“To begin at the beginning: It is Spring ….”

Dylan Thomas – Under Milk Wood

Last week I attended a Cynefin Course in Amsterdam taught by David Snowden and Tony Quinlan and thought this might be a good way of for once starting a blog and actually carrying on with it.

Like many “Agile coaches” I’ve been on an agile journey, so in order to set my own context of where I am right now, or when I was writing this post anyway, this is the story of that journey.

I’d been introduced to Agile in Australia whilst working for Bankwest in about 2006, when ThoughtWorks was brought into a project to teach Scrum and I started to see for the first time such mysteries as the various Scrum ceremonies and this mythical beast called a Scrum Master floating about.

Whilst I was not directly involved I sought to mimic some of what they were doing, I  read around, introduced some Agile tools and techniques on to my teams, mostly from Scrum and XP and it kind of worked.*

The problem here was that I was just doing something without really understanding why it was working, I was simply mimicking ThoughtWorks without really understanding what was going on underneath.

This is a bit like seeing a swan glide serenely past without being able to see the feet whirring underneath, without knowing how the swan can produce a motion that glides. and from what I’ve seen over the last few years this applies to many of the “agile” coaches I meet, sadly.

Mostly coaches / scrum master don’t really understand what they are doing, they seek to implement off the shelf recipes without true understanding of the underlying theory that makes its work.

In 2011 I came back to dear old Blighty and got a job as a Development Manager, working with a team that had, had little or no leadership or guidance on how to develop software in the new magical agile way.

To be fair this had being working when there were a just a few developers working away, sat around a bank of desks and talking together constantly, but was now struggling as the team was starting to grow quickly and obviously I knew better.

So I introduced what I knew had worked before in Australia and in hindsight I was clearly in the Cynefin “disorder” domain as I was simply using what I was comfortable with regardless of context.

And this is just about where I sat for the next few years, having some success, “tinkering ” with things. I bought Scott Ambler’s Disciplined Agile Delivery book and sought to implement what was in there, I flirted around the edges with Kanban, sought to drive automation and continuous delivery courtesy of Jez Humbles wonderful book and many other such things.

However something wasn’t quite right, none of this felt coherent, it just didn’t seem to fit together, it was all just too hard and I realised that I was just drifting along and I didn’t quite know why.

I recognised that something needed to change and decided that I needed to do something different to give myself back some purpose, something to motivate me, hence a search for a new job started.

As I was searching about for the magic job, I decided to do a Certified Scrum Master (SCM) course, so I did the two days, passed the multiple choice and became a master, well perhaps not. However the value of the course was not in he dubious certificate that I obtained, but the epiphany I had whilst attending, one that made me understand what I wanted to do with myself in the future.

The course was in Manchester with Radtac and Peter Measey was the coach and I was amazed at the depth of Peter’s knowledge and his understanding of not just what worked, but why it worked, something I recognised that I didn’t understand to anything like sufficient depth.

It was a bit of a wake up call as I’d being doing Agile for 8-9 years and counted myself as an  “expert” and I suppose I was expert in my version of agile as implemented regardless of situation, sadly I was deluded.

I bought Peter’s Agile Foundations book, one that I would recommend for anybody starting out on the agile journey.

So I found the new job,  working for an “Agile” consultancy firm, which drove the desire and need in me to start to learn again, but at a much deeper level and to be honest an hour each way journey into work on the bus provided me with the opportunity to do some learning every day, in short I got a purpose to move toward mastery, yes sorry bad Dan Pink link.

So for the last 18 months I have been rounding out my knowledge, reading anything and everything and looking to use this new knowledge to my clients benefit and for my own enjoyment.

So I have decided to record  what I’ve read and learnt, as a reference point for me, but hopefully for anybody else who strays across these pages.

I am under no illusion that this journey will be a long and at times hard, but as somebody very clever one said ..

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

Lao Tzu

So let get cracking ….

* I have heard this described by Mike Cohen as Scrumbut , “we’re doing scrum but .. were not doing this aspect of it”.