Taking Responsibility in proposing a session for Agile 2011

I talk around the world at conferences about agile, leadership etc.
Getting a session accepted is in itself an art.
When I proposed my first agile session together with my father, years ago at Xpdays benelux. We decided we would propose a session and only when it was accepted we would create the session.
The session was rejected. When looking back at it, they were right. We had only a vague idea.
The rejection gave me a lot of energy and we created what became the very succesfull leadership game.
Before we proposed the game the year after that, we had already played it. And before the conference we did another dry run.

I see the agile 20xx conferences as the big agile conference. Almost like the father of the agile conferences (with Xp20xx as the mother)

Because of that I only propose sessions that I have delivered at other conferences and I know they work.
This year that way of working has given me lots of problems.

I received reviews that troubled me. They troubled me so much that I wanted to withdraw my 3 sessions.
I will use Christopher Avery’s Responsibility proces to explain what happened.

Lay Blame
When I first received some of the remarks, I felt badly treated by some anonym review.
Now I have big respect for reviewers as they have to review somewhere around 40 session proposals.
From these 40, they can only select I think 10 or so for a stage.
That means they will have to reject 3 out of 4 sessions. (The numbers could be higher and the rejection % even much higher)
When you have to reject that many, in my opinion you look for any reason to reject. Instead of helping to improve my session.
The language of some of the reviews (not comments) were not really helpfull.
F ex “put effort in the submision please”, that remark was done on a proposal where I had already spend more then 40 hours.
More, I had already received 5 comments on the session and had adapted my session every time, always within 24 hours. I knew I had put in effort.

Yes I blamed that anonymous reviewer.

Slowly I started to create my story.

  • I did put in a lot of effort
  • The session is already 2 years old, I don’t need my session proposal to create my session as so many other clearly did.
  • I’m not a native English speaker so my English is not good enough
  • I’m concentrating on my new job
  • This year I’m focussing on work/life balance
  • I find the agile games book I’m working on, more important then updating a session proposal
  • If I create more session proposal feedback on a lot of session, maybe I get more feedback that actually helps me to improve my session.

>> All true, but non of these stories did help me to improve my session.

Then I arrived at the island of shame. I might be a good presentor, I’m not good at writing session proposals.They will never accept my sessions at Agile 2011.
Oh yes. I have also a uncertain boy hidden in me. My track record has given me the confidence that I am a good speaker. The hassle I have everytime to get my session accpeted, has not yet given me the confidence to see myself as a good session proposer (especially as every conference has it’s own strange proces) So shame is pupping up every time I propose a session.

Of course that is also not helpful in improving my session.
Somewhere in the proces of twittering about it, I remembered a coaching session I had with my personal coach. Then later that day, I was talking about at my client about  the Responsibility Proces, I realized I had to I started to think about this to see where I was.   Aha but I know that proces, I know I’m on the shame island. Knowing that moved me to the next island.

The next step is obligation. What could be obligation. I did not know. I’m not sure it is because it is a hard step for me or because of the recognition I kinda skipped this step al together. I started to think about writing this blog post.

I think a typical obligation step would be: I followed their proposal proces, I rewrote my proposal taking into account all the comments I got. And still my proposal is bad. I did everything they wanted me to do.

And then it struck me, that is what Lisa Crispin is tweeting me about: yves forget the proposal website, make a video and say what you want to say about the session in your video.

And that is what I have done.  5 minutes after I added the link of the video to my session proposal, an old friend contacted me. After chatting for 2 hours with him about all kind of stuff, I look at my proposal again and a new text flew out of my fingers. I’m much happier with the current proposal of my talk about Trust

That is Responsibility.

I would like to thank

Update: Today I was reminded about the great post that Mitch Lacey did last year.