My Adventures with Agile Journey Line

The journey line is an exercise we learnt on the Coaching Agile Teams course with Lyssa Adkins and Michael Spayd. “Journey Lines is an activity that fosters self-organisation and cross-functional behavior because it reveals a person’s skills, experiences, background, etc. This way, the rest of the team knows what this person “brings to the party.” Today I have shared my “Adventures with Agile” journey line.

It was late one night, already past lights out time, and I was sitting up in bed creating a new meetup site. I remember asking my wife (Heather) if she thought the meetup fee was worth the risk of anyone turning up. We agreed it was worth a go. Even if just a few people showed up, it would be good to make more friends and start a support network for making change easier. It was late Summer 2014.

So, I set up the first event. The next day Heather started the hunt for a reasonably priced room in London.

In the Beginning

I wanted a good speaker to start us off. Because I was due to attend the SPC (SAFe) training in a few weeks time, we asked Inbar Oren to speak as he had just made his SAFe in 9 minutes video. It turned out he was in London for a conference, so we planned the event around him.

To my surprise and delight, over 50 people turned up and the event was a huge success. I was very nervous about speaking in front of so many people as well as to even just introduce Inbar! But it went well and I even managed a joke, which gave me confidence.

John Coleman came to speak next on Scaling Frameworks, which were clearly the hot topic at the time. He mentioned Craig Larman and Bas Vodde, which gave me an idea! Straight after the event, I found an email for Craig and arranged a call to speak to him about coming to London, to give the community some training and talk at the meetup.

We arranged a date but as it happened, I was on a beach in India at that time and the call was scheduled for around 11 pm. It was Christmas and the hotel had strung up hundreds of light bulbs all along the beach. As a result, the overworked generator kept blowing out and the Skype call we were having cut out every time the router switched off due to the power cut. We worked out we had around 7 minutes of chat and then 3.5 minutes while the power came back on and router booted up again.

The conversation took a couple of hours and went into the night. Craig’s patience was extraordinary and we managed to agree on a deal that worked for both of us. The important thing for me was not to make money from the training but to ensure we had a solid financial model for Adventures with Agile [AWA] to exist. I knew that the biggest failure for CoPs was lack of time and funding.

The Model Worked!

We trialled the same model with Scott Ambler and thus proved the model worked.

Now we had run 2 courses flying presenters from around the world to London. I wanted to ramp it up to see if we could get good speakers every month. This proved to be an enormous amount of work and challenging for me to keep the consistency up. So I enlisted the help of a friend of a friend who was a marketing and online community expert: Charley Allen.

Charley worked for us part time and relieved a huge amount of my work load in making sure we had enough people on the courses to make them worth running to pay for the presenter to speak at the meetup.

We continued to attract great speakers, such as:

and many others.

The success in London prompted many other community leaders to get in touch from around the world and we partnered with them to run training events in New York, San Fransisco and Czech Republic. We cross promoted events in many other regions too.

A real low point was the Czech VAT system

We registered for VAT and poor Heather had the unfortunate job of explaining to our attendees that we couldn’t give them our VAT number as we were still waiting for the CZ government to process it. As well as supplying an endless stream of documents, and costing us a fair amount of money. It was time-consuming and took a lot of the fun out of the process. I am writing this 9 months later and the process is still ongoing.

The workload had increased again, way beyond what Charley could do part time and Heather and I could spare, so we asked Charley to come and work for us full time and she agreed. This meant not only more time but more importantly we gained the full experience of Charley. Meaning a significant ramp up in ideas, events, and opportunities for us and the community.

With really positive feedback, and lots of offers of free rooms and catering for our free events.It was becoming increasingly apparent to me that the help we were bringing to organisations and individuals was very well received.  It was hard to believe at first, but AWA was starting to make a real difference to people’s professional lives. This knowledge and the support we receive carries us all through times of doubt and difficulty. Without it, we simply couldn’t operate.

I wanted to provide more contextual help, more than the type of non-contextual support that training and public events naturally bring. So I started looking around for consultancies that I could join and influence to become the best consultancy (in the world) off the back of the community connections both here in London and abroad. However, this was a frustrating time for me. After speaking to 4 different consultancies over a protracted period of 9 months, it became clear we would need to start our own.

The consultancy I wanted to build something wasn’t the usual bums on seats, just making money on a day rate. AWA has a clear vision, and I wanted the consultancy to be a function of that vision. AWA’s vision has always been to make people’s working lives better and easier through Agile and Lean organisational change. To quote Craig Larman:

we are taking the pain out of product development.

To this end, we started the consultancy earlier this year (2016). Choosing only the most active and motivated coaches from the community to work with us. Every coach has one day every sprint in the office learning, sharing, training, and gaining a consistent approach to change. In a dual launch of consultancy and the AWA support network (ASN) we aim to change the way consultancy is done in the Agile world. (Think fractal Teal approach)

The ASN is an invite only, private and confidential space, where participants can ask questions, provide answers, and share materials in safety. Everyone has to sign confidentiality agreements, and we use secure cloud technologies to provide the online space. Through the ASN, we can provide support to anyone, regardless of where they work. Truly crossing organisational boundaries, and relieve the sometimes loneliness in the role of organisational change. We don’t believe in competition; other consultancies are welcome to join. Our vision comes first above rivalry or market share. The ASN is free on the proviso that each member contributes back to the community at a basic level of engagement. As Charley puts it, we don’t want lurkers!

Again, there is a low point in the journey line, as work increases. Running a consultancy as well as being a consultant becomes too much. So – we took on Mika Peck as a business development manager who is now growing the consultancy and making sure we have the right people. Mika brings with him real life business development and recruitment experience in the Agile sector that will help us build our ever increasing virtual bench and team of consultants.

Our core team is now 4 people, and we are all aligned in our vision.

We have an office next to Tower Bridge, and continue to experiment with new ideas such the monthly newsletter and blog feed, the Q&A panel, the AWA Spotify playlist for meetups, experiential games created and shared by community members each month, and many other ideas and things we think will help in our mission.

We still have challenges and difficulties along the way.

The Craig Larman training event we recently organised in New York was one such challenge. Just 3 days before the event our room was swapped out to a room that was unusable for Craig’s class. Heather and Gene Gendel (our New York partner) worked tirelessly for 3 days to find a suitable replacement. Craig would ask if everything was alright, and I never once had any reason to reply in the negative because I knew no matter what, Heather and Gene would come through with a solution.

We have all achieved a level of trust and high performance due to our real sense of higher purpose and commitment, for which I am really proud.

This brings us to the current day, where I am writing this on a flight to Thailand, for a well earned week off. I will be resting on the beach while creating the new AWA curriculum based on Lyssa and Michael’s competency framework. Through our curriculum, we aim to cover every aspect of training for a truly powerful coaching and change function. All organisations that send their coaches and scrum masters on courses within each section of the framework will end up possessing all skills needed to create a real coaching competency,  thus enabling all their necessary change work. And of course, our consultants have these skills too, which expedites the process hugely.

I am very excited for what the future brings. To work with such awesome people in AWA, the support network, our consultants, the organisations we serve. And of course, our community who come to our events and training each month, from which I draw my inspiration.

See you at the next event 🙂

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