Women in Agile and Open Space: A match made in … Cleveland?

By Nicole Derr

Photo Credit: April Jefferson

It was an unseasonably sunny and warm Saturday morning in October when a diverse collection of 40 women and allies met for the first ever Women In Agile Open on the banks of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland. We arrived from locations as far afield as Seattle, Washington D.C., and Florida, and as near as across town. We all turned up to discuss issues related to the theme “Unlocking Potential Together”.

The Open Space format turned out to be a perfect match for the organic, collaborative, and   supportive nature of the women in attendance. Each attendee had the opportunity to lead sessions, which provided a rich and varied collection of topics and conversations.

We contemplated a wide range of topics, including “Retrospective Sharing”, “How to Define a High Performing Team”, “Something Other than Sorry”, “Language Matters”, “Unmasking Imposter Syndrome”, “Rapport Mapping”, “Agile Meets Primary Education”, and “My Culture is Messing with my Agile Success”. We also played two collaboration games, and made plans to revamp a quiet Women in Agile chapter in Atlanta and begin a new chapter in Cleveland. Not bad for two days’ effort!

The venue couldn’t have been more inspiring. Who wouldn’t be in their best frame of mind on a literal boat? Modern, bright, and open meeting spaces, both inside and outside, provided a waterfront backdrop that definitely aided the relaxed and friendly feel of the event. If you sat quietly for a moment (which attendees were often invited to do), you could even feel the waves gently lapping at the boat. It was like a vacation … with 40 of your best girlfriends. Of course, the food, including brunch and high tea, and social events, including a happy hour, karaoke at a nightclub, and wine, dinner, and dancing on a sunset cruise, might have also contributed to the vacation effect.

In the closing ceremony, attendees were asked to reflect on the past two days and share their thoughts. Overwhelmingly, attendees expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn from, and be supported by, others who “look like them”. Old connections were rekindled and new connections were formed. It was unanimous that Women in Agile Open should become an annual event. We’re already looking forward to next year!

Photo Credit: Gagan Marwaha