A dinner chat with Mike Vizdos

I've been following Mike Vizdos @mvizdos on Twitter for quite some time now.  His popular web site implementingscrum.com mixes a healthy dose of cartoon humor with some very practical and handy advice on utilizing Scrum.  So when Mike tweeted about being in Sacramento for the week we reached out and asked if he would be interested in exchanging ideas over some food and a couple of brews.  Thankfully, Mike was gracious enough to accept our offer.

We ended up discussing some engaging topics and ideas, many of which left me thinking and reflecting on for many days to come.  But there were a few discussion points that left an especially long-lasting impression.

Changing individuals, not companies and the power of the ripple effect.

It is no secret - getting the SAP community and ecosystem to adopt the "agile ways of thinking" is a tough thing to do, one that requires a lot of patience and perseverance.  While it feels like nowadays Agile is the de facto standard for driving value in the software development community, it is certainly still the black sheep in the world of enterprise software implementations.  There are many parties in our industry who have direct interest in keeping things exactly the way they are - complicated, bloated, frustrating and very expensive.  Although we do have our share of Agile success stories at BestXperts, it is often extremely hard to get an entire organization to adopt a company-wide change of mindset.  As a result it is very easy to get discouraged about the prospects of the Agile approach surviving long-term in a given organization.  Often times it feels like you are taking one step forward only to take several steps back.

Mike's solution to this dilemma was elegant and simple - don't try to change organizations, focus on changing individuals.  And as these individuals continue their careers, change employers and share their Agile stories and experiences they will in turn impact more individuals.  You can think of the switch to an Agile mindset as something that is happening everywhere at the same time, as opposed to a single company, and the ripples that you help create today will turn into large and fast moving waves in not so distant future.  This way of thinking certainly helps to stay more positive and upbeat about the prospects of Agile in the land of SAP.

Treat your existing customers like gold.

Most consulting companies realize that taking care of your customers is important, but few take this notion to a level that helps them acquire 100% of future consulting engagements from their existing customer base and referrals.  Mike shared his experience with reaching a "critical mass" of customers that helped him eliminate the need for sales and marketing.  The key to achieving this is not being afraid to give away the know-how and engaging your existing customers in conversations on a regular basis long after your official engagement is completed.