Why I’m Excited About Lean Camp



Hallway conversations are almost always what people peg as their favorite parts of conferences. Yet conferences rarely provide ample space and time for people to have these conversations. When we actually converse with our peers or with the speakers, we learn more and, more importantly, we retain more. We are actively engaged in the learning, rather than just being spoken to.

When Jeremy Lightsmith and I sat down to plan a conference, we didn't spend any time on the format at all. We both knew we wanted conversation, learning, and community over talking heads, big names, and locations. The Open Space model was a logical fit for the Lean Camp we wanted to create.

I am very excited about Seattle Lean Camp because it embodies some central ideas.

  1. The Future of Work – In the last several years, science has uncovered some startling new truths about how we learn, how we collaborate, how we are motivated, and why we work. Through the intersection of Lean techniques, neurophysiology, and social economics, we are learning that humans respond better to respect than remuneration. Additionally, changes in the way we communicate and the cost of information storage and dissemination has had profound impacts on the workplace. As the workplace becomes more social and more humane, it also is becoming more innovative and less reliant on traditional top-down management.

  2. Learning and Creation – Lean Camp is about value creation from the outset. While many attendees have been headliners at other conferences, at Lean Camp they are there to share their wisdom and learn from others – just like everyone else. The potential topics at Lean Camp are as varied as the participants. At Lean Camp we want to find new solutions to old problems in a dynamic, charged environment.

  3. Cross-pollination - Conferences that are for one industry and attended by only people in that industry miss the opportunity to really learn from others. At Lean Camp, we already have attendees representing software design, government, manufacturing, medicine, academia, graphic design, engineering, and more.

  4. Gender Balance – I have been pleasantly surprised to see something very near gender parity in the people signing up for Lean Camp. After years of putting on conferences in both software development and engineering, this is certainly a first for me. I'm looking forward to asking attendees what drew them to Lean Camp to find out why we are enjoying such remarkable attendance

  5. The Fallacy of Work / Life Balance – Work life balance is more than personal and it is more than a choice. Whether we are employers or employees, we need to recognize and respect that “work” is part of life, not some opposing force we balance with life. Studies already show that companies with a strongly collaborative corporate culture have weathered the current economic downturn better. Pre-Lean Camp conversations have drawn focus on this fallacy and toward respect in the workplace.

  6. Low Inventory – W. Edwards Deming warned us of keeping inventory in our companies decades ago. Inventory are those things that we create, believing they are value, but then need to maintain and mange those things. For manufacturing, inventory might be the parts you need to make your product, or the products themselves. We want to make just enough and at the right time. For a conference, inventory takes the shape of expensive speakers, venues, large elaborate dinners, and many sponsors with special needs. In creating Lean Camp, we've specifically kept our inventory low. Even though everyone who comes to Lean Camp will receive a free T-Shirt and free food from two of Seattle's premier gourmet food trucks, and will enjoy spending time at the University of Washington's beautiful Center for Urban Horticulture, Lean Camp is only $50.

  7. Great Food – Those who know me, know when I’m around food can’t be far away. This year at Lean Camp we have two of Seattle’s premiere gourmet food trucks providing free lunches to all attendees. On Saturday we have Where Ya At Matt? with his awesome Cajun selection. On Sunday we have Pai’s with his highly acclaimed Hawai’ian and Thai works of art.

  8. Clothing – Nordstrom’s Innovation Lab is making sure that everyone who attends also leaves warmer and happier with a beautiful Seattle Lean Camp T-Shirt.

  9. Value Cascade – So what we have here is a beautiful setting, smart people, an open format in which to think, great food, and a stylin’ t-shirt. All for $50.

This year in Long Beach, California, the LSSC put on a conference that explored Lean and kanban in software development. We had a wonderful turnout and fantastic conversations that resulted. With Lean Camp, we are hoping to take those conversations and combine them with creative minds from other industries. We want to explore the personal, the teams, the governmental, and the corporate views of these emerging ideas.

I am excited about Lean Camp's potential to unlock new ways of thinking about work, about life, and about the future. More than anything, I’m excited to see what community grows from this. We’ve built a strong community of practice for kanban and lean with Seattle Lean Coffee – what comes next?

Thank you for all who have signed up thus far and looking forward to seeing the rest of you there as well.  (And I’m looking forward to the food ….)