Agile From Home

On Thursday 26 March at 20:00 people in the UK came out to applaud the tireless work of those in the NHS treating and caring for those affected by Coronavirus. The health workers across the world are the genuine heroes and heroines of this pandemic. Supported by loads of other professions from delivery drivers to broadband engineers keeping vital services running.

In these unprecedented times you naturally question your life choices and wish you could contribute a vital life-saving skill. And you come to the conclusion you probably can’t. So you need to try and maximise what contribution you can make.

In my case that is tricky. I’m an Agile Trainer by day and a quiz master by night*.

Agile is a mindset that gained traction in 2001 when a group of people from the world of software came together to try and define an approach to new ways of working to deal with the fast-changing tech world. They published a set of values and principles known as the Agile Manifesto, and the movement has grown exponentially since and widened to many other aspects of life.

But how is that relevant now in this time of crisis? And what the hell is an Agile Trainer?

Let’s start with the Agile Trainer question…

Agile training is essentially helping people adjust to the fast changing world by showing them how they can use techniques and principles to respond effectively to maximise value. What the word value represents depends on your context; in a work setting it might be customer satisfaction; in a home environment it might by family happiness.

My commercial experience has been gained primarily at the BBC with different teams across Sport, News, and iPlayer, before moving on for the last 18 months to work with teams at the bank Santander. Some these teams were distributed. Distributed being the fancy term for people working in different places.

And why is it relevant now?

To answer this please forgive a bit of recent personal history.

I’ve worked in London most of my life commuting for the last 15 years from a popular property hot-spot called Luton. It is so close to London it is known universally as London Luton.

At home my 3 children were still in school, although rumours of closures were spreading. Our dog Kenilworth had ripped his paw on some glass running in a field. He was stretched out on the sofa as always, mentally adjusting to his stitches, having to wear a cone round his head, and working out if he would still be able to lick his bottom. My wife Karen was trying to resist the urge to stockpile, and concentrate on putting the finishing touches to her second novel.

By Friday two of our children, Scarlett (13), and Lily (11), were at home all day and the other, our eldest Sam (15), had been told he would be from Monday. Everyone was going through changes and we needed ways of coping. Otherwise ahead lay days of shouting at other, rising tensions, and inevitably me having to go to sleep with the dog in the shed. Not a good result as Kenilworth is notorious for his wind problem.

At the same time on Friday millions of people across the UK were joining those overseas who had been instructed to work from home, and were no doubt facing similar adjustments. Not just in their family life, but of course everything connected with work.

People who had been used to seeing their colleagues everyday were “suddenly remote”. The irony of the word remote being that they weren’t remote at all, they were back at the centre of their world, with their family. But they still needed to work effectively.

Home life and work life were colliding.

So what have exactly have I done, if anything?

Over the past few days and night I’ve put a short course together called Agile From Home that aims to show how four simple agile values might help at a time like this. It can be applied at work or at home or both. If you want to use it at work for your company and teams, you can. There is no charge There’s no PowerPoint, and it should be fun.

I can run it as many times as people want. I have been lucky enough in previous roles to work with a great bunch of Agile coaches, partivulatky at Santander. Each had their own strong beliefs and opinions, but were united in a common bond to try and help people. So I am also keen to speak to any coaches or trainers who would like to facilitate their own sessions.

The creation of the course has been interesting and included:

– various attempts to agree on a family activity each day

– how a training course I was running with clients was interrupted by my daughter dancing to Dua Lipa

– how my cats Harry and Meghan still won’t accept their old bedroom in now my office

There are also easy to learn techniques like working agreements, daily huddles, simple prioritisation, and ways to reflect, and access to a free channel to keep connected with advice and links to help in the weeks ahead. We also look at how quickly we can get to something that works through experimentation. Something companies are discovering recently with the experience of The Royal Mint switching reform coins to manufacturing face masks, and James Dyson pivoting to ventilators.

I’ve enjoyed putting this course together at a time when so many are suffering, and that feels wrong. But if it helps you in any way, it will have been worth it.