Have you ever been to a conference where you don’t know the specific topics of discussion until the morning of the conference? That’s what Agile Open Florida and other OpenSpace Conferences are all about. OpenSpace conferences rely on the attendees through self-organization and spontaneity to create the agenda as part of the conference’s opening ceremony. An overall arching topic is designated for the conference. Meeting rooms are allocated and time slots are defined. At the beginning of the conference, any attendee can write their discussion topic on a piece of paper, get in line, announce it on the microphone to the group and then tape their paper on the big board in an available time slot and room of their choice. You may be an expert on the topic looking to educate others or someone who knows little about the topic and is seeking to draw others opinions to the discussion.
There are four rules and one law of OpenSpace:
- Whoever comes are the right people.
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
- Whenever it starts is the right time.
- When it’s over – it’s over.
Law of Two Feet: Use your two feet to take you where you can contribute, share and enjoy and feel free at any time to leave and join a different discussion. It’s OK to move around. It liberates you and keeps the energy level high.
Agile Open Florida has been utilizing this format in the past and this year was no different. The conference was energetic. Attendees were meeting new people, catching up with old colleagues and exchanging ideas both in and outside of the sessions. You learn so much from hearing others situations, ideas and remedies and just being part of the community outside of your own workplace.
Agile Open Florida was one of many events in the community that allows you to draw from different people’s experiences and expertise. There are also Meetups, Guilds, Slack channels, etc. that are open to all with little to no fees. So if you’re not involved in your community, think about doing so. Find out what’s available in your area. You’ll find you have a wealth of knowledgeable people out there willing to share their experiences.
Many times we focus on the more visible factors related to productivity, but how many mistakes could we erase and how much time could we save with candor? Research by NASA in the 1980s found that “take-charge” pilots made incorrect decisions much more often than pilots who included their crews, even in as little as a 45 second time frame. Healthcare studies concluded that a nurse would only speak up 8% of the time when a doctor was not following the proper hygienic protocol while conducting medical procedures. Efforts that require just your team are 80% more likely to succeed than those requiring cross-team collaboration. Most people would rather stay silent then provide criticism to a co-worker leading to frustration, water cooler conversations, gossip and/or passive aggression. For others the outcome becomes yelling and public berating. Some of these situations could arise in a moment’s notice and likely become emotional, putting you at an even bigger disadvantage. Your body uncontrollably gets ready for “fight” or “flight”. It releases adrenaline and pumps blood to your arms and legs while sacrificing blood to your brain, making the promise of a constructive conversation that more difficult.
Figure 1: The Candor Inc. Radical Candor Quadrant
So what can we do? Kim Scott, co-founder of Candor, Inc., tells us that we need to operate in the “Radical Candor” quadrant (see Figure 1 above) where we directly challenge, but at the same time care for the person we are talking to. It is much easier to give and receive feedback when you feel that the other person cares for you as a person. Many of us can conjure up a vision where we would react completely different to the same message from two separate people. The book “Crucial Conversations” advises if we sense that the other person is not feeling safe with the conversation, then we must step out of the conversation and build safety before continuing. After establishing safety, you identify what you would like as an outcome of the discussion and lead with the facts. Listen and concentrate on the desired outcome and not on winning. The way the message is delivered is important and goes to creating safety. Too many jerks deliver the message inappropriately and then say “I tell it like it is”, thinking this gives them carte blanche to be obnoxious. They are certainly not creating safety with that tact. The flip side of the coin is “sugar coating” the message. If you “sugar coat” the message then many times the recipient will not catch your meaning or gravity of the situation.
If you recognize the benefits of conducting candid and crucial conversations then start with yourself and dig into the available information out there on the topic. We’ll make a lot of progress and save a lot of time with proper candor.
For a more detailed understanding on this topic, read the book “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny and visit Candor Inc.’s website at http://www.radicalcandor.com