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…

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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.

Net Promoter score

I was thinking about Net Promoter scores today because of Bernd’s video from LAST Conference about the Net Promoter System for Agile Companies (link below), the NPS data we collected from LAST Conference, and also because the training session that Neil and Craig’s ran yesterday got a pleasing NPS. I was glad to hear this news, because it was the first training day in my new Guerrilla Training series.

What is Net Promoter®?

To recap, NPS is a method for gauging peoples’ satisfaction with a product, service, activity etc. You ask people the question, “How likely are you to recommend our company/product/service to your friends and colleagues?” Most commonly asking for a number between 0 and 10, with 0 being not likely at all, and 10 being definitely. Those that respond with 9 or 10, are Promoters, those who respond with 6 or lower are Detractors.

The score is worked out by subtracting the % of Detractors from the % of Promoters, to give a number between -100 (everyone is a Detractor) to +100 (everyone is a Promoter). A score of +50 or above is considered to be pretty good, according to the Wiki that knows.

You would commonly ask a second, open ended question asking why people gave their score, so that you can identify what you’ve done well and what can be targeted for improvement.

An example that I’m proud of, can be seen in the embedded tweet at the top of this post. It’s one of the responses from a Product Inception workshop that I co-facilitated with Cheryl, a couple of months ago. I was pretty happy with an overall Net Promoter score of 76.9!

I think Net Promoter is generally a pretty useful tool to use on a variety of things. What do you think?

Further reading/watching

Net Promoter on Wikipedia

Video of Bernd’s Net Promoter System for Agile Companies talk at LAST Conference.

Official Net Promoter website.

Why I am not a ‘Sensei’

This article is where I reveal why I call myself “Projects’ Little Helper”. It also contains martial arts, but possibly not in the way you think it will.

Head shot of the most badass web developer I have ever met

The most badass web developer I know

If I ever got into a fight. This web developer is who I would want as a wing man. His name is Tony, and I met him when looking for developers for a team I was putting together. He’s a great developer, who worked well and communicated well with with everyone on the team, not just his fellow devs. He is also a top bloke.

He was coding in .NET with us at the time, but was really passionate about Ruby on Rails, and has since been able to use his Rails skills on professional projects like Unbound.co.uk, the crowd-funding site for authors. He’s also the person who taught me about Behaviour Driven Development.

In the twelve or so months that I worked with him, he also taught me a few other things…

“You’re like a project’s little helper”

When our team broke up, and he moved on, I decided that breaking out of command and control mode (AKA Standard Operating Procedure), was the way that I wanted to continue working. So I decided to start up this site, publish some thoughts and ideas, and build an identity.

The question then became, “What do I call myself?”. I didn’t really want to call myself “Agile Ed”, or “The Lean-gile Guru Ninja Sensei”, or “A Future-nator Thinkologist Alchemist”. That type of thing did not really sit well with me, however I did want to call myself something apart from just Ed Wong, so that people could tell me apart from Edward Wong of the New York Times, or Edward Wong the Hong Kong business magnate.

This is where another aspect of Tony’s brilliance emerged; he’s the reason that I decided to call myself Projects’ Little Helper. He said something along the lines of, “Ed, you’re good at helping people work better together; helping to create the conditions for getting good stuff done. You’re like a project’s little helper”.

I had a think about it, and thought that this really describes not only what I do, but the real reasons why anyone should contemplate “going agile”, or “doing lean”, or whatever, in the first place. Photo of Tony and Ed (and Chris)

Every braggart will be found an ass

Who knows himself a braggart,
Let him fear this, for it will come to pass
That every braggart shall be found an ass.

— William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well, Act IV, scene 3, line 369.

Another thing that I  learned from Tony is that if you’re a true badass, you don’t really (need to) go around telling everyone how good you are, or calling yourself a guru, ninja, sensei or The Maestro. It took a while for us to find out that Tony was pretty damn good at Aikido. For example, he would be teaching 2 or 3 nights a week, so we had to organise trips to the pub around this, or he would book off a week to go and “train in Norway“.

Eventually, I realised he’s a 4th dan, and has been training since the early 80’s. This was a man who could probably snap my arm off without even trying. Take a look at the photo below, of him performing an aikido throw. Effortless.

Of course, once we realised, we obviously started asking him stuff like, “Have you ever been in any fights?”. To which he’d reply along the lines of “It’s better to have a good pair of running shoes on”.

Photo of an aikido throw

In my opinion, it’s much better for someone else to say how good you are. So if you’re wondering, my references are available 🙂