Roland Dürre
Saturday October 26th, 2013

A History of and Manual for PM Camp

(and barcamps in general)

Life-long learning and development are important for everybody. As an addition to “auto-didactical studies” and working alongside a master (in the sense of craftsmanship), barcamps are the best opportunity to enrich your own learning curve through the experience of third parties.

In traditional teaching-learning situations, you probably learn 90 % from the “teacher” and 10 % from members of the group. As the situation progresses, this proportion changes in favour of the other group members. In the best seminars, you can get a ratio of up to 30:70%. On barcamps, 90% and more of the learning happens through the knowledge and experience of other participants! Persons open up and share what they experienced, saw and learned.

This is face-to-face lived “Open Source” on an open event. Communication is experienced at eye-level, based on the empathy of persons you have either known for a long time or just met for the first time. Trust is built up from scratch. You learn a lot, not just in the technological sense, but also in the “personality promotion” department.

In 2011, Kornelia Hietmann, Eberhard Huber, Jens Hofmann, Dr. Marcus Raitner, Dr. Stefan Hagen and yours truly (Roland Dürre) thought that it was about time to introduce a barcamp for project managers, entrepreneurs, leaders and managers. The first PM Camp was at Dornbirn in 2011. This year, we already had four of them – in Vienna, Stuttgart, Bad Homburg (Rhein/Main) and Berlin. And now we will see each other at the third Dornbirn PM Camp.

Why are barcamps such a success?

A barcamp depends on the persons who attend it. The actual realization and the success, the joy and delight, the quality of discussions and results, the degree of added knowledge, agreeing  upon a consensus, the experience of meeting and the development of new contacts and relationships: all those and much more is caused by the people who participate, bring their experience and share their knowledge.

This is how all participants take responsibility for the “camp” becoming a success.

The same is true for the PM-Camp. We call our barcamp for Project Management (PM) PM Camp. “Project Management” is meant as a metaphor for leadership, management and entrepreneurship. PM Camp wants to reach persons who are prepared to take responsibility and shape our future together and in social harmony with other persons.

Each PM Camp is organized by a local “Orga-Team”, usually 3 to 5 people doing it on an honorary basis. They plan, communicate and prepare the event, at the same time trying to organize everything in the best possible way together with the PM protagonists and the friends of openPM .

Ideally, there should be between fifty and a hundred participants, otherwise the Camp would probably no longer have its human character. In order to avoid  collisions, the date is coordinated with other PM Camps. Thanks to sponsors, the participants pay a rather low attendance fee. Still, we are careful to not violate the independence of PM Camps. As a general rule, the organization team will only invite a very limited number of impulse speakers.

PM Camp is the supplement Face2Face movement accompanying openPM. Besides the virtual platform openPM, PM Camp deals with the organization of “face-to-face” meetings.

As a general rule, a PM Camp will last two days. During the day, the motto is “work hard” and in the evening of the first day, the motto is “party hard”. More often than not, some participants already meet for a comfortable get-together or walk&talk on the preceding evening – simply in order to meet old friends and prepare mentally a little bit for the coming PM Camp.

Then the time comes – and the actual PM Camp starts. The participants meet at the appointed time and place. There might be a little “ice-breaking”, the organization team reminds everybody of the central barcamp rules (“whatever will happen is the right thing to happen”, “what is over is over”, “the law of feet”, “freedom”,…). And then we start! Consumers become producers and a wonderful session plan will be drawn up in no time.

In a nutshell:
PM Camps and barcamps are such a success because they actually function on the basis of self-organization and self-determination, not only with respect to content!

barcamps and PM Camp (3) – “Typology of Sessions”

The sessions are the core of every PM Camp. It might be a good idea for the participants to prepare mentally and think about what topics are important to them in advance. If you do that, you might be able to head your own session as early as during your first PM Camp.

Basically, there are three models for sessions:

Type 1 – Sharing Knowledge!

The initiator of such a session thinks he knows something important and wishes to share it!

Let us assume someone made a very special experience, was introduced to something totally new, understood some basic concept… And he assumes that others, too, might be interested. Consequently, he announces a session and tells people in advance what he would like to speak about. Of course, he will not bore his audience with a lengthy oratory. He might only come up with a few theses or give a short description of what he experienced. And then everybody starts debating and discussing.

Type 2 – Make use of other persons’ experience!

The initiator finds himself in a new situation and needs assistance!

Someone might have a question he has been labouring on for quite some time already. Or perhaps something happened to him and he does not know how to deal with it. He might even have a huge problem and need people to talk to.

And then he will also announce a session and look and see who arrives and wants to help him.

With this type of session, of course, you need particularly “good” listeners. You need listeners who try to listen extra carefully and who can mirror what they understood with the least possible degree of distortion.

The important thing is that the participants are capable of empathy, instead of being persons who immediately “want to know better” and shine with “unwanted advice”.

If you can get this, then the result of this type of session will often be truly great. And, again and again, I am surprised to see what excellent “participants” you usually get with these PM Camp sessions. And how many problems we were already able to solve, at least rudimentarily!

Type 3 – New experiences!

The initiator wants to actively do, play or try something!

In this area, there is countless potential for successful sessions! Every PM Camp will give you a surprise. It might be something about physical activity or something that made people thoughtful. New experience is collected actively and relevant things are playfully acted out. You try new things and test them against the standard of established strategies. More often than not, you get a shared experience of “frontier exploration”. And if during this kind of session you try something new and it does not work out as planned, then this is no problem on a PM Camp.

All you need is the courage to take part and also to jump over your own shadow. And something surprising will immediately happen. There might be a regression which will suddenly trigger a lot of creative and wise things.

More session types…

Of course, these three types are far from all. They are merely three “patterns” for sessions you will often remember in detail and with pleasure!

social web

During a PM Camp, you are not only permitted to, but actually encouraged (forced) to twitter. Basically, playing on your mobile telephone is just as much allowed (and even encouraged) as leaving the room and attending another session.
As a general rule, you will find a “twitter wall” on a PM Camp. Tweets written in twitter and marked with the event tag (for instance #pmcamp13ber for the PM-Camp in Berlin) will run through it in real time. In this way, you will get a thread which might already serve as a first documentation of and comment on the event. You will know what is currently happening on the PM Camp, what other persons experience or feel and how they think.

Naturally, every participant can also look at the twitter wall with his or her own device. When doing so, you will often notice that many persons participate in “real time”, even though they are not actually physically present. All the tweets taken together are a beautiful retro-perspective of the event. You will enjoy looking through them and mentally re-living the Camp later.

There is no “official” documentation of a PM Camp, such as proceedings or the like. This is absolutely intentional! Because the documentation, too, is voluntary. It, too, is organized and determined by the participants. As a matter of facts, the model works well and consequently you get a thorough, and – above all – well-balanced multi-media documentation in no time at all which contains texts, pictures and videos. All the important things are included and everything is centrally available on openPM and beautifully connected.

To be sure, in this article, I only mentioned “twittering”. But, of course, Facebook or google+ are also potential tools for you to use during a Camp. Or you might wish to initiate a community. Basically, you should choose a medium where as many people as possible can participate.

Culture and values

What is true in real life is also true during a barcamp: nobody should be made to feel inadequate or even hurt. Personal attacks are to be avoided at all costs, even if you might be hugely disappointed. And if you really misbehaved, you have to apologize.
The only thing you cannot tolerate on a PM Camp is intolerance. But intolerance is the one thing you should always approach directly and in person, rather than circumspectly.

Where special care is needed

It is not much. To be sure, good manners will not do any harm at a barcamp. In fact, it is usually a matter of course during a PC Camp. The rule you know from the old meta plan: “Everybody is everybody’s butler” is also one you can never go wrong with. Other than that, barcamps, as well as the PM Camp, are free events. Nobody has to do anything they do not feel comfortable with.

As always in life, helpful behaviour is more helpful than buddying. Every participant determines by himself to what degree he wants to integrate himself. There is no obligation to have your own session. Many participants remain rather passive and quiet during their first PM Camp – until the spell breaks and they suddenly make the transition “from consuming to producing”.

If you are a first-timer or someone who likes remaining in the periphery, I would recommend that you try your first own session as early as possible, even if, by your own estimation, the topic is still half-baked. Usually, being courageous early on is rewarded. And I would ask the “oldies” to wait as long as possible when it comes to volunteering for session chairperson, before they finally fill the last empty spaces. Some participants need a little more time before they get courageous enough. And it is always a pity if new contributions will not happen because someone else was needlessly impatient.

Communication is all

As a general rule, the organization team of a PM Camp will recommend to the participants to “thou and thee” each other. Thou-ing and thee-ing each other will bring you closer together and facilitates the communication. It makes sense in a community where everybody has the same goal and everybody is prepared to share their most precious commodity – experience and knowledge – openly and fairly.

If a participant prefers to be addressed formally, this is, of course, accepted. But no matter how you address each other, the central issue to always keep in mind is that you have to respect each other. Even in the middle of a battle, violation of honour must not happen. And if it does, it has to be corrected immediately.

PM Camp demands from and promotes in the visitors a little empathy and “altero-centrism”. It means that you put your own ego to the background and open yourself up for the values, expectations, interests and needs, as well as emotions of “the others”.

So here is what I recommend:

Participate! Be courageous! Bring joy! Accept delight, maximize all these things and hand them on! No need to “wear a mask”! It is not necessary on a PM Camp!

Respect and appreciate others as much as yourself. Give and take knowledge and experience. And then nothing can go wrong at all!

(Translated by EG)

Many thanks to Eileen who helped a lot with this summary.

1 Kommentar zu “A History of and Manual for PM Camp”

  1. Chris Wood (Saturday October 26th, 2013)

    “Weiterbildung und -entwicklung sind für jeden Menschen wichtig”.
    One stumbles across this opinion constantly.
    But I have my doubts.
    I saw on TV about a Japanese woman of about 98, who cycled, played Japanese croquet and collected algae to eat almost every day.
    She seemed to be unusually healthy and contented.

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