There’s a song by Lynyrd Skynrd entitled Gimme Back my Bullets. It came to mind when I was thinking about this post and I thought I’d share that backstory with you. 

This is a follow-up to a blog reaction I had to a post from Dan Mezick.

Bullet Metaphor

I’ve been using this metaphor for the past 20 years of my agile coaching. It helps me to focus on what engagement opportunities I want to pursue. These would be both as internal and external coaches.

The metaphor has strengthened as I’ve gotten older. And right now, it very clearly guides every discussion I have around helping others with their agile journeys.

It involves an old west gun holster with bullets around the belt. Many years ago, I started out with a full belt when I began consulting. And over the years, I’ve used my bullets at a wide variety of organizations. Some of them hit the mark and the organizations had great successes. Not because of me. But because of themselves and their level of commitment to an agile mindset and agile principles.

But many of the bullets missed. Entirely. And it was a waste of a good bullet. The client was unsuccessful and wasted good money chasing a change. And I wasted my time. Time that I’ve found is increasingly more valuable than anything else.

Nowadays, my holster only has a few bullets left (not trying to sound morbid, but it’s true). And I want to make each and every one of them count when I approach a new agile coaching/training gig with a client.

I thought I’d share some of the factors that I currently think about to ensure I’m leveraging my remaining bullets prudently and impactfully with each client—

Engagement Success Factors

1.     Alignment on Values – The client doesn’t seem to have competing values with my own. For example, their desire for speed vs. my focus on quality. Instead, the client seems to align with my own principles. For example, they have an innate value for and intent to grow and empower their people.

2.     No Sales Pitch Required – The client isn’t looking for a sales pitch or a competitive bid. And I’m not being treated as a “commodity”. Instead, they’ve done some research and are aware of my expertise and value proposition and are excited for the potential to work together.

3.     Partners Instead of Consultant – The client isn’t engaging me the way they would/do your typical consultants. As in a customer – consultant relations. Instead, we establish an outcome-focused partnership. Where we both are working together. I.e. I don’t do work for them, I’ll be working with them.

4.     Edict vs. Invitation – The client is leaning less towards telling their organization to “be Agile” and more towards an inviting everyone to change. They understand how important it is for their teams to “have a say” in the transformation.

5.     Hubris or Humility – The client isn’t full of themselves, overly demanding, overly knowing, and full of hubris. Instead, the client is curious, humble, coachable, and able to admit what they don’t know. They are someone that I (want) to help.

6.     Measuring Success – The client is less focused on trailing, leading, or output metrics and more focused on outcomes and impact metrics. They also understand that measuring a few key indicators is more important than looking at hundreds of items.

7.     Leaders Go First – The client leadership team wants to – go first in the engagement. First in training & coaching, first in understanding, first in making the change themselves.

8.     Excellence trumps Cost – The client does not view agile firms, consultants, coaches, etc. as a commodity. Instead, they looking for real experience and quality; looking for the best coaches to help them succeed.

9.     Project or Journey – The client understands that agile is not an initiative or a project to be completed at high speed to arbitrary deadlines. Instead, they realize that it’s a journey that is never really done.

10.  It’s Important – Instead of giving me 30 minutes to an hour to fully explain “Agile”, they invest plenty of time personally and organizationally. The clients view their time investment to be equivalent to the importance and breadth of this change.

I don’t necessarily have to have all of these aligned. BUT, when the overall leanage of our initial discussions are in these areas, then the potential for working together is high. Also, the potential for great and sustained outcomes is also high.

Wrapping Up

First, please don’t react poorly to my gun/bullet metaphor given the current environment around guns. In this case, it’s just a metaphor. No political or social implications are implied or intended.

The real message in this post is that I’ve rediscovered how precious my time is. Every minute of every day. And that I need to be working on things that matter. Investing my time toward positive outcomes & impacts.

No matter what the situations around me…focusing on things that align with my values and principles for each one of my remaining bullets.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.