Exit Interview: Marie Haller

Yesterday, we completed the last bootcamp of 2013! Many thanks to Dana, Jess, Marie, Brooking, and Eugene for being such great bootcampers. You can see them above assuming their power poses.

I have lots of learning to synthesize and share, as well as announcements to make about the future. In the meantime, here’s Marie’s exit interview. Like Anna before her, Marie is a repeat bootcamper, so she brings an interesting perspective to the whole experience.

New Dates for Last Changemaker Bootcamp of 2013

Thank you all for the tremendous interest and support regarding Changemaker Bootcamp these last few weeks! I’ve learned a lot through the process of officially launching this project, and as always, I plan on sharing those lessons here.

The first lesson: Don’t schedule a bootcamp right before Labor Day! Several people expressed interest in participating but could not make the dates. As a result, I am rescheduling the dates of the next Bootcamp to Tuesdays, 3-5pm, from September 17 through October 22, 2013 (pending confirmation on the location).

The shift also means that this will be the last bootcamp of 2013, and so if you’d like to participate this year, this is the one to enroll in. Application deadline is Tuesday, September 10, 2013, so don’t wait to apply!

Finally, as I posted previously, I’m also starting to explore a pilot bootcamp for organizations or networks. If you’re interested in exploring this for your organization, please email me at bootcamp@fasterthan20.com or call 415-513-5385.

Notable Projects: Seb Paquet’s Project Kitchen

Even if Changemaker Bootcamp became successful beyond my imagination, in order to change the mindsets and behaviors of people doing change work around the importance of practice, we will need a lot more services and structures supporting that practice. We need the social change equivalent of the millions of gyms, bootcamps, fitness DVDs, etc. That means many more people need to be doing things like this.

I haven’t seen very many instances of services that are offered in the same spirit of bootcamp, but if they’re out there, I want to hear about them. And when I hear about them, I want to share them with others. One that I do know about is an experiment from my friend, Seb Paquet, a culture hacker based in Montreal. Seb recently did a pilot he called Project Kitchen that I thought was very much in the same spirit as Changemaker Bootcamp.

Every week for four weeks, six social entrepreneurs from all over the world (from Australia to Belgium) connected online spent 90 minutes together discussing their projects. The format, as described in the video above, was straightforward and clever. Each week, three people would present, and the others would listen and provide feedback. Presentations were 30 minutes and consisted of three parts:

  1. 10 minutes of presentation
  2. 10 minutes of feedback, where the presenter could only listen, not respond
  3. 10 minutes of synthesis from the presenter

I really liked the format, because every week, participants were getting real practice in the following skills:

  • Deep, active listening
  • Real-time synthesis
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Difficult conversations

More importantly, they were doing all of this in the context of a goal that was directly relevant to all of their work, namely getting their projects off the ground.

Watch the video above to hear what Seb learned from this experiment as well as what’s coming next.

Bootcamp as an Alternative to Organizational Consulting

If you read Changemaker Bootcamp’s “Big Picture,” you may have noticed that I contrast the bootcamp model to hiring a consultant. As someone who worked as a consultant for over a decade, I am well-aware of the benefits and limitations of consulting. A good consultant can have a transformative effect on the right organization at the right time. In my experience, most organizations that look to hire consultants are not at this stage. In many ways, I designed Changemaker Bootcamp to offer a better model.

I wrote about this in more detail on my personal blog, where I used strategic planning as an example. Most organizations — especially nonprofits — view strategic planning as a process to develop a plan, and they often look to consultants to guide them through the process. The reality is that developing a strategy is the process of asking and exploring the right questions. All of us are capable of doing it, it’s just that some of us have more practice at it than others. But practice is something that everyone can and should do.

Developing this particular capacity through practice rather than hiring a consultant to lead you through a process has a number of benefits. First, most consultants don’t have a lot of practice at developing effective strategies themselves. There’s no accountability or feedback mechanisms, and so consultants can get away with being bad at their craft, and organizations can get away with continuing to spend money on consultants regardless of results.

Second, the real point of strategic planning isn’t to develop a strategy. The point is to act strategically. A good consultant can help you do that, but what they are essentially doing in those situations is hand-holding you through the process. They are essentially acting as very expensive personal trainers, who are also doing a lot of other extraneous things, because that is what people expect consultants to do. A personal trainer can be a great way to get fit, but there are a whole lot of cheaper alternatives.

In most situations, a bootcamp would have a far greater bang-for-the-buck than hiring a consultant. It applies to helping groups act more strategically, work more collaboratively, be more adaptive, and learn collectively and continuously.

Want to Try This?

At least that’s what I believe. And so now I want to start testing this. I’d like to do a “group bootcamp” with a cohort from the same organization or network. I hope to do a 12-week pilot. The exact timing and pricing would depend on the size of the group. These experiments would run in parallel to the current Changemaker Bootcamp.

It also does not need to be a place-based group. I have told many people that this model can be done over the Internet. Instead of just talking about it, I’d be happy to demonstrate it.

If you’re interested in exploring the possibilities, email me at bootcamp@fasterthan20.com.

Lessons Learned from the June Pilot

I’ve posted all of the workouts from the June-July 2013 bootcamp pilot. As is evident from the “official” launch last week, I’m feeling good about the model overall, although there are still plenty of things to improve. Here’s what I learned from this pilot:

Group Physics: Resilience vs Intimacy

The increased size (four people from two) and length (two hours instead of 90 minutes, six weeks instead of four) improved the overall experience. I was able to cover more ground without rushing, and I was able to incorporate more powerful workouts. (Watch Anna’s video for her take on this.) Six participants (the original size before the two dropouts) would have been better still.

In order for the process to be more resilient toward dropouts and absences, I need to accept more people. I’m going to increase the limit from eight to 12. The question then will be how to maintain the same level of intimacy that all of the participants liked from the past two bootcamps. (Amy discusses this in her exit video.)

A few participants said that the weekly pace is challenging and suggested something biweekly. I’m open, but I’m not prepared to test that. There are a lot of downsides, and I feel like the pace is more beneficial than problematic. I would like to test an eight-week cycle, but again, I’m not ready to do that yet.


Between the pilots, I’ve been able to test workouts designed for all of the competencies, and I feel confident about most of them. In this past pilot, I ran into issues with my designing meetings workout in week 4, but I was able to refine it over the subsequent two weeks. The bottom line is that I need to be more incremental with it. I think I’ll be able to do more things with a larger group.

There are some workouts that I haven’t stress tested as much as I would like. I have some harder core listening workouts, but I didn’t use them, because the participants were so skilled at listening both times. It will be interesting to see what the dynamic is like when I have participants who are less skilled at this.

I also didn’t do as many real-time synthesis workouts as I would have liked, and this is an area where the participants would have benefitted. It’s a trade-off — again, this is why I’m curious about an eight-week cycle — and I just have to be smart, bold, and flexible about figuring out what’s needed.

Content vs Practice

One of the ongoing tensions with bootcamp is how much of it is about content vs practice. My bias is toward practice, and I wrote earlier about how this manifests itself in my workouts. My participants pushed back on occasion, especially after my week 4 debacle, asking for more frameworks to help guide them through the exercises. I responded in week 5 by providing a very high-level framework for designing meetings, and this seemed to help.

I’m going to explore putting together very high-level frameworks for some of the more challenging competencies, but for the most part, I’m going to stick with erring heavily away from content-delivery toward experiential learning. It’s working overall (see Natalie’s comments on this). At minimum, I want to see how this need evolves when participants have a chance to go through multiple cycles of bootcamp.

Assessment and Feedback

I consider assessment to be a hugely important part of bootcamp, and it’s the nut I haven’t cracked yet. (Read my higher-level thoughts on why it’s so important.)

I did some very lightweight testing of assessment mechanisms by having participants do a self-assessment in their applications at the beginning of bootcamp, then having them do another one midway through. The scores didn’t resemble anything objective, but they encouraged participants to be thoughtful, and they provoked useful conversation, which surfaced more nuanced feedback. I also incorporated peer feedback, which worked well. One change I would make would be to move the assessment to the end and allocate more time, so that people have more time for discussion. With 12 people, I might make it the entire week six workout.

The biggest shift I want to make is to incorporate Kangaroo Court-like micro-feedback throughout, and to track it using a visible scorecard. I think it will be fun, and I think it will be useful.

The Future

Now it begins “for real”! I still have lots of questions, including things I haven’t tested yet. One of the most prominent content-oriented question is about how I’m going to deal with a greater diversity of skill levels among participants. Everyone in my pilots came from similar backgrounds — partially by design, partially by accident — and it simplified things. Furthermore, everyone was a good listener, which made a huge difference in the dynamic. That’s going to change. I’m expecting it, and I know how I’ll deal with it, but you never know what will happen until it’s happened!

One question in my mind is whether or not to offer different bootcamps for people with different skill levels. (Renee brought this up in her exit interview.) I’ve played with a bunch of scenarios, and I’ll have a much better sense of what’s needed after the next bootcamp.