After about 30 minutes of introduction from participants I was still not ready to discuss Agile and the theory behind it. This was our first meeting. I wanted to delay diving immediately into discussing what I knew about Agile as a practitioner, and a coach. I wanted us to discover about each other, endure conversations, engage in discussing topics that brought us together – like change of career, transition in personal and professional lives, wanting to learn and know more etc.
Thus as a perfect immersion to a collaborative environment, I decided to model the rest of the afternoon on “open space”. Each session was for 10 minutes, with 5 to 7 minutes of talking followed by Q&A. We had 5 minutes between each session for regrouping, preparing. Everyone had to attend and was not offered the option to be a bumble bee or a butterfly!
Participants were encouraged to negotiate and move a talk to another slot so that they could maximize their attendance. A few sessions were not attended. The host may have been disappointed, but also learned that not everyone had solutions to topics, and that was not a failure. We added these topics to our backlog. Thus by immersing in multiple back to back sessions, people learnt more about each other, offered to help, discovered areas of potential collaboration.
Participants also learnt how a modification of open space could be used to resolve conflict. By making topics anonymous and gauging interest by dot voting, team leads could facilitate open space around topics, thus eliminating the need for a topic owner.