Agile – Not Just Talking the Talk

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One of the events I enjoy most in our portfolio is Agile on the Beach.  We are entering our 4th year of working on this project and about 2 years ago, we decided that we should walk the talk and adopt Agile practices ourselves.

Agile has grown out of the software development industry and not all of it works as well for service based industries like event management but there are some aspects that are really making a difference to how we work.

At a strategic level, following an agile approach means that we focus on our customers’ and clients’ needs, engaging them at every part of the project development and delivery process, listening and balancing viewpoints.  This wasn’t a big shift for us as event management is inherently conversational and rarely follows a standardised process (in our experience anyway!) but it made us recognise that the value of our service is in the relationships we have with our clients.

We also apply Agile principles in how we organise ourselves and our projects.  We have thrown out the traditional gantt chart!  We of course still plot out what we think is going to be needed but we start with the cost and timeframe and work within this to create an event which is of high quality and achieves the aims and objectives.  It means we are advisors and guides for clients who perhaps have a thought of what they want but don’t realise it is unachievable or inconsistent and Agile resonates with our responsibilities, as per the Eventia code of conduct, to ensure that we advise appropriately using our experience and knowledge to create events that are of the highest possible quality.

Agile practice means that we are constantly working to eliminate waste in our processes and product, evaluating our supply chain and service every step of the way with internal and external feedback mechanisms built in.  We always evaluate but it used to be at the end of the project and now it’s more like every day!  We have a project board in our meeting room which is populated with projects on post-it notes that move according to the stage of the process that they are in and how far they have progressed.  Agile on the Beach has just finished ‘Evaluation’ and ‘Proposal’ and is now in ‘Design’ for the 2014 conference (www.agileonthebeach.co.uk).

We have had the pleasure of working with the Agile on the Beach team to develop our approach (particularly Mike, Toby, Allan and Belinda) and it is great to really learn from our clients, to understand why they are so passionate about this way of working and to develop a way of working that is impacting on our productivity and profitability.

 

Claire Eason-Bassett, Managing Director Mackerel Sky Events

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You’re Only As Good As Your Team

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You are only as good as the team you are part of.  I think this might be true.

 

In fact, I know it’s true and I know this because I have been part of all kinds of teams, those built by me, temporary project teams, established organisational hierarchies, those I have been put into… I wrote this when I was on a train to London for the Eventia Awards because one of my team was shortlisted for the Rising Star Award.  I nominated her because she has innate talent, is invested in her role and the company, is passionate about quality and the people we work with, and works incredibly hard.  She also knows me well and can anticipate exactly what I need and want in order to make the event work more effectively or to support the wider team.  She exhibits leadership at every stage of a project and she simply gets on with the job.  I am so proud of her and of her work and she is, without doubt, a fantastic asset to the company.  I know that without Amy, my work would be more difficult, if not impossible. We make a great team!

 

Similarly, having the right advisors and supporters behind you is vital in developing and running a business, whatever the sector. Last week I had a meeting with a relatively new contact who has offered to support me and the company and help us to grow.  It was this conversation that made me realise anew how vital this support is at a strategic level.  All too often, I have carried far too much on my shoulders as the business owner and manager. Whether that’s been because I haven’t wanted to share or because I haven’t felt able to trust or I have been very British and not wanted to burden anyone else, I don’t know which but that approach has taken me to breaking point.

 

If the owner/manager breaks, then the organisation disintegrates and even before actually breaking, the impact of this pressure on the wider team is significant.  With the boss under pressure, it means less communication, increased tension, worry, instability and stress and it’s at this point that I found myself several months ago and realised that I needed to step back from the brink.  It was my advisors, non-exec directors and associates who enabled me to figure out a strategic reconfiguration of the organisation which means that I do, of course, retain the same directorial responsibilities but that I am supported, part of a team making this business work.  

 

It may seem strange to admit weakness and to recognise that being in business is not only hard work but is also lonely. For me, it is in recognising this that I can create a team around me that is more than the sum of its parts, that is effective, communicative, engaged and proactive, that is helping to grow the company.  I and the company are only as good as this team of advisors, supporters, staff and associates and I am making it my business to seek out those who want to be part of that approach; finding those who want to play, to add to the team, add to the direct support and enable all of us to succeed.

 

Claire Eason-Bassett, Managing Director Mackerel Sky Events and Event Cornwall