My last day at the office! It has come all too soon. I am neither mentally nor emotionally prepared to say goodbye. Despite all the plans that I had in place to prepare me for this day, I am still left bereft.
I knew long ago that I did not wish to retire when the date on the paper says so. And while many of my colleagues were shocked to hear that I had reached retirement age, the data in the HC system doesn’t lie. And so the time has come to say goodbye, regardless of how I look, feel or act.
But the passion for my career was reignited two years ago when I was nominated to attend the SAFe Program Consultant training course by Scaled Agile Inc in Colorado. Agile delivery is so very different to waterfall. I loved the idea of using an empirical process to deliver projects. And continuous improvement which is at the heart of Agile is just so me! Visualization took on a completely different meaning. I lapped up every concept, every word. I didn’t understand it all but still I took to Agile like a duck to water. And I wondered why I had to wait so late in my career to be introduced to something that clearly fits me like a glove.All of this aside, today is still my last day, even though I remain in denial. But if nothing else, I am extraordinarily resilient. So I have cried a few times, it has been an emotional few weeks, and I will move on. But my journey is by no means over, the book is not done yet. I feel that there are still several chapters waiting to be written – and illustrated in vivid color. I have lived through so many interesting times (Chinese curse 😂) that I’m sure that more adventures await me.
Before I go, I would like to share some of my highlights of my journey at the bank with you. Just the good memories. A bit like when they say goodbye to eliminated contestants on the X-Factor or on Australian MasterChef. They don’t mention the failures and the disappointments; you are sent off on a high and to a huge round of applause.
The Channel Migration project
One of the highlights has to be that I led the team that broke the back of the top priority channel migration project. This has arguably been one of the toughest projects that I have had to lead and I have the scars to prove it.
The teams have worked phenomenally hard to get us to where we are today. We are battered and bruised but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And while there are still a couple of challenges to hurdle, just one piece of really complex work to test and release, there has been acknowledgement at the highest levels that we have done some great work.
The sentiment that I have heard recently from so many different stakeholders of this project is that “this time last year we didn’t dare to think that we would get this far”. Those who have worked on this project with me will understand the pride that I feel right now. There is no doubt in my mind that I am leaving this project on a high! So, round of applause – please!
New ways of work
Another highlight is the success that we have reached as a delivery team with the new ways of work transformation. Our division was a year behind the rest of the organization, Agile was a completely foreign concept to most of us and we had a lot of ground to make up. To our credit, not only did we do it, but we did it without hiring external consultants. Our approach was two-pronged; train teams together in the classroom and follow up with coaching in Gemba.
Training and coaching about 250 seasoned IT professionals when your knowledge and experience is only two months ahead of theirs was daunting. And to be honest, we didn’t really know if it would work. But our exec put his faith in us, and my training partner Stuart Mann and I were up for the challenge. Our styles complemented each other and we made the perfect partnership in the classroom. Our mission was to learn, unlearn and relearn together with our co-workers. And we improved with every new batch of learners.
The teams that we trained and coached implemented the Agile way of working with enthusiasm. And although it was not easy, and there were many frustrations along the way, and a few fell by the wayside, we persevered. A key to our success was the effort we put into driving alignment across teams and into fostering continuous improvement. Not everyone bought into the concepts, but almost anything can be brought to fruition with patient coaching and continuous reinforcement. And the seamless way in which we plan and work now is a pleasure to behold.
There were, of course, the detractors. I was told in no uncertain terms several times along this journey that I was doing it all wrong; that I was setting TPS IT up for failure. Those were very difficult times. But I think the results speak for themselves. There is no doubt that we have transformed into an exceptional delivery team! I have nothing but admiration for all of you!
A personal highlight has been the influence that I believe that I have had on many of the people whom I have worked with. I have extraordinarily high expectations of myself and I have similar expectations of the teams that I work with.
Not everyone likes the way I work, but I believe that I have been a role model for driving delivery with passion, for pursuing relentless improvement, for bringing a high energy work ethic to the office every day and for demonstrating the courage to challenge the status quo.
I would like to believe that some of this has rubbed off on the people with whom I have worked over the years.
I also so enjoyed participating in the creation of some of the change management initiatives. Two that I am most proud of are the SAFe training information radiator and the shout out board.We were asked to highlight our progress made with SAFe training in a big, visual way. So we created a galaxy of stars information radiator. As each person received their certification, they would collect a star with their name on it and add it to the (initially empty) ‘Milky Way’. It was amazing to see the Milky Way literally light up with stars on an almost daily basis.
At one stage we realized that we weren’t acknowledging the extra work that teams were doing to help one another, so we introduced the Shout Out board for teams to recognize one another or other teams. It was very pleasing to see that the majority of shout outs was for teamwork (yellow clouds).
Team of Teams
I would be remiss if I did not thank a very special team – my team of RTEs and Scrum Masters. I have a reputation for being tough and for having high expectations and I asked a lot of this team.
I would like to thank you all for your enormous patience with me, especially on those days when I dug in my heels and forgot about servant leadership. Thank you for never giving up, for persevering and for working alongside me to transform our feature teams to the agile way of working. I couldn’t have done it without you.
I am so proud of what we have accomplished as a team. I believe that there were times when we came very close to embodying the team-of-teams model. You guys rock!
And that’s a wrap
Finally, I am very grateful for the many opportunities that I have been given at such a late stage in my career. I was lucky to have an executive these past few years who saw in me what others before him did not. I hope that I have maximized the outcomes and that I have made him proud.
I am also grateful for amazing support from some of my colleagues who plied me with coffee, warm hugs and a sympathetic ear when I needed it most. And I was also fortunate to have enjoyed some close collaboration with my business partners both in South Africa and Namibia. I feel very blessed to have worked in an environment that has enabled me to thrive despite the many challenges.
I feel that there is still much to do, still so much that I have to give, but for now I have to pass on the baton. I have had some remarkable experiences. I have grown more than I thought possible. It has been an unforgettable journey. I wish the people that I leave behind much success. I will miss you all.