What’s so funny ’bout Peace, Love and Understanding — Agile Singapore 2013

I was fortunate to be invited to the Agile Singapore conference, in November, to present a session titled “What’s so funny ’bout Peace, Love and Understanding?”. This may sound familiar to you from the song written by Nick Lowe and made popular by Elvis Costello.

I was also joined by Melbourne colleagues, Craig and Neil, who were also on the schedule. Neil was on the first leg of his #NoEstimates roadshow, that also took in Finland and The Netherlands. Craig was telling the good folks of Singapore about Management 3.0

My session was based around the search for understanding in different forms in agile projects, and in general. I started off with a few lyrics from the song:

“So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony? Sweet harmony.”

I chose to highlight this song and its lyrics, as it had triggered a thought process about how working together on teams on complex and wicked problems, is all about searching for understanding about how to move through an ever changing landscape, and how to understand each other, and the people that we are making our products for.

I  moved rapidly through topics such as Motivation, work as a co-operative game, how change can be supported, how Barcelona FC and other team sports can help us to understand understanding, and a few techniques that can help us to understand our customers.

Lastly, we played “The Vacation Game”, where pairs discussed where they would go on holiday together, then joining another pair to discuss the same topic, and so on. The ideas was to help people understand who else was in the room (by talking to them!), and to get them out of their seats.

The next time I deliver this talk, I think I would have the vacation game at the start, and then proceed with the rest of the slides. I would also concentrate on explaining some of the connections more carefully, such as why I used the song. In my mind, it all makes perfect sense, but if I’m jumping around from a song, to a football team, throwing in  a board game, and a statue of Bruce Lee along the way, then I think I could improve the way that I stitch it all together.


Agile Singapore’s photo of the conference speakers.

As for the conference itself, I found it to be a worthwhile experience. I’m not really a fan of the massive convention centre vibe, but putting that aside, there was a good variety of things going on. There was as much of a community feeling that there could be, considering the surroundings, with lots of  enthusiastic folks participating over the 2 days. I enjoyed talking to people in the Singapore agile scene, to get a gist of what has been going on there. I also had a chance to have a look around Singapore itself.

An added bonus is that I can now say that I’m an “international speaker”, and been on the bill with luminaries such as Kent Beck, David Hussman and Jim McCarthy. It was good to attend the Hussman session about story mapping to confirm that I’ve been on target with what I do with my clients, too.

Congratulations to the organisers, and I hope they go on to organise more successful events, in the future.

The rise of White October




You may have noticed that I use a testimonial that I received from the managing director of my former employer, White October, a UK web agency, based in Oxford…

“Ed transformed our company and the way that we work…The quality of our work shot up; our relationships with our clients became closer and more constructive; our planning became easier and more realistic.”

— Dave Fletcher, White October

Ten years of WO

White October started in 2003, so this year marks the 10th anniversary of the company. I recently came across the interview that I embedded above that Dave did for BBC Radio Oxford, last month.

Since I left two years ago, White October’s doubled the number of employees,  won an award, started not one but two tech conferences (jQuery UK and the brilliantly names All Your Base), and helped foster the web community in Oxford. Sounds like they are really going from strength to strength.

You might find the interview interesting to hear how he started up the business (from his bedroom) and some tips about how he grew to where he is today.

Dave Fletcher and I

Dave was kind enough to say lots of nice things about me, so I’m not sure why I’m pulling such funny face in the photo of us.

Obviously, WO’s success is mainly due to Dave’s hard work and business acumen; building a great culture, getting great people, and finding stimulating work that sustains all of this. However, I like to claim a little bit of the credit for their continued success, even though I was only with WO for a year and a half out of their ten years 🙂

I’m really pleased to say that later in the year, on an trip back to the UK, I’m going to stop in and provide a bit of agile/lean training for my former colleagues and more recent arrivals. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the company has grown, and to inhabiting my old haunts in Oxford!

The story behind Guerrilla Training

I recently announced a new agile and lean training concept that I am calling Guerrilla Training. Here’s why I’ve called it that, and a bit more on the thinking behind it.

Unconventional, yet highly effective

Guerrilla (noun)

a member of a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger regular forces…

referring to actions or activities performed in an impromptu way, often without authorization…

Guerrrila coffee

When I started thinking about setting up a series of training days that do things differently, my naming options were either Café Training, or Guerrilla Training. In the end, I went for Guerrilla, because the venues don’t necessarily have to be cafés, the definition of guerrilla, and also because I liked the gorilla/guerrilla pun.

To me being agile and lean is about being adaptable; trying different ways to do things better. My thinking is that agile and lean training should be different and better too.

The idea is to be effective, professional and focused, giving a platform for some of the best agile and lean practitioners in Melbourne to share their knowledge authentically.

Similar to Guerrilla Diplomacy, a guerrilla training aesthetic “places maximum value on innovation and on creating and sustaining an atmosphere of confidence, trust and respect.”

Start as you mean to go on

We’ve gotten off to a pretty good start, with Neil Killick and Craig Brown running the first Guerrilla Training session on Lean and Agile Project Management using Scrumjust yesterday. A Net Promoter Score of 57 is a great start, as is a comment like:

after yesterday, I now have a renewed sense of purpose for my particular Agile mission.

There’s more coming, so if you want to know more, go and read the Guerrilla Style Training page, and…

sign up for updates

Why the gorilla?

Gorilla GuerrillaOne of my favourite ever projects was in a team being intrapreneurial (the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working within a large organization) within a rather large FT100 listed company. We had a lot of autonomy and purpose; far more than I had experienced before, and it was great.

At the beginning we bootstrapped like crazy, designing a logo ourselves, using MS Paint. Later when it became time to think more about branding our product, we discovered that we had a pretty close connection to Jon Hicks, a pretty prominent visual designer. He had worked at our company before furthering his career as a freelancer. Jon’s wife still worked there, so we casually asked whether he was busy at the moment. To my surprise and delight, he was willing and able to do some work for us.

Jon’s written a book about icon design, re-designed the Skype emoticons, designed the Mailchimp and Shopify logos, and is well known for working on the Firefox logo. Getting “the Firefox guy” to do a logo for one of my products remains a highlight of my career 🙂

He also did the gorilla logo for Clear Left’s “guerrilla user testing” app, Silverback, that you can see above. That’s why I did a little drawing of a gorilla and the cup of coffee.