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An Update on Agile Coach Camps Internationally

| by Shane Hastie on Aug 25, 2014. Estimated reading time: 10 minutes |

Worldwide Agile Coach Camps continue to allow coaching practitioners to share knowledge and experience with a view to improving outcomes for agile teams across many countries and industries. 

Upcoming coach camp events include:

Coach camps are volunteer organised events which typically happen over a weekend and are designed to be cost neutral, sharing the venue and catering costs across the attendees without a profit motive.  Coach Camps run using an Open Space format

According to the Coach Camps LinkedIn group profile:

Agile Coach Camp is about creating a network of practitioners who are striving to push the limits in guiding software development teams, while staying true to the values and principles at the core of the Agile movement. We've invited practitioners who, like you, are passionate about their work, active in the field and willing to share what they've learned. It's a great chance to form relationships that can last a lifetime (and act as a lifeline).

InfoQ spoke to some of the organisers and participants about the events and the value they have derived from attending.

Deborah Hartman Preuss and Naresh Jain organised the very first coach camp.  Deborah explained their intentions:

Naresh and I co-created it, and since we had lots of other ideas to pursue, too, we intentionally did the first one in a way that would help it go viral, and we're so pleased it has!

Naresh contributed his experience organising the successful SDTconf events, I added Open Space and together we used various conferencing and collaboration tools to build a team and make it happen in a distant location that neither of us called home!

People sometimes don't realise how easy it can be to create an ACC event! In the Who Is Agile book I shared some principles that help keep planning, finance and marketing simple thru crowdsourcing and teamwork.

I look forward to celebrating the 40th (that we know of!) AgileCoachCamp event on the beach in Barcelona this November!

It is important to me that these events welcome *anyone* passionate about improving the way we work together. If you're helping improve the workplace, we want you: both official roles like Product Owner, Scrum Master, Coach and Manager, as well as passionate testers, developers and guerilla change agent in any part of the organisation. Educators, researchers, facilitators and other "outsiders" also contribute delightful, fresh perspectives we crave!  Open space events truly do benefit both beginners and experts.

She wrote an in depth post examining the “unconference” nature of coach camps and why the open space format is so effective.

Paul Boos, regular attendee and organiser for the USA events:

I started attending Agile Coach Camp events while I was working for the US government.  I was in a role managing project managers and needed to build my own coaching skills and abilities.  I found the first Agile Coach Camp in 2008 and have attended six now, and been an organiser since 2010. 

Every year the event has a different theme that emerges from the group interaction – the organisers don’t plan it that way the theme emerges from the collaborative nature of the event.  In 2012 it was team dynamics and communications, last year it was scaling. 

The event lets you build knowledge through peer collaboration and focus on the areas which make you a more effective coach.

The Open Space format is ideal for the event as it lets the participants organise the topics they are interested in and looking for. The coaching community are generous of their time and knowledge sharing freely with each other.

Bernd Schiffer, one of the organisers of the upcoming Melbourne event:

I heard about Agile Coach Camps (ACCs) a couple of years ago when I was still living in Germany. I wanted to participate in 2010 and 2011 in Germany, but could not for private reasons. In 2012 I couldn't attend because I was already preparing my move to Australia. In 2013 though Dave Bales and Stuart Bargon organised an ACC in Sydney, and I finally made it to an ACC.

The ACC Sydney was hosted in Atlassian's office, and it was a very nice event. It was finally a proper open space (something that the bigger conferences just can't manage to get right), and I really enjoyed the whole thing. I hosted two sessions myself, got a lot of good ideas, made a lot of new contacts and also caught up with friends.

There were only a few guys from Melbourne at the ACC in Sydney, and when I talked to them after the event, and when I talked to other Agile coaches from Melbourne who didn't make it to the event, it became very clear that there was a lot of demand for an ACC in Melbourne. I reckon that since the ACCs are usually held on a Saturday, to increase the chances that coaches can attend and to make it more informal, it also increases the resistance to travel far for a business event on a weekend. Hence only a few Agile coaches from Melbourne who had enough energy left to make the trip.

I asked Chris Chan, who organises the local Meetup "Agile Coaching Circle", if he would join me in organising an ACC in Melbourne. He agreed, we talked to Dave and Stuart, and we came out with a plan. The plan is that we want to have a better coverage of ACC in Australia, meaning that we want to have a 6 months rotation between Sydney and Melbourne. That way the really nerdy Agile coaches, who want to participate in both ACCs in Australia, can do that. Sydney's ACC will be on August the 30th, and Chris and I are working on a date for ACC Melbourne, but it will be most likely in February or March. ACC Sydney and Melbs will also share website and twitter account, and Chris, Dave, Stuart, and I want to hang out regularly to drive things.

ACC Melbs will be cosy (i.e. small, probably limited to only 50 participants or so). We are already talking to potential venue sponsors, and it looks like as if we are actually able to choose from various offers. Pretty good preconditions so far.

Chris Chan, the other Melbourne event organiser:

I was one of the few people from Melbourne who traveled up to Sydney for Australia's first Agile Coach camp in 2013.  I didn't know what to expect from the event other than wanting to network and meet other people who were passionate about helping others deliver customer and business outcomes through agile ways of working. In the end I caught up with a great bunch of like-minded people and walked away with some new ideas and hopefully provided some inspiration for others.I want to increase my competency as an Agile Coach and help others by forming a community of practicing Agile Coaches. Through this desire I formed the Agile Coaching Circles Meetup (www.meetup.com/agile-coaching-melbourne) in Melbourne to provide support for the role of the Agile Coach.  Naturally Agile Coach Camp is another outlet to learn and become more effective in the role of an Agile Coach and anyone else involved in coaching, training, mentoring and leading Agile organisations, teams and individuals through a community of practicing coaches.  It is a practitioner-run event and the sessions are planned collaboratively on the day with the participants.  I find the peer-to-peer Open Space discussions to be diverse, cooperative, stimulating and interactive.

I am looking forward to the coach camp in Sydney and I am excited about collaborating with Bernd Schiffer in hosting Melbourne's inaugural coach camp in early 2015 and making this a regular event in every coach's calendar.  We want to run the Melbourne coach camp as a grassroots event that is cost neutral with little or no sponsorship other than a sponsor who can denote a venue for us to use.  We want to encourage everyone to bring their best ideas or problem they want help with, unleash their enthusiasm and together we can discover how we can be even better coaches.

Saket Bivalkar, one of the Barcelona event organisers:

A few years back a 1 day Coach camp happened in Madrid, Spain, which did not flourish ahead in next years. A few people from Agile Barcelona and Agile Spain communities decided to revive Coach camp in Spain in beginning of 2013. A decision was taken to host it in Barcelona, Spain, coz of its attractions, the beach and good weather along with nice food, dates were set for October 2013, so as not to coincide with other Coach Camps happening, a location was chosen just a few kilometres away from Barncelona in Castelldefels, with a Venue right on the Beach.

We planned the event to be international so 50% of seats were reserved for people coming from outside Spain and 50% for spanish people. Which worked quite well and we had a nice mix of participants. We also had a guy not related to Agile joining the camp, he comes from Public speaking domain and we arranged for a short talk on public speaking in beginning of coach camp which led to some related topic.  Some photographs from the 2013 event can be seen here.

in 2014 edition of the Coach Camp Barcelona, We will be hosting a half day workshop (with no extra cost) of topics related to Agile Coaching activities which will help us set the stage for next 2 days of open space. ACCBCN is happening 30th and 31st of October and 1st November at same venue as last year. Maximum capacity is of 45 participants and 5 spouse/partner (which is another particularity of ACCBCN).

Declan Whelan, organiser and participant of the Canada events:

I have been most involved in the coach camps in Canada as I kicked-off the first one in 2010. They have moved to different cites each year: Waterloo, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Guelph. The intent is to help build local energy for agile coaching.

The events are primarily an open space usually with a professional qualified open space facilitator. Often there is a theme but I find people typically bring their own interests and experiences and the themes are not strong structural components for the events. Sessions can cover a wide swathe including things like:

  • coaching models
  • conversation models: Pull Conversations, SCARF
  • leadership
  • estimation
  • complexity models
  • games
  • agile roles
  • etc. etc.

Some coach camps add additional elements. In Canada we have evolved to having games to kick things off. At the one in Guelph a lot of the games were drawn from improv theatre which was really cool. In the US, often the first day is a full blown agile games day.

I think most people benefit from the coach camps by getting a chance to re-energize and connect with peers. Some, like myself, have a life altering experiencing, and change their careers. I was at the first coach camp that Naresh and Deb organized and that experience triggered me to become an agile coach. I also know of others that have had a similar experience. A lot of people are looking to "level up" by being exposed to new people and ideas. Some people are just interested in getting to know more about agile.

A real common thread for me is building deep connections with like-minded, energized people. I forged many friendships back in 2008 and still feel very connected to people I met back then.

Naresh Jain now organises a number of conferences and so far has arranged 5 coach camps in India.  The agenda and feedback about the Bangalore event in 2013 can be found here, with a video summary here and the Chennai event here.

Video of participant reactions after a Canadian coach camp can be seen here


Please add any additional coach camp events which might have been missed from this roundup in the comments.

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