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.

Competencies

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.

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About Eugene Eric Kim

Eugene helps groups learn how to come alive and collaborate more skillfully together. He spent ten years consulting with companies across different sectors, from Fortune 500 companies to grassroots movements. He’s now focusing his efforts on helping others develop the same skills that he uses to help groups.