Aside from many enthusiastic messages we’ve also experienced a bit of a backlash, both during and after the Stoos Gathering.
What did we do wrong?
Both Steve Denning and I are guilty of announcing publicly that we were organizing a private event, and asking for input. Such public announcements (and requests for input) have not happened with earlier private events, such as the ones that led to the Agile Manifesto and the Declaration of Interdependence. The consequence of our openness before the event conflicted with some participants’ need for privacy during the event. And, while other events before didn’t broadcast anything, some people found our sudden silence unsettling. We did not anticipate this.
The four organizers, including me, are also guilty of selecting participants and achieving diversity in limited dimensions. We did our best to invite men and women, people from various continents, both thinkers and practitioners, different professions and age groups, and representatives of multiple stakeholders. As a result we’ve been accused of not inviting enough people who are currently acting as managers. I have not heard such complaints about lack of diversity about the Agile Manifesto, which was primarily created by young white male Americans. But maybe the stakes and expectations for our event were higher.
Finally, the whole Stoos group is guilty of delivering results that are not world shaking. This complaint was voiced several times even before the event was finished, and before some of us had a chance to sleep, travel, and prepare and publish blog posts or produce video. In my mind, our event was only meant to make a first step, and to discuss how to make next steps. It was not intended to solve the world’s biggest problems in only 1.5 days. But maybe we were too enthusiastic in our announcements, raising everyone’s expectations. Furthermore, in this new age of real-time news and social network sharing, people expect more and they expect it faster. And if you don’t deliver they will publicly announce that you’ve failed.
Of course, I’m not complaining.
Like the critics, I’m just observing.
In hindsight, the feedback is understandable and obvious. In complexity thinking we call it retrospective coherence. None of us had predicted such complaints, but in hindsight it is perfectly comprehensible. But without direct experience organizing such an event, it is impossible to manage the unknown unknowns. We can only learn and iterate, inspect and adapt.
Nevertheless, we’re happy about all discussions. Because, when people criticize what you’re doing, it means they care about the topic. It would have been worrying if the silence among our readers and followers was more deafening than our own. Furthermore, as someone pointed out, these discussions are a reflection of the complexity of the problem we are trying to address. If everyone simply agreed, there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place!
For now, I want to send thanks to all who have supported us, but also those raising concerns and steering us in a better direction. In some cases, you could improve your language, but maybe so can we. 🙂
"Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.
"At the end of a project everyone knows so much more. Naturally we will discover decisions and actions we wish we could do over. This is wisdom to be celebrated, not judgment used to embarrass."