Monday AM: "You Are Here. You Want to Go There?" (Session 3, Johanna Rothman) This was a session about assessments - in particular, how an assessor (such as Johanna) might go about assessing an organization. A sample assessment report (250Kb PDF) is on her website. For me, the value was in learning ways to look at my own organization (at the Current Paying Gig).
Monday PM: "Reading the River: Using the Organizational Currents to Get You Where You Want to Go" (Session 5: Don Gray) This turned out to be more of an exercise in identifying what the organizational currents might be than ways to figure out what any particular organization's currents actually are. Still useful for me, although not quite what I'd hoped for.
Tuesday AM: I had planned to attend "Seeing How the Work Works" (Session 10, Esther Derby); however, I found myself having to work on issues back at the Current Paying Gig. Definitely not what I'd hoped for.
Tuesday PM: I had planned to attend "Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Managing Risks" (Session 16, Steve Smith); however, when I got to the room, I found it was cancelled. Instead, I attended "Agile Program Management: Another Approach to Large Projects" (Session 15, Johanna Rothman). This involved an exercise in which two project teams attempted to create unique greeting card designs, and created one of the funniest scenes of the conference. One of the requirements was that each card had to have at least six lines of verse inside the card, My team came up with a fair amount of English-language doggrel. The other team, however, was mostly comprised of folks from Sweden - and their verse was all in Swedish. (Well, it certainly sounded like Swedish.) Poor Johanna nearly died laughing, especially when the Fourth of July card was read aloud...
Wednesday AM: "The Budgeting Black Hole: Predicting the Unknowable" (Session 7, Johanna Rothman) Another simulation exercise, this time involving making paper flower baskets. Apart from seeing the communication difficulties involved when project teams are spread across multiple locations, the thing that struck me most about this session was how accounting principles can drive companies to waterfall-style lifecycles. Waterfall approaches can be easily treated as capital expenditures (since you're not getting any value until the project goes live), and capital expenditures get tax advantages that operating expenses don't.
Wednesday PM: "Move Over Big Boss, The Servant Leader Is Moving In: From Mandate and Monitor to Guide and Support" (Session 22: Esther Derby) This session was aimed more at managers (especially those with command-and-control styles) than folks in the trenches like me, but I still found it valuable. After all, I might find myself a manager some day...
Thursday all-day: "Know Your Options: Solve, Manage, Cope or Exit" (Esther Derby, Don Gray, Johanna Rothman, Steve Smith) I'd signed up for the all-day Thursday session before the topic had been announced, simply because I felt certain it would be worth my while regardless. As it turned out, this was a great session for me, given some of the more frustrating things going on at the Current Paying Gig. One point in particular was the seductiveness of the "if I just do this enough, it'll all work out" trap. Another was the remarkable effectiveness of reframing the initial problem statement in opening up new options.
AYE may or may not be held in Phoenix next year, depending on the fate of Arizona's new anti-immigration laws. It'll be held somewhere, though, and I plan on going.