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Winding Down 2011… Nearing Blog Post 400

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: Winding Down 2011… Nearing Blog Post 400

As LeadingAgile nears its 400th blog post… it’s interesting to look back and see, not only how my writing has evolved and matured over the past 4 or 5 years, but also the kinds of topics I’ve chosen to write about. It’s an interesting study of what’s been important to me professionally and how my thinking on this stuff has emerged during this time.

I started LeadingAgile back when I was working for CheckFree, just before it was acquired by Fiserv. Like many folks that are heads down working in companies, it’s tough to write… not just because you have an all consuming day job and a family to raise, but because all your really interesting stories are about the people you work with everyday… you have to be careful.

It wasn’t until I started working for VersionOne that writing became a big part of my life. I remember talking with Ian Culling one day and realizing that blogging could actually be part of my day job. Not only did I have license to write, VersionOne provided a ready made audience for my work and allowed me a platform to really grow as an author. There are lot’s of things about VersionOne I am thankful for, and that was one of them.

Another great thing about VersionOne was having the privilege to work with somewhere around 100 companies over the two years I was there. It was fascinating to take my experiences as a company guy and vet them against so many different organizations in such a short period of time. It was like getting a lifetime of experience in just a few years. All of that experience really helped shape my views on what it takes to adopt agile practices and transform a company into an agile organization.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever explicitly stated this over the years I’ve been writing… but I’ve never really looked at my posts as a means to share what I know… they’ve been more a way to explore and share what I’m learning. Writing is a great way to sharpen your thinking and really helps refine and simplify your messaging. It’s the only way I know to teach yourself how to talk about this stuff. If you write your thoughts down they are in you. They are more readily available to share with others.

One of the themes that has emerged from my writing is that I seem to care less about how to solve problems and more about making sure we are solving the right problems. In large part, I am methodology agnostic. Of course I tend toward lighter weight agile methods, but I’ve never been a Scrum guy or an XP guy or a Kanban guy. I tend to be more pragmatic and open to using anything I can to make stuff work.

I find in my work that most people are solving the wrong problem or they are just thinking about the right problems the wrong way. Helping people solve the right problems and think about problems the right way is what I’m all about. It’s interesting to me how often my posts are more about trying to clearly articulate what’s wrong rather than offering some sort of solution. I’ve felt guilty about that over the years, but process isn’t rocket science. Figuring how to apply methodology to specific problems is much more interesting.

Another thing that’s been on my mind lately is the frequency with which I’m writing. I’ve been on the cusp of 400 posts for way too long now. The past few years have been pretty disruptive for me… not bad disruptive… but it’s been very difficult to get in a groove or to establish any kind of habits or patterns. For me, writing has to be a habit… it has to be a routine… and the demands of building a business have just blown that out of the water. Probably just an excuse, but something that’s been on my mind lately.

I’ve always written about the problems I was trying to solve and the kinds of thinking tools that I was using to solve them. It’s interesting, but my biggest challenges over the past two years haven’t been really related to agile. My biggest challenges have been around building a business and selling work. I’m actually surprised by how much I like that side of LeadingAgile, LLC. I love coaching and working with clients, but the organizational side of my own company is equally as compelling.

I been giving some thought to using LeadingAgile as a platform to write about some of the stuff I’ve learned over the past few years building a business and learning to sell. I’m not sure that writing about sales would be a great way to drum up new business, but I bet there might be some other coaches out there that might appreciate some candid lessons learned about selling work. Honestly, I don’t know, but that’s something I want to give serious consideration. Maybe I’ll just give it a shot and see what kind of reaction I get.

If you’ve made it this far into the post… thanks for sticking around. I’ve got a few more introspective posts I want to do before the end of the year. I’ve been meaning to write an appreciations post for a while now. I’ve been on an amazing run the past 18 months and I’m becoming ever more aware and ever more appreciative for the people that have helped me get here… I’m living the dream right now and I think there are some folks that deserve thanks for helping me along the way. I also plan to do my usual annual retrospective and talk about some of my plans for 2012.

Finally, I’ve been doing a bunch of consulting and teaching and thinking around this multi-tier program and portfolio management stuff and I’ve got to find a way to get some of these ideas on paper (electronic paper at least). I might be to the point where the components of this emerging approach are clear enough to talk about coherently. This is another thing where I just need to get off my ass and write. It won’t be perfect getting there, but then again… LeadingAgile has never been about publishing perfect thought.

Next E is for Estimable

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