition to Agile

Why attend?

A common approach to help get clients started with Agile is to undertake a readiness assessment to:

  1. Understand current challenges and goals
  2. Understand the environment and technical practices
  3. Decide what techniques (Scrum, Kanban, collocation, pairing, etc) might be suitable
  4. Build a plan with them of what a transition to Agile might look like

Unfortunately there is very little written about how to go about this. Hence, this knowledge-sharing workshop to define this better.

The workshop involves active participation so come ready to share your experiences and learn from others.

Workshop road-tested

We’ve overhauled the session twice, after taking it on the road to Agile CoachCamp Canada and running a condensed online session. We’ve discovered that what coaches like more than anything else is a chance to connect and share stories, so we’ll provide ample opportunity for that, and the connections to keep the conversation going afterwards.

The photos are from the online workshop. The final product was a collection of specific activities coaches are already using. Given how much was done in a short time virtually, we’re anticipating a huge wall of collected wisdom at the conference!

Reasons given why coaches conduct readiness assessments (click to view larger)
Assembled bag of tips and tricks for assessments (click to view larger)

Learning Outcomes

  • Have a clear understanding of assessment objectives and purpose
  • Leave with a variety of experienced-based approaches to assessments, understanding strengths and weaknesses of each, as determined by participants
  • Become aware of challenges and pitfalls, and steps to mitigate them
  • Have greater confidence in conducting your next assessment
  • Expand your connections with others doing assessments

There are lots of great sessions in the program on agile adoption, ranging from specific approaches to case studies. This workshop is the only one specifically on how to get started with an engagement by using an Agile assessment.

We do plan to post the results of the workshop, possibly in an e-book, so come contribute your knowledge and become famous.

P.S. This post is also on the Agile 2010 Community web site, which I put together to help people share, connect, organize. You can promote your session there too.

ChangeCamp: An organizer’s perspective

Three weeks ago I had the awesome privilege of facilitating an open space event for the first time. Called ChangeCamp, it was held in my home town of Sault Ste. Marie. This is my reflection on the day as an organizer and facilitator, in the hopes other ChangeCamp groups can learn and be inspired by our local experiment.

ChangeCamp Sault is both the fulfillment and start of a personal dream. I attended the first ChangeCamp at Toronto in January of 2009, then my first experience of open space. Over 200 participants actively engaged in answering the question: how can we re-imagine how government and citizens engage each other in an age of participation? It was an exciting day, full of shared ideas, new connections and belief that we can act to shape our collective future. I knew then that I wanted to create that same experience in my own city, which would be something entirely new. In open space, the people who come set the agenda and engage in open participatory dialogue. At the time the idea felt risky – how would people respond?

The event was held at Sault College in the Native Student Centre, a circular room with plenty of glass windows to let in the sun, a perfect gathering spot. The College was very supportive, providing the facilities at no cost and even covering some of the food cost. We had a lunch catered by their food provider, provided free to participants.

We were pleased to have over 50 people register for the event, given a busy weekend of events and the start of summer holidays. The group had a healthy mix of old and young, men and women, newcomers and long-time residents. To my surprise, I knew hardly anyone there. Due to other events a number of people left early or came late, which made facilitating a little more challenging.

We chose to keep the day shorter by having 3 rounds of sessions, including a ‘getting to action’ time at the end of the day, and a brief lunch. My experience with PodCamp is that people run out of energy mid-way through the afternoon. This turned out to be a good choice. A number of people had left before the end, and those that stayed still had energy for the closing circle.

Setting the stage during the opening circle felt like the most important part of facilitating the day. I shared some of the history that led up to ChangeCamp, including Ignite Sault and Soo Podcamp, two smaller event ‘experiments’ that were tried to test the waters. I asked people to get up and sit beside two people they didn’t know and, without instructions, people started introducing themselves – a healthy sign. The rules of open space: 1/n, bumblebee and butterfly were covered, and the grid explained. People were challenged to make the conversations they came to have happen.

What was the result?

Mark Kuznicki, founder of ChangeCamp likes to say that there are two outcomes: the connections made and the content created. Both are valuable. Through being connected, people felt encouraged, with greater hope for our community’s future. One newcomer remarked that she now felt a part of the community.

My great epiphany is that these connections are the seeds of change. No matter our cause, our ambitions, our hopes and our passions, to bring about change, we must also invest in building community, for a connected community is at the root of all the change we seek. I’ve spent time on many causes and issues over the years, often feeling like little progress is being made, or that bringing about change is hard, at times grueling work. ChangeCamp showed me a different path. I’m having more fun and feeling more successful by nurturing community, through which change will occur.

Tips for organizers

These were essential ingredients for us having a successful event:

  1. Live the ChangeCamp experience as you organize the event. When the organizing team works in an open, participative way, where individual passions are nurtured and talents harnessed, you have the nucleus for a successful event. I used my Agile experience to help with team formation, planning and facilitation.
  2. People matter. This was the most diverse group I’ve ever worked with. We had marketing, technical and political savvy. One person had a lot of spare time to do a lot of necessary grunt work. Combined we had numerous key connections in the community. A group of 7 people felt about right for us.
  3. Tools matter. We’re all busy volunteers who need to work together effectively with the limited time we have. Digital tools are necessary, but only work if there is buy-in. Our group found a “sweet spot” of simplicity and feature-set that amplified our efforts significantly. Next week, we’ll be presenting our tool set at a ChangeSalon event. We’ll post a follow-up to that event to let you in on our tool stack.
  4. Event design matters. Mark Kuznicki, ChangeCamp papa helped a lot with shaping our event. Combine expert knowledge from someone like Mark with knowledge of the community and your goals for the event to help determine the best format. We were fortunate to have learned from an earlier event in designing this one.

I feel like I could easily write 4 more posts on our experience, but we’ll see. My commitment to blog writing is not what it used to be.

Good luck with your next event. Hopefully I’ve shared something useful. Come back in about a week to learn more about tools that can help your team succeed.

No place to go

My experience of church growing up was that of an extended family. We attended small rural churches of no more than 50 people. Many a Saturday night after church (there was one paster for 4 parishes, Saturday at 5 pm was our time) was spent at someone’s house, where the adults chatted about deeper matters over egg salad sandwiches and the kids played all sorts of games. Fr. Eric, our priest back then and still a good friend likes to remind me of the time he suggested I find a mass to go to while out of town at a hockey tournament, to which I replied, “Why would we go? We don’t know anybody there.” From a young age, the people I gathered with was integral to my faith experience.

Church continued to have a significant place in my life. I stayed active, serving on parish council, organizing a youth group, leading social justice initiatives. I remember organizing a skit with the youth with me as Jésus, a Mexican coffee grower promoting fair trade. We travelled from parish to parish with our message and a car full of packaged coffee. In university I copied Protestant friends by bringing a notepad to church to take notes during the sermons. I even considered becoming a priest, attending a come-and-see weekend at St. Peter Seminary in London as part of my discernment process. In the end, Rowena won and the church lost, as Eric put it in his homily for our wedding.

Fast forward to today, where I have been seriously struggling for over a year to find meaning and fulfillment in my experience of church. In a world where I can interact, dialogue and connect, sitting passively in a pew, going through the same rituals every Sunday no longer satisfies. As a community we do not know each other, going through the motions week after week. Some continue to do volunteer work year after year, despite how unfulfilling it is. What has changed? The world and my faith journey have evolved; the church experience has not.

My work is partly to blame. As an Agile coach, my goal is to help organizations and teams transform their experience of work, where the core roots: respect, courage, focus, commitment and openness can flourish. I have tasted many times the fruits of collaborative work, where all voices are valued and heard, leading to consensus decision making. The Agile community has taught me we do our best work when we can be creative, have fun, feel a sense of purpose; that servant leadership and self-organized teams trump top-down control for results.

Agile is a way of looking at and experiencing the world that matches my personal values, values that were shaped in part by those years growing up in small church communities. I use my experience with Agile to better family life – my wife and I have weekly planning and retrospectives. Agile training helps me create an inclusive atmosphere for volunteer efforts like ChangeCamp Sault. I have often imagined the beauty of a self-organized, empowered church community.

Last October, I began an experiment to apply Agile to take steps towards creating vibrant church community. I was blown away by what this small group accomplished in just their first session – imagine an entire parish community engaged in creating its own vision! Imagine being part of a community actively working on “lives connected”, “positive power”, “bonding mission” and “spiritual partnership”. That’s what I long for. Of course, defining and creating are not the same thing, and I soon realized that major, fundamental change within the Catholic church would be necessary to achieve this vision. Governance model turned upside down. Parishioners given real authority and input. Focus in the mass shifted away from priest, choir and ministers to the people in the pews. Major systemic change that feels so far away from becoming reality.

Unfortunately, there is no real dialogue about the elephant in the sanctuary. Well, I’ve had enough suffering. Sadly, after almost 40 years, church has become an impediment to my faith journey. I feel a sense of loss, with no place to go, only that God is calling me to something greater. I know I am not alone. Starting now, our family begins a journey outside traditional church, meeting in our home, praying for direction. We invite others who thirst for more to come join us and help create that vibrant faith community. In a follow-up post, I will share more about this turn to organic church. I do not know where all this will lead, only that I have to go this way to be true to myself and my beliefs. Egg salad sandwiches optional.

4 online tools for engaging, connecting, sharing at conferences (part 2 of 3)

This is part two of a three part series on creating an online presence to enhance the conference experience. In the first post, I outlined needs for information and to connect conference goers which these tools can address. In part two below, I list my  digital tools of choice. In the third segment I will discuss a simple strategy for using these tools.

So what’s a way to address all of those needs without spending tens of thousands of dollars and hiring a team of iPhone wielding, Twitter buzzing social media peeps? If I were in charge of defining a solution, I would include these in my toolkit:

Note: I’m not covering Twitter, YouTube and Facebook here, though you definitely need them. I will discuss how to use these social media juggernauts together with the tools below in the next post.

Event Social Gymnastics: SCHED

SCHED is an interactive event calendar, personal agenda builder and social networking tool. This tool is simply awesome, and I know of no other tool in its category that comes close to its feature/price point. SCHED was originally developed for the king of conferences, SXSW. Look what you get for a mere $800:

  • Event calendar with colour-based categorization, live search, and detailed session pages. Filter events by category, date, venue, company, subject, audience, geographic area and most popular events. Highlight most popular events to help attendees figure out what to attend.
  • Attendees can create and save a personal schedule and share it with others. Export schedule to use in Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar or just print it out. Share via email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks.
  • Attendees can better connect socially by seeing a list of who else is attending, including their network of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn friends. A group schedule of current friends is also automatically generated showing you the events your friends are planning to attend.
  • Arrange meet ups by viewing attendee’s schedules and contacting them through their personal profiles.
  • Attendees and presenters can discuss sessions by adding comments to each session’s page.

Sustainable bonus: instead of printing out schedules, attendees can print their own, customized to their liking, or just refer to it on their mobile device.

Administration bonus: manage list of published events using a familiar spreadsheet format

Toss in another $300 and your event gets its own iPhone app with a full schedule preloaded for offline use, with search and filtering capabilities.

View full list of SCHED features.

Agile 2010, the giant gorilla you are, please put this tool on your list to help nearly 2000 attendees feel less overwhelmed connecting with each other and choosing between 200+ sessions.

Online content hub: Posterous

I had my big a-ha moment with Posterous using it as a community blog for the 2010 Orlando Scrum Gathering. I needed a blogging tool that makes it super easy for several contributors to publish and distribute content, with a minimum of effort. Posterous is the answer.

The process is simple. Email a post, attaching any type of document, image, audio or video, or just link to the file online. Posterous handles media smartly, embedding videos, audio and documents, creating photo albums, posting PDFs. Hook up sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and have your content automatically posted to them. All with the effort of creating one email. Makes a one person social media team look mighty smart. 🙂

Live publishing: ScribbleLive

ScribbleLive is a free tool that a conference can use to capture the conversations, sights, sounds (hopefully smells coming in a future release) in real-time. Conferences like Mesh have used ScribbleLive to create live blogs per session. ScribbleLive will also (for a fee) create a custom portal listing all the live blogs related to an event.

Key features:

  • Super simple to use. I’ve shown people who have never live blogged before how to get started in less than 5 minutes. It’s like Twitter or Facebook – type in a box and update.
  • Pull in all tweets using a hash tag. People are already tweeting about your conference, this puts them all in one place, in real time, archived online. Any photos linked in tweets are displayed. Post ScribbleLive postings back to Twitter.
  • Self-organization. Set up the live blog links, and invite anyone logged in to participate as a live blog writer.
  • The iPhone app works really well for posting and watching content.
  • Upload audio / video for viewers to watch / listen to instantly.

Bring the online conversation offline: Twitter Fountain

I tried Twitter Fountain for the first time at the 2010 Orlando Scrum Gathering and it was a big success. People enjoyed conversing while watching the constantly updated series of Twitter posts and images. Like a big visible chart, it shows what people are saying and sharing without having to go online and check.

For consideration: timely, shared feedback: SpeakerRate

In my search for a decent feedback tool I recently discovered SpeakerRate. SpeakerRate is the one tool I’ve listed that I haven’t actually used, other than to check it out. I first discovered PodCamp Toronto using SpeakerRate to provide more details about topics and to obtain feedback for presenters. It’s simple enough to use, though registration is required (please integrate Facebook/Twitter logins guys). Reviewers rate content and delivery and can provide constructive feedback via comments. Presenters build up a rating over time if they use this tool for multiple presentations. Worth considering, though I’d like to see SpeakerRate integrated with another tool like SCHED for a more seamless experience.

Those are my tool selections that I believe a small operation can use effectively without a ton of effort to greatly enhance the conference experience. What would you add/remove as part of your essential toolkit?

This is part two of a three part series on creating an online presence to enhance the conference experience. In the first post, I outlined needs for information and to connect conference goers which these tools can address. In the third segment I will discuss a simple strategy for using these tools.

Connect, share, engage: how to amplify your conference with an online experience (part 1 of 3)

This is part one of a three part series on creating an online presence to enhance the conference experience. In the first post, I outline needs for information and to connect conference goers which these tools can address. In part two, I’ll list my  digital tools of choice and then in the third segment I will discuss a simple strategy for using these tools.

Last year I attended Mesh 09. That was the first conference I’d been to where I think *everyone* had a Twitter account. Sessions were filled with people tweeting and live blogging. I followed the conference hash tag to keep up with what was happening, sometimes switching rooms because of what others were posting. Events that use social media like Twitter and live blogging amplify the value of the “hallway conversations” that are often the best part of conferences. The conference felt more alive, and in turn I got more value from going.

Over the past few years I’ve volunteered to help a number of events use social media to amplify their value and impact on participants. From experience I can say that with a little effort and knowledge, integrating social media into the conference experience does not have to be onerous or expensive. All the tools I use are free, and there are ways to automate part of the effort. Remember, too, once there is an environment in which everyone can participate and share, you don’t have to generate all the content – grab your paddle and jump in the content stream with others.

If I were in charge of social media for a conference, I would start first by identifying the needs people have around information and connecting. For this round of research I sat down with myself for an in-depth interview. Well, I was available and close by.

I see four stages participants go through related to a conference. For each stage I’ve identified needs. While some needs span across stages, I refer to them once to avoid unnecessary duplication. I know you’re busy.

Should I go to the party?

AKA deciding whether to attend the conference or not

  • Sessions: where can I find more detailed information about them? What do others think of them?
  • About presenters: where can I find more detailed information about them? What do others think of them? How can I contact presenters with my questions?
  • Network: who else is going that I might want to meet?

Dress up: getting ready for the party

Getting closer to the event

  • Network: contact people in advance, organize meet ups, discuss what is coming up
  • Sessions: decide which sessions to attend. What sessions are other people going to, especially people I know?
  • Accommodations: find someone to share a room, airport taxi. What lower cost alternatives are there to the conference hotel?

Party time

Ok, we’re there.

  • Network: find people to connect with in real-time, organize meet ups
  • Sessions: decide which sessions to attend. What sessions are other people going to, especially people I know?
    • last minute changes to schedule, sessions
  • Feedback: timely, useful session feedback to presenters and conference organizers
  • Conversation: what are the hot topics? What are people thinking/doing/sharing? What stories are being told by the people at the conference?

The morning after

  • Feedback / telling the story: what are people saying and sharing about their experience of the conference?
  • Network: find for those people you met but don’t have contact details for to continue discussions, follow up on opportunities, request copies of incriminating photos.

My experience is conferences not social media savvy don’t address these needs well, and miss some entirely, especially when it comes to connecting people with each other. Fortunately, all it takes is a reasonable effort and cost to bridge the gap. In the next blog post I’ll list the tools you’ll want to use to become a conference social media superstar.

How does this list compare to what you need? Have I missed anything important? Add your comment below.

This is part one of a three part series on using digital tools / social media to enhance the conference experience. In the first post, I outline informational and connecting needs conference goers have which these tools can address. In part two, I’ll list my  digital tools of choice and then in the third segment I will discuss a simple strategy for using these tools.

My Ignite Sault 3 talk: Change the Room

Last night I had the opportunity to share my passion and experiments with building community with an electrified audience at Ignite Sault 3. Ignite talks are 5 minutes long, 20 slides, 15 seconds a slide auto-timed. It took me about 5 days(!) to compress a detailed subject with lots of moving parts into the format. Not for the faint of heart. I hope the other presenters had an easier time of it. The talk starts with my experience of a small group creating its own future and building it, through a work-based coaching circle, then moves on to talk about the potential we have here in Sault Ste. Marie, if only we can better connect and support each other. I share my experiences of launching Ignite Sault and Soo Podcamp, ending with a passionate pitch for ChangeCamp Sault, a movement one year in the making. In fact, Ignite and Podcamp were planned as smaller steps to make ChangeCamp possible. For now, here are the slides. Later on I’ll have the talk on video to share.»>