Philippines of my Dreams

Updated: Dec 1, 2019

In this trailblazing age of Reinventing Work, how I have treasured my international travel over the years. This trip to the Philippines more memorable than most ~ attended a World Open Space, facilitated a workshop on "Agile beyond Software", a few days in Tagaytay and an inspired visit to a new school.

The Taal Volcano on the horizon is the smallest active volcano in the world. Luckily it was quiet when I was there.

Tagaytay ~ A Truly Magical Side Trip

The joy of experiencing each other’s cultures and values mixed with an insatiable thirst for learning is what I love most about these international trips in Open Space. Add to this the abundant generosity of hosts and colleagues, it's not surprising that I’m always sad to leave. Reinforces how connected we are as a global community ~ at work and in life.

Most of all, I love the stolen visits like this one in Tagaytay. Whether a short drive away or within walking distance of where I am staying interacting with local people on the street, I am reminded again and again, that who we are and how much we care, cannot be captured by reading the news or a guide book. It's by experiencing each other that we catch a glimpse of the human spirit, the pride of country and the strong bonds of family, colleagues and friends.

What a treat to spend a few days in Tagaytay, this popular resort town, south of Manila. At the crack of dawn, I'm off for a solitary morning walk. When I ask to take a photo of my waiter, the entire staff shows up and it's not even 7 am. When I ask if I can get a ride back to my hotel, I'm quickly transported in a motorbike sidecar. No words needed, we figure it out. With lots of smiles.

Agile beyond Software Workshop ~ In Action All Day

What a thrill to lead my first workshop on Agile beyond Software and that it should happen in the Philippines.

My journey in the Agile world began in 2010 while co-facilitating an Open Space with Harrison Owen at a 3-day international Scrum conference in Orlando Florida. While there, I immediately noticed the high energy, great passion and intellect of our technology colleagues.

I was struck by the depth of the topics they engaged in and debated ~ many about shared leadership, innovative approaches that were inclusive, frustrations with the status quo, how to's and better ways of doing things, even improv. This, I thought, is a true learning community the likes of which I had rarely seen in traditional corporate settings. Vibrant, passionate and dynamic. The radical nature of their work, output and results, hit me like a flash. What's happening in technology should also be happening outside of the software field.

I wrote to Scrum Alliance conference organizer Tobias Mayer in the middle of the night and the rest is history. I would become one of them (a passionate geek in my own way) though with a different mission: to crusade the application of Agile beyond Software. That same year, Scrum Alliance sponsored an Open Space on Scrum beyond Software in Arizona that attracted 50 international, highly focused prescient individuals who had the same vision. I had the privilege of facilitating the event. Later I would pursue my Scrum certification and reach out to many experts and mentors over time to deepen my knowledge in this field.

At SEANEO INNOTECH on the morning of the training, I could feel the nervous buzz in the air. Nearly 100 highly energized and very diverse learners had gathered for this one-day workshop on “Agile beyond Software”.  Many were career educators, highly accomplished and deeply committed to creating a better future of learning for people in Southeast Asia. Others were young, in the early stages of their career.

Many participants later admitted that they were quite intimidated when they arrived. Rarely did they find themselves in a learning session about which they felt they knew so little. That would soon change. This new vocabulary of Scrum that seemed so foreign, the Agile Manifesto, the principles and values resonated quickly. A lot of it common sense, much of it basic human values. New practices, new roles, new approaches leading to new habits that invite greater autonomy and authority by working in self-directed teams. For them, this would be a beginning, a taste of Agile and demystifying a field of work that soon became more familiar.  Typical questions around giving up control, feeling we don’t know enough to proceed, wondering how this would affect the organization percolated throughout the day. Soon people got comfortable with "not knowing" and at the end, all realized the huge benefits of learning together because we did it. And had fun!

An explosion of learning, people in action, lots of laughter and many takeaways. Press the arrow, scroll through the photos and feel their passion and energy. Heartwarming to have received so many rave reviews after though it's the participants who really did most of the work.

Throughout the day, we assimilate these tools and practices of Agile by actually using and experiencing them. That’s how this program has been designed. Around real projects with a touch of simulation.  We used a wedding or wedding reception as our project theme to help participants learn how to create and refine a backlog. The quality and dedication that they put into this effort and the resulting products were like a leap from kindergarten to high school.  We also had the opportunity to value the power of transparency and revel in flow as the task cards moved from to do, doing and done.  A full day, a happy day.  

Everyone quickly grasped the notion that Agile Smarts = Head + Heart. And they readily saw the wisdom of buddying up with their technology colleagues later, to invite shared learning and leadership where they work. To create an inclusive momentum of change in a world that is ready to leverage and grow the wisdom that’s always there.We just needed to invite.

World Open Space on Open Space ~ A Spectacular Success

The setting, the welcome, outside on the beautiful grounds and inside in their fabulous facilities, SEANEO INNOTECH would become our home for three days. Every minute magnificent, the warmth and spirit of community a true reflection of the hospitality that the Philippine people are known for around the world.

Harrison Owen, originator of Open Space Technology, greeted everyone virtually with this message:

“Opening space in your life, in the life of your friends and neighbours, and country, and people around the world, is not just a nice thing to do. It’s a way I believe we can all move through this transformative moment."

The World is Shifting-Come Back to the Circle-Open More Space

It was a compelling theme. Experienced facilitators and others new to Open Space reveled in their time together. Loads of topics, non stop conversations well into the night. An international group creating lifelong bonds and deepening their practice of Open Space around work that they love.

Next Stop: Antipolo Institute of Technology (AITECH) A Field of Dreams

A chance encounter over breakfast with the President of AITECH, Linda Pefianco, led to an incredible visit of the first HEI (Higher Education Institution) to offer a Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering in the Philippines, more specifically in the City of Antipolo. She was one of the visionaries behind the dream of the AiTECH program. Ms. Pefianco was attending the World Open Space at SEAMEO INNOTECH with three other members of their faculty team.

That first morning as we talked, I was transported by their vision which, in two short years, led to the construction and operation of this amazing educational facility which hundreds of engineering students now attend

I guess my enthusiasm and our meeting of the minds on the strategy that led to this dream had an impact. Before I knew it, a trip was being organized for me to spend the day where I would meet students and faculty. I was thrilled beyond words. Never could I have guessed how memorable this day would be.

To see the future through the eyes of the students and faculty, to experience their shared enthusiasm and commitment while watching how they interacted with each other ~ in such a caring way as if they were family ~ was truly inspiring.

As I walked into classroom after classroom, the initial shyness of the students was replaced with an exuberance as they described what their new educational institution was all about. A construction program that would extend beyond the borders of their city to inspire quality and mastery in construction that could extend to a country.  Their desire to develop mastery combined with a hunger to learn were palpable.

What struck me most was to hear the same vision that Linda, their president had described to me earlier. The same exact messages in their own words. Together they are building something bigger than themselves, clear on their mission which is to be the best that they can be.  In a field that is typically male dominated, it was refreshing to see that there were as many girls as boys. Everyone fearless and determined.

I was transported in a “Field of Dreams” reminiscent of “Build it and They Shall Come”.  Indeed many heeded the call: a community, a faculty, students and family. I imagine this wonderful school leading the way one day — promoting excellence and mastery in construction, building and more. That truly is the shared dream of everyone associated with this school most especially the students.

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