Agile Open Southern California 2015

This is Heidi Helfand, Director of Agile Coaching at AppFolio. Senex Rex offered its blog to let folks know about a conference called Agile Open Southern California, on September 10 and 11, 2015 at UC Irvine, and I’m grabbing it!

If you haven’t been to an Open Space conference, here’s your chance to experience self-organization in its most open-ended form. Using the open space technology, participants create the conference schedule “live.”

An open space coach conference I attended a few months ago can provide an example. We started each the morning in a large circle. A facilitator opened the event by walking inside the circle, telling us how open space technology worked, including a rundown of these “guiding principles”:

  1. Whoever comes are the right people.
  2. Whenever it starts is the right time.
  3. Wherever it is, is the right place.
  4. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have, be prepared to be surprised!
  5. When it’s over, it’s over.

Everyone agreed to follow the Law of Two Feet: if you are in a session or situation where you aren’t learning or contributing, you should get up and go somewhere else.

The organizers invited participants to propose sessions they want to host, using provided markers and paper. You didn’t need to be an expert to host a session. People offered questions, perspectives and ideas for sessions they hosted. It’s about sharing and learning together.

As people felt inspired, they walked to the center of the circle, and wrote the name of a session they were planning to host during the day. Bryan walked to the center and wrote TDD with Lego on his card. He announced what his session would be like, and then placed his card in a time slot on the wall. Sally proposed a session on coaching techniques for new teams, and placed her card in a different time slot. This continued until no one proposed another session, and then all participants went to the wall, looked at the completed schedule for the day, decided which session they would attend in the first time slot, and then the conference started.

I thought it was an incredible, collaborative event and I made a lot of friends. The size of this conference was about 60 people.

Consider attending this event, especially if you haven’t attended an open space conference before. Who knows, you might get hooked like me and start helping to plan these things!

To sign up and find out more, visit:

By Heidi Helfand

Heidi Helfand has 16 years coaching and influencing cross-functional teams at pioneering web software companies. At Expertcity, Inc. (acquired by CitrixOnline) she was on the initial team that built GoToMyPC, GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar, the products which have made Citrix Online one of the largest SAAS companies in the world. She is currently the Director of Agile Coaching at AppFolio, Inc., a SAAS workflow software company with property management and legal practice management software. Prior to that, Heidi consulted for the State Dept on website development, and has taught ESL at several US Universities. She has an M.A. in teaching from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC) and Associate Certified Coach (ACC) through the International Coach Federation (ICF).