# Friday, 12 June 2015

For my sins I love Bon Jovi!  Maybe not so much the recent stuff, but they have some real classics.  I have seen them in concert many times and I have to admit they are a real crowd pleaser and play for about 3 hours.

Whilst thinking about my teams retrospective this week and the fact I like to inflict upon them my sad hobbies and obsessions, I decided to do one on Bon Jovi.

I am going to keep sharing these with you because I want people to experiment and try different ways of helping teams to continuously improve.  They can also be fun if the sprint has been a hard slog.

Here are the headings that I used.  

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I rated moral as follows:

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I did have the music playing to motivate, but we did have one anti Bon Jovi fan.  I might do AC/DC next as that is his favourite band.

I gave the team extra kudos if they could get song titles in their thoughts and comments.  Ultimately we ended up with a set of actions for us to take forward in the next sprint.

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If one was not enough…

I did a second retro this week for a different team.

The team has recently merged together with another team and are still looking to refine their ways of working together, and so I wanted the retrospective to be based upon how they work as a system.

I used a Scrum Image and asked them to use sticky dots to put where they thought the problems lie. They got two green dots and a red dot with signified a major problem. Green dots are still issues in this example, just not as bad as red.

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I then got them to give me the headlines of the problems they encountered. An example of this might be ‘User stories are not coming in regularly enough from the clients’.

I got the team to then break into three groups and we used A3 thinking to look at the problem and come up with potential counter measures.  A3 thinking is great because it means we can post them on the team wall and then validate the learning's at the end of the next sprint.  I also wanted to teach them a different technique and really get them thinking about the challenges we have have.  Quite often the problem in front of us is a symptom of a deeper root cause.  Techniques such as the 5 whys can help the team delve down.

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All in all I had a great couple of retrospectives this week.    I will need to keep an eye on the teams as sometimes actions do get overlooked, but a little poke every now and again ensures that they keep driving them forwards.

One of my ScrumMasters come across this great website on retrospectives. It is worth checking it out for new idea.

Keep improving people!!



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Friday, 12 June 2015 12:14:13 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Tuesday, 09 June 2015

It was the annual event of ‘Meek Week’ last week. This means it was my birthday and made all my friends treat me like a princess for the whole week. I am pleased to confirm they did not let me down!  We had lots of meals, giggles, mini golf and of course cocktails! A few photos of my besties Smile

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Every now and again I get the opportunity to be a ScrumMaster, rather than just the coach.   I actually quite enjoy this because it means that I can try out new things with my teams and there is also something exciting about being part of a delivery. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a coach and trainer but sometimes I believe we have to go back to the battle grounds, just to remember how hard change can be in organisations.

In one of the teams I was looking after I was fortunate to be able to kick off a new project with them.   As we are client facing we are often asked to look at ideas based on little information and give them a rough size of effort. I had been talking about using risk factors for a while in conjunction with story points, and so this was my opportunity to really put it into practice. We were asked to create a high level estimate and so we didn’t have anything more than potential epics at the time. 

There is much misconception about what story points represent and many people believe they are based upon complexity, when really they are based upon effort.  I wanted to make this really clear to my team and so I introduced 2 numbers during story preparation to help signal when more complexity is involved, and to help us manage these and the risks and impediments that might follow. 

I created a simple scale, though you can use whatever words work for your team.

1 – Low risk (there is never none!)

2 – Moderate

3 – Increasing

4 – High

5  - Significant

I then asked the team to discuss each story, vote using story points and then vote on the risk factor.  Due to the fact that we were very early on and some of the stories were just high level ideas  I made sure that any assumptions were captured.

I was then able to ask them on any items with a risk factor greater than 2 to articulate the risk, so we could then look to mitigate it.  A example of a couple of entries.

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After completing the exercise the Product Owner and I were instantly able to look down the list and understand what items were large due to lots of unknowns (so high risk factor), and them systematically work through them until the team was happy to split and reduce the complexity.  We could also tell which items were just big, but understood in how were are going to deliver it.

I also had a list of assumptions that we could have to aid conversations with clients and what’s  as equally important is I had a list of risks and technical decisions that we needed to have sight of and mitigate. 

On presentation of these estimates  to the architecture group and the CTO the team was told ‘These are the best I have seen to date’ We were even taken to the pub to celebrate.

So a very simple technique that has made discussion, understanding, risk and potential decisions far more visible than the previous way they were doing things.

As a ScrumMaster it is important to me that I understand all the areas that could become a potential impediment to me. ScrumMasters often to forget to manage the risk and so then just fire fight impediments.

Final Thoughts

However your organisation decides to estimate and understand risk (trust me they are all different). It is important that you have the conversations to stimulate actions and visibility.  Whilst Agile is about flexibility, it doesn’t mean we don't have to exercise some level of control.

Ask yourself and your team today  ‘Do you know what the risks are of what you are delivering?’



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Tuesday, 09 June 2015 14:43:20 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Monday, 25 May 2015

You will all know by now my love for cheesy 80’s films and how they often appear in my retrospectives.

I have now created one based upon the film the Karate kid.  I thought this film was epic when I was younger and used to watch it all the time.   All these remakes don’t do me any favours in the old age stakes when I say ‘I remember and prefer the original!’  As usual I have downloaded the soundtrack and plan to use it for activity time boxes. Naturally the music is very motivating and I am hoping to get the team up and active.  The main song is…’You're the best!’

I am still waiting for my all female team to bust out a retrospective on ‘Grease’ or ‘Dirty Dancing’! I suspect I will be waiting for some time.

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I couldn’t resist having a little tweak of the wordings on this poster ‘She taught them the secret to scrum lies in the mind and heart. Not the hands’

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One tip I always teach my mentees about running retrospective is ‘Never be the one at the front with the pen or post it notes in your hand’   You want your people up and active and get them to write, group or theme the post it notes or even write the actions. As a facilitator your biggest tools in the box is observation and the art of powerful questions. You need to be focussing on these.

If you want to learn more about running kick arse retrospectives, then feel free to get in contact with me, or ask me about when my next retrospectives course is running.



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Monday, 25 May 2015 15:42:19 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Friday, 27 March 2015

Everyone always asks me why I very rarely give meet up talks, despite looking after two user groups.  I guess part of it is, why does anyone want to hear me talk? But when I do actually push myself to do them, I absolutely love it!  So more recently I have been putting myself out there. 

I recently got the opportunity through the work I am doing with Learning Connexions to visit Romania!  Not your number one holiday destination, so i immediately wanted to go.  I was asked if I wanted to do a couple of talks at a local ‘Colors in Projects’ conference and I was more than happy to help out.

Lesson number 1….always validate what you are being asked to do!

My small conference talk turned out to be a keynote speech, and my session turned out to be a one day workshop.  Never the less I was excited and nervous at the same time.

I decided to do my key note on something that I have been using with my client called ‘Evolutionary Stages’. Effectively it’s a team self reflection tool to look at how Agile they are, and what practices they should consider focusing on.  My topic tackled the continual question I seem to get ‘How Agile are we?’

I am not sure I have ever publically said this in my blog, but I have an irrational fear of balloons. Literally before I took the stage there was a group exercise which involved blowing up balloons with your name in (to win a prize) and then throw them to the front.

Cue my keynote standing amongst these balloons whilst freaking out!!!!!!

The other thing I really hate in life is snow……….second day…….it snowed!

Never the less I felt it went really well and I even got a few laughs from the audience

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I was most happy with my prize as a talker and he has currently moved into my house.

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Whilst I was excited about delivering my key note, I was even more excited to try out my ‘Art of Retrospection’ one day workshop that I had created.

OMG, it was awesome!  I had such a great bunch of attendees who really threw themselves into all of the practical exercises and simulations we done.   People know I have a passion for retrospectives generally, and so to see it all come together was fantastic for me and I got some really good feedback.  I now want to see how I can incorporate this into an everyday offering through ‘The Rock’

One of the new metaphors that I have picked up was from one of the groups….Lord of the Rings.  I find my students so inspirational in the ideas that they have.  Two of them have already written to me to tell me, and send me images of how they are starting to use this in their teams now.

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Here are a few images from the day.

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Final Thoughts

I am not sure I have a hard hitting message for you today. I was just so excited about some of the stuff I have been doing, I just wanted to share with you.

I guess if I really sought out a message, it would be ‘Have confidence’ in what you do, and we all have something valuable to share with others. Even though we may feel it is not important.

Watch this space

I have started creating my ‘Karate Kid’ retrospective and will be excited to share it with you soon!!



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Friday, 27 March 2015 15:43:32 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Tuesday, 24 February 2015

What I enjoy about my work is the autonomy I get to try new things and the support that I get from ripplerock (whatever the outcome).  I guess that much of what us Agile coaches do is experimentation and then inspecting and adapting from there. Ultimately this gives us patterns which we can re-use.

My latest little experimentation was a collaboration with Mark Summers and Stuart Young on what we called the ‘Week of Fun’. Ultimately it was a series of training events where we ran a Certified Lean Kanban Foundation Course and/or Certified ScrumMaster, combined with a free day of visual artistry.

All right, so the first two aren’t new, but the visual artistry workshop certainly was!

I met Stuart some time ago through a mutual friend at a meet up group and I was pretty impressed with his illustrations and his work ethic.  From that point collaboration with him became a regular thing, and so when Mark and I wanted to do something a little different and creative, we gave him a call.

Our experiment was. Is there value in having a graphic recorder at the Certified Courses and would anyone sign up for a free ‘Learn to draw’ class? and maybe even pay?

Over my two Kanban days Stuart set about recording my training with the following output. Overall it was a massive success and we had many comments on the feedback forms for how it helped people remember and learn concepts in a fun way.

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The free visual artistry day was also a massive success. I actually attended this class as a learner for myself as I have hid away from drawing images, but always envied those beautiful posters I see people create at conferences.

I rated my drawing ability as zero and I am pleased to say I am already much more confident. On a recent company day I even did it as my show and tell item. Check me out !

So I started the day looking a little something like this  (imagine the Tony Hart gallery music playing in the background)

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and by the end of the session I was busting out these, which have much improved since i have been practicing them. It is all about building a bank of images and practice, practice, practice!

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ok, ok, so I am not going to be giving Stuart a run for his money or quitting my job, but it actually made me really happy Smile and something that I can use and get value from.

One of the most fun parts had to have been the graphic jam. We brainstormed a group of words in the literal, abstract and agile space, and then we all picked one and had to race to draw an image. This demonstrated many of us think the same way and speed to be able to do this at pace in practice. Some totally stumped me, and one particular image by Mark made me cry with laughter. You do not want to know what Mr Blobby was doing to the stick man !!

Final Thoughts

Experimentation is good. You might succeed or you might fail, but you certainly learn along the way and that is what helps is grow. Many of the worlds multi millionaires went bankrupt many times before they achieved their success. Keep pushing to learn something new and inspect and adapt from there.

I also learnt, I can draw and that visual artistry is cool!

Naturally with all this learning, came much reflecting. Here is us reflecting hard….Cocktails' always help us think Smile

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I will try not to leave it so long next time before my next blog (Thank you Sarah for poking me into action). Coming up I have an exciting key note, conference, talk at BCS Agile day and new one day workshop offering on the Art of Retrospection, so watch this space for more of my ramblings and my successes and failures along the way.



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Tuesday, 24 February 2015 20:38:57 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Friday, 26 September 2014

I have been at the Scrum Gathering Berlin over the last few days and I had a really good time. Not just is it a great place to learn and float new ideas, but it’s also an opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones. If you have not had the opportunity to attend a Scrum Gathering on your journey to date, I really recommend it. 

My good friend Mark Summers and I were selected to host one of the sessions. Retrospectives are a passion for both Mark and I in terms of running creative ones and using the best facilitation techniques to really get the group flowing and the learning's aired.

So we ran a session called ‘Building Metaphors for Retrospectives’

The session was an opportunity to show off some of the creativity from Mark and I, but also to get the audience to create their own. Once we created a new metaphor, we got the audience to run a retrospective on retrospectives to have an opportunity to share best practice, learning's, tools and techniques.

The session was positively received and we got some great instant feedback.  A few of these you would have seen from some of my earlier blogs, but always worth sharing again to get your inspiration juices flowing.

1) The Boat Retrospective

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2) The ‘Top Gun’ Retrospective. Based on my love of 80’s films and Tom Cruise (At the time!)

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3) Mountaineering Retrospective – Created at the request of one of my clients. I now give them sometimes a choice and I will create based on the teams interests.

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4) The ‘Rocky 4’ Retrospective. This is my latest one and has been very popular with my clients. I always look for films with motivational sound tracks as I love to play the music to the teams. I find that music drives them and we have fun.

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5) ‘Nothings going to stop us now’ Retrospective. As a challenge on the day we proved that you could even use music songs for a basis. We challenged Benjamin Cooke to create one around Marks favourite song. Considering he spent 15 minutes on it, we had so much innovation and ideas.  We made him listen to the song at least ten times while creating it and Mark was doing his dad dancing around the room Smile

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So now we have some of the Scrum Berlin groups output. Thank you to everyone at the gathering who helped to produce these.

1) Up – I love this idea and won the prize for the best metaphor. A great film and so many items you can relate to a team.  Eliminating waste by releasing the balloons and not forgetting the cone of shame Smile

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2) Driving – Simple yet effective. I quite often one similar to this with Kanban teams.

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3) The Zoo – The spidery looking thing is a peacock.  I thought this was great because it made the team laugh and got us talking as a group. You don’t have to be a great artist and having a giggle can actually break the ice!

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4) Travel – Watch out for those Sharks

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So as promised some really great ideas out there.

Final Thoughts

I recognise that metaphors are not for everyone and some teams respond to them better than others, but as ScrumMasters we have a duty to continually drive improvement. Nothing worse than a scrummie running the same retro over and over again. The retrospective is a key meeting and there for a purpose and so we need to be creative in keeping it fresh and bringing out the important points.

So I challenge to you to think about the quality of your retrospectives and how you could facilitate them better.

A few other photos for your pleasure

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Friday, 26 September 2014 20:34:50 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Friday, 25 April 2014

Been on extended Easter holiday over the last week and being back at work was a shock to the system. I had an awesome week off though, and got to do lots of little jobs at home that needed doing (4 hours of ironing!). There was also the more exciting stuff such as my weekend away to London, the zoo and talking my niece and nephew out. If anyone knows me well they will know my passion for crazy golf and so that was a particular highlight Smile

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I have been keeping myself busy at work with my clients and of course organising the first ever European Scrum Coaching Retreat with a few of my good friends. I am so excited about being involved in this and we have only a few places remaining.  By the time you read this it will be SOLD OUT!

Got a few lean Kanban events coming up as well such as the BCS Agile day and the Kanban Leadership retreat. Once again David Anderson and his team has not let me down by picking a glorious  location. I am very much looking forward to spending time with my fellow Kanban peers and seeing what innovative concepts they have to share.

I shall be sitting here with a Pina Colada at some point Smile

So today I have another new retrospective theme for you! Though Top gun is still awesome….

I am obviously so comfortable with running retros now that I have started giving teams a choice of a theme and I will go away and create one based around it. You just know I am going to get a tough one sooner or later!  This weeks theme was mountaineering.

Here is the overall view – Printed naturally as my art isn't that good!

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Some of the lower level questions I want to pose.

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Final Thoughts

Keeping retrospectives fresh is so important because they are such valuable opportunities to gather how everything is going and really make a difference with a team to put improvements in. 

I am keen to hear about any retrospectives that you have created yourself. Get in touch.

Over and out.



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Friday, 25 April 2014 19:41:35 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Thursday, 06 February 2014

First blog of the New Year!

I had a good Christmas and New Year. Who wouldn’t with three weeks off work and a trip the New York included within that Smile

New York was awesome!! My friend Sarah and I went for 5 days and pretty much immersed ourselves into being total tourists and ladies of leisure, who shopped and wined and dined. 

I have never known weather like it it, minus 16 wind chill and I couldn’t bear to have any flesh on display.

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We didn’t let it spoil our trip though and managed to do everything we wanted. We both agreed that the Circle line boat trip was the high light, because we saw so many of the sights and got classic views of the iconic skyline. The picture above shows the Hudson river  full of ice and it physically moved like lava.

We also managed a cheeky ride around central park in a bright pink horse and carriage.

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Alas though to pay for these pleasures I must work (until my millionaire comes along Smile )

I am meeting a new team next week and I have been asked to run a retro for for them.  Normally I can just pull one of these out of my tool box, but this team has been together a while and their ScrumMaster already seems to have been quite creative with them. Now this left me in a quandary as I don’t want to do just a run of the mill one! There are so many great websites out there and I got lots of inspiration but I just wanted something different, fun and original.

As I sat ‘hard at work’ on the sofa looking for a movie to watch, inspiration hit me. Why not use a movie to form the basis of my retro.

Hmmm, now what is a really cheesy film that is legendary?

Enter ‘Top Gun’

“ I feel the need, the need for speed!!”

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Key questions I am asking:

  • Top Gun Logo - What does it mean to be ‘Top Gun’?
  • F14A Tomcat - Do we have the right gear?
  • Radar – What challenges are there coming up?
  • USS Enterprise – What are we stable in?
  • Explosion – What went wrong?
  • Migs – What are the things dragging us down?
  • Goose & Ice – How are we as a team?

Ultimately you can pick any questions you want to drive from the team, but we are looking for a good mix of positive and areas of opportunity.   I am with this team for two days and so I am looking to drive the opportunities where I can help them quite quickly.

Now, we all know that I am a little bit geeky and so for extra effect I have downloaded the soundtrack to play in the back ground. The first track is my 5 minute time box!

I am now thinking what other films can I start incorporating into a retrospective? I need to find that predominantly female team and bust out one on the classic ‘Dirty Dancing’. Not sure my usual demographic would appreciate that one!

So todays message is go out there and be creative, bring some fun into the team whilst harvesting some real data to help teams go from good to great.

I will let you know how my retro went, even if they hate it, I had fun creating it. If you want my images to print  I am happy to send across and so you only have to ask.

PS: If you see me, ask me how I embarrassed my friend by suggesting a new flow based system going through security in London Heathrow Smile  In fairness he did adopt it…



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Thursday, 06 February 2014 18:11:57 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Thursday, 19 December 2013

Last night at the Agile Coaching Exchange we had the fabulous Karl Scotland introducing working models that can be used by organisation as they make their journey in the agile world. The reception by the ACE family was awesome and I am glad we can continue to bring interactive and relevant topics to the ACE. For those that were not able to make it you can find Karl's slides here.

During the night Ben was also looking for people to set their New Year’s Agile resolution. We did this by having a big wall and inviting people to place their commitment. Ben and I thought it would be nice to publish these as a reminder of where we want to get to as we bravely step into 2014.

Here is what we collected.

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We are all in control of our own destiny and so it’s up to you now whether you act on this or not. Ben and I can certainly help along the way by trying to align some of our sessions around a common theme.

Overall we had a real Christmas cracker last night and we look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Merry Christmas.

Helen & Ben

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Thursday, 19 December 2013 18:26:51 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The end of 2013 will shortly be upon us and I find myself having my usual mother of all personal retrospectives. There has been some real ups and downs this year, but I guess that is just life and somewhat makes us stronger and more prepared next time around. Here are a few of them;

Highs

  • Co-Presenting with Ben Cooke at the Agile Business Conference. This was Bens first conference outing and I was so proud. He ROCKED!
  • Co-Presenting with Mark Summers at Scrum Gathering Las Vegas. Naturally there was fun and frolics. Oh and Mark and Nigel Baker falling asleep in the show!
  • Co-Presenting with Mark Summers at XP Vienna. This is also a lowlight as I got very ill and physically left parts of me in the hotel..seriously, parts will remain!
  • Attending the Scrum Gathering Paris. Great to have the whole RippleRock family out in the corporate colours. I really do love my work family.
  • Attending my first Lean Kanban Conference. Our stand kicked butt with the Lego drive through!
  • Becoming an Accredited Kanban Trainer and putting this into practice. I have made some great new friends in the Kanban world and learnt so much from them.
  • Linked to the above Dan Brown and I refactored and rebranded the KickStart Kanban course. We got presenter scores of 96% on the first outing, I mean, how do we beat that!
  • The Agile Coaching Exchange is going from strength to strength and we are getting awesome speakers. We had our peak at 70 attendees with Roman Pichler! I am very proud of the ACE and want to thank all the presenters for giving up their time for the community, and to Ben Cooke and Duncan Smith who help me to organise the events. Also finally ASOS for letting me host such events in their office.
  • Kicking off the Kanban Coaching Exchange with Dan Brown. Again the numbers for this have been so overwhelming and prove there is a real thirst for knowledge out there.
  • Extended Evolutionary Stages (A reflection tool for teams). Getting to run it with a new client and receiving positive feedback.
  • Loving that my jobs means that I get to meet so many new people and to travel to places I would probably have never gone. There is a whole new world out there waiting to be discovered. I have had lots of new clients this year and made some great new friends, whilst maintaining my strong bond with my teams at ASOS.
  • Being on the organising team for the first European Coaching Event in 2014. Giving back to the community is a real passion of mine. My job is ultimately helping people reach their full potential.

Lows

  • I had a difficult engagement this year and it really did knock my confidence and make me doubt myself. It did make me feel quite low and has taken me much time to get over this. I naturally had the fabulous support of Zia Malik, Mark Summers and Dan Brown who coached me though this. That is what makes my RR work family so ‘Awesome’, we are there for each other 24/7. They helped me to understand that it happens to everyone and in life there are just some people you don’t connect with, and that it is not personal to me or reflective on my overall style. So why am I telling you this when it is quite personal and did upset me? Because it can happen to anyone and people are there to support you and so you don’t need to hide away because you don’t want to show perceived weakness. I have learnt from this experience and I want to offer the support to you, should you find yourself in the same situation. You are not alone.
  • After 16 months of hard graft I left ASOS. I miss my boys!!  But friends are for life and having just come from a Christmas lunch with them, they can’t get rid of me that easy.

Overall, good times out weigh the bad and I really have had a great year . I hope that 2014 lives up to my expectations. At the very least I am going to New York in the New Year and so I am starting the year as I mean to go on!

I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. For those that have supported me I want to say thank you and you mean a hell of a lot to me. For my readers who I don’t know, I look forward to meeting you!

To quote Vinnie Jones ‘It’s been emotional’

Merry Christmas !

PS:  I have included a few of my favourite photos for your delight  Smile

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Wednesday, 18 December 2013 15:04:51 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]