Monthly Archives: January 2015

A New Hope

“Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.”

I have hopes, and I have fears. Most days my hopes win out over my fears. As far as this blog goes, I have long had hopes it might give others some hope, too. Hope that by finding new, more effective strategies for getting folks’ needs met, we can nurture workplaces where dignity and human endeavour flourish.

“Hope is the fuel of progress and fear is the prison in which you put yourself”

~ Tony Benn

I’m Not Happy

I’ve become ever more convinced that trying to change others is a poor strategy for bringing about such change. That we can’t solve other people’s problems – or meet their needs. That, fundamentally, only they can do that. Bitter pill.

I’ve now written a little over four hundred posts on this blog. I started posting to share stuff I had learned over the years as an imaginal cell in the caterpillar of work. Recently, I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the notion that telling people things has much effect excepting perhaps some marginal entertainment value. Put another way, I see no evidence that folks ever act upon the ideas that I share.

So, I’m persuaded that if we want to change the world, starting with ourself is a better place to start.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

Looking Forward

So, I’m resolved to stop blogging to change others, and start blogging about how my own perspective, assumptions, beliefs have changed, and continue to change, over time. In other words, how I have, intentionally and unintentionally, changed myself.

I’m fearful this might make my posts seem more egocentric and less helpful, but I’m hopeful that with your feedback, this new direction might, eventually, prove useful.

– Bob

Why Familiar Was Europe’s First 100% Agile Software House

Familiar was a software house based just outside London, which I started and led, with some ex-Sun Microsystems colleagues, circa 1996-2000.

This post is about why we decided on Agile as our general approach to getting things done. It’s not so much about why we were the first.

One Hundred Percent Agile

This refers to the fact that all our work – both client-facing and internal – was conducted in an “agile” manner. Which is to say, something like Scrum nowadays – e.g. with two week iterations, emergent “requirements’ and regular deliver of working things into production.

Of course, this was some years before the label “agile” was to be coined by the Snowbird folks and thence began to be applied in this kind of context.

You could also say we were 100% agile because (what came to be identified as) agile principles informed our approach to work across the whole organisation, and not just in the software development work we did.


We didn’t call what we did “agile”. We weren’t trying to replicate someone else’s approach or ways of working. We weren’t trying to be agile, we were intent on being great! And for us, great meant “highly efffective”.

We adopted our own approach to work – primarily but not exclusively software and product development work – because we wanted to better meet the needs of our customers, of ourselves and of our company. And incidentally, the needs of our suppliers, our loved-ones, our shareholders – mostly the folks working for the company – and our channel partners, too. We continuously evolved our approach – which we then called Jerid, now Javelin – both to adapt to changing contexts, and to more effectively meet folks’ needs, as we learned more about what they were and how to do that.

Let me say that again, we chose to work the way we did because we wanted to better meet folks’ needs. I wouldn’t have uses this form of words back then, but with the benefit of hindsight this is what we were intent on doing.

We had all seen enough of the IT/software industry to know that the industry norm was far from meeting anyone’s needs effectively. We knew we could do much better. And we knew the basic of how. We were determined to continue to advance our knowledge in that regard.


We succeeded, I believe, because the whole organisation was geared to the agile approach, and there was no discontinuities, such as we see in many organisations trying to “go agile” today. By which I mean, for example, the discontinuities between the “agile” software teams and the rest or the containing organisation, with its raft of decidedly non-agile – even anti-agile – beliefs, principles, processes, policies, procedures and organisational structures.

Put another way, our way of working met folks needs, not because of any specific characteristics – NOT because it was, or we were “agile”, but because we wanted to be great at what we did, and took time and effort to understand how we could achieve at least some of that aspiration.

We were building an environment in which folk could come together, work well together, find and grown intrinsic motivation, and excel.

– Bob




%d bloggers like this: