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Three Years Already?

It has been three years since my last blog post on this site. I’m guessing most of my readers/friends already know about AgileConversations.com. Still, I like the idea of a recap post, if only for my future self. 

Most notable was the publication of Agile Conversations in May of 2019 by IT Revolution Press. IT Revolution has been a fantastic partner for us and I’ve been thrilled to join their lineup of books. My coauthor Douglas Squirrel had a mention in my 2015 catchup post as the person who brought me to London. Squirrel and I have also been busy over this period with the Troubleshooting Agile podcast. The podcast was a great way for us to develop our material for the book, and I’m enjoying the opportunity it affords to explore a range of situations. 

When we started the podcast we thought the book might be called Troubleshooting Agile (“Sprinting In Place” as another working title). The shift in titles reflects a shift in emphasis. Our early idea was to organize the book by symptoms and then share our approach to troubleshooting and escaping those situations. The change in title to Agile Conversations reflects our solution, which is developing conversational skills. Conversational skills are a key element of our toolkit, and without developing them you can’t apply the solutions that we use… or if you did you wouldn’t get the result. 

The challenge is one of dynamics. Even when you have similar symptoms on an agile team, and even similar dynamics, the cause of those dynamics are idiosyncratic. There isn’t a single recipe that will solve team dynamics. What is required is an approach of “probe-sense-respond”, because you’re dealing with humans and that means you’re dealing with a complex situation (in Cynefin terms). And conversations are how we navigate the complex dynamics of human interactions.

In the three years of the Troubleshooting Agile podcast we’ve put out something like 150 episodes and we’ve had almost 140k plays of the podcast in that time period. We’ve had fairly steady growth over time and in 2019 we had almost half of those listens, with over 63k for the year. From a quick google on podcast stats we seem to be solidly in the top 5% of podcasts, which is something I’m really proud of.

Another major input into the book has been my experience with the London Organizational Learning Meetup (formerly the London Action Science Meetup). Several years of holding monthly meetups helped distill our approach to conversational skill practice, a framework we’ve called The Four Rs, and also our approach to group practice sessions. We’ve come to term the practice sessions “Conversational Dojos”, a term inspired from the “coding dojos” other people have run to develop programming skills. I’ve been really pleased how this conversational dojo approach has worked both for experienced practitioners and for people new to conversational analysis. In 2020 I’ve expanded the number of conversational dojos in the meetup from once to twice per month, with one session on the traditional Tuesday and the added session being on a Thursday.

There are a couple of constants since the last post. I’m still at TIM Group, or rather the successor “TIM, An Acuris Company” following the acquisition of TIM by Acuris in 2017. Or it might be more accurate to say that I’m at “TIM, An Acuris Company, part of ION Analytics”, following the acquisition of Acuris by ION in 2019. For the past year I’ve been Managing Director of TIM and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to bring self-management and self-organization to our commercial team.

The other notable constant is that CITCON has continued, even in this year of COVID. 2018 saw us in Vienna, 2019 in Ghent, and for 2020 we had our first virtual CITCON. I’m looking forward to seeing the CITCON community face-to-face again and at the same time I was pleased with how much of the CITCON vibe came through even in the virtual open space.

My goal for this post was to provide a short recap of where my attention has been the past three years however it feels incomplete without acknowledging one more thought: 2020 was a very weird year, a very difficult year. I hope for a better 2021 for all of us.

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