My Agile Story
In 1996, the US Navy, taught me to be a troubleshooter. I spent the early days of my career, analyzing and fixing faults within aviation electronics for auto-pilot systems and instrumentation panels. I had no idea where my career was headed, but I knew I enjoyed solving complex problems and developed a chess-like mindset to incrementally plan, do, check and act as a way to both solve problems, and grow my career. So I became a project manager.
For me, the agile mindset was innately obvious, but at the time I didn’t know it. I just thought I was a terrible project manager. It took 10 more years of toiling through delivering software as a project, and wondering why my projects are always at risk, late, and over budget. Finally, I was handed a project whose developers were using scrum, and it was like a lightbulb had turned on for me. Still, I couldn’t understand how scrum could work in an enterprise organization, with multiple silos, project teams, and vendors. I persevered under the title “agile project manager” for a few more years, placing my back against the waterfall, and protecting my scrum by translating requirements into user stories with them, and staving off scope creep, re-prioritizations, and mis-aligned dependencies from elsewhere in the organization.
Finally, I landed a contract at an organization that was using a scalable agile framework. They were fairly mature having accomplished roughly 8 or so product increments prior to my arrival. It was like watching a symphony orchestra play. The horns knew when to crescendo, percussion knew when to rest, and everyone knew when it was time to go away, and come back together. I had finally realized that, the agile manifesto describes the culture for which we collaborate, communicate and work together, and the scrum guide defined a lightweight framework for how a team can work with a product owner to deliver value, but you need a model to scale.
Having spent far too many trips around the sun as a scrum master, I continued my agile journey, and completed my SAFe SPC in 2019. I’ve since switched to full time enterprise agile coaching at the team, team-of-teams and portfolio layers. Through coaching, I have worked with a wide variety of organizations to help them to develop the agile capabilities necessary to thrive in the rapidly shifting technology landscape. I’ve worked with startups looking to scale their delivery, seeking to avoid the common pitfalls that cause enterprise level organizations to get stuck in the mud, as well as enterprise organizations, seeking to improve their delivery by adopting a start-up like mindset. Through it all, I’ve learned that no two organizations take the same path to agility, and while some organizations have a greater learning mindset than others, there’s no “10 easy steps” to agile approach. You have to “be agile” with your teams. You can’t “do agile” to your teams.
The one common denominator across all my client engagements is that they look to me for guidance.
I love what I do, and I finally feel at home.