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Actineo at 5: What Have we Learned?

It looks like it was yesterday when Vic and I signed up the papers to form Actineo. It is now 5 years of hard work, personal and business growth and lots and lots of great stories and learning to share with others.

Over the past 5 years we have had the privilege of meeting thousands of people through our coaching, training and community work. We have met wonderful people that have become our business partners and friends and our team has grown with the addition of JP, Amaad and Cat as well as our collaboration with wonderful people such as Agustín Villena, Alex Rodriguez, Andy de Vale, Daniel Vacanti, Ivan Font, Jaume Jornet, Klaus Leopold, Lucky Byatt, Luke Hohmann, Markus Hippeli, Massimo Sarti, Mauro Strione, Michal Epstein, Pablo Domingo, Peter Kerschbaumer, Steve Porter and Vlad Mihailescu.

So, this blog is a short reflection of these past 5 years and where we may be going in the future.

The 3 Hidden Words Inside Actineo's Name

The origin of Actineo's name was Actinium, one of the elements in the periodic table. Actinium is a rare radioactive element that was first discovered in 1899. As a radioactive element, it is active, it radiates energy and emits a soft purple light.

Activity, Energy and Change. We kinda liked that as we searched for a name for our partnership.

Eventually, and after a lot of thinking, we came up with the word Actineo. Our friend Martin Jewiss, who designed our logo, spotted that the name contained three words in it: ACT + I + NEO – I Act in New Ways. We loved that. It resonated strongly with our background in Agility and the Agile Manifesto's focus on people and interactions and responding to change. It also resonated strongly with our work with Kanban, Flow Management, Business Agility and continuous improvement. And finally, it resonated strongly with our focus on people-centric change.

The name Actineo felt like a perfect fit for us. Our company logo, with its energy rays and the larger I character, is a subtle reflection of that background.

Some time after that, when we were crafting our company mission, this influenced our choice of words such as “unleash” and “potential”.

Unleash People's Potential to Improve Business Outcomes

Actineo's Mission

A Series of Unintended Lucky Breaks

As with the vast majority of businesses, where we are today is not exactly where we thought we were going to be. As any Agile company, we have pursued a series of intended outcomes, but we have also responded and adapted to opportunities that came our way.

Cross the river by feeling the stones

Deng Xiaoping

Some of the pivotal moments in our history were simple lucky breaks. Being in the right place at the right time. That's how we got to meet both Amaad and Cat. That's how we developed our presence in Ireland and we are doing the same in Germany and Latin America.

Others were the result of careful consideration and going in directions we would have not predicted in 2015.

How we Kanban has Evolved

The most significant one was our decision in 2018 to reduce our dependency on Kanban University training. By 2018, Actineo was the largest provider of Kanban training in the UK and one of the largest in Europe. That meant that most of our work and income came from that. However, it also meant that we were heavily dependent on the decisions that Kanban University made. That's not a good position for any business to be in.

We knew we wanted to continue expanding our Business Agility work and credentials and we took the decision to diversify our portfolio with two seemingly opposite experiments. One was to support the creation of the Flight Levels Academy and focus on enterprise agility. The other one was to work with Scrum.org and focus on team level Kanban training. However, to us both experiments were intrinsically connected as key elements to achieve great Flow Management in business.

Finally, we have also decided to endorse the creation of ProKanban.org and, since July 2020, we are no longer members of Kanban University. Who would have imagined that back in 2015!

Spreading our Love of Training and Collaboration

One happy accident along the way is how JP met Vic and I. In 2013, the BCS Agile Methods SG hosted an Innovation Games training delivered by the awesome Jonathan Clark. JP was one of the attendees and we spent 2 days collaborating. In 2016, Luke Hohmann asked both JP and I to be trainers for Innovation Games in the UK. Rather than compete, we decided to co-operate and that was the beginning of JP's collaboration with Actineo, first as an Associate, and then as a Partner in 2018. We continued to deliver this training until Conteneo's acquisition by Scaled Agile. We still use Innovation Games in our work because frankly, the results are incredible.

We brought a number of Bikablo courses to the UK – from the Basics, through Visual Storytelling to their Digital Training. Andy de Vale, who is now one of the incredibly talented Bikablo Global Trainers, attended the first Bikablo Basics training that JP arranged.

We believe that learning can be better for everyone. Both JP and I are Training from the BACK of the Room! Certified Trainers. We share our love of teaching people and creating learning opportunities through TBR classes. All of our courses are built around the concepts of TBR. With the onset of COVID-19, JP was part of the team of trainers from the TBR community that created the Training from the BACK of the Room! Virtual Edition class which JP now delivers.

Speaking of COVID-19, like pretty much everyone, we've had to adapt our products and services. We attended courses on Virtual Class Design, Delivery & Production. We became trainers for Rees McCann‘s Exceptional Remote Training and Facilitation because we believe that virtual work is here to stay and can be amazing.

Focus on People and Generosity as a Strategy

Unleashing People's Potential is something we fully believe in. Our work is meaningless if we don't put our students and clients right at the centre of what we do. Our success as a business depends first and foremost on helping people succeed in their lives and work.

That's why we aim to support our class attendees way beyond the end of the class. For us, the success of training is what you do with it in 6 months time. We get great feedback right at the of each class we run, but even more important is what you say about our work long after the class is over:

Our Delivery Leads, who took the course with Actineo, came back genuinely changed from it and their teams started to work as ‘a team' right away, and started to create common goals.

Maria Connor, Agile Coach, Ireland.

My teams are more productive since they have applied the material that I learned in this course. They became more productive and they just get more done.

Heidi Helfand, Author & Director of Product & Technology Excellence, USA.

We were really not ready to take more work from the client, but they wanted to bring us more work. This was the very reason that allowed me to bring in Agile. Two years later, we had doubled the contract. Not only did it renew, it doubled!

Rebeca Mendoza, Tax Transformation, Innovation & Projects, Switzerland.

That's why we try to put so much effort on people, on connections, on the community. It matters to us and we care about the people we work with. Organising conferences and meetups is our way to give back to the community, but also a way for us to keep in touch with friends and to make new ones!

The best online conference ever. Dropping in to say hi and chat with new people in tables and rooms was easier than at a physical conference. Very well organized!

LAG20 Feedback

That's why we developed our concept of pull-coaching; enabling teams and people to make the right decisions on their own. Unleashing people means making ourselves redundant as soon as possible.

I think what had been a real game changer for us was around the change of mindset in how people collaborate. Having more departments taking part in the developing process collaboratively.

Mihaela Madzharova, Agile Product Delivery, UK.

We're able to deliver product and value better and that's key. We're better at planning and being more deliberate about what we are doing. We have a better ability to do long term planning too.

Hugh O'Donoghue, CTO, Ireland.

We're getting more value and features to our customers quicker. We've seen massive growth. I think the way Actineo put the process in place for us to learn and adapt was really successful.

Gordon McGuirk, Head of Delivery, Quality & Agility, Ireland.

Doing this also requires a significant dose of generosity and effort. But, time and time again, all our investment in people comes back with great relationship and business opportunities. Generosity is a strategic advantage.

The Future is Flawless

As we all know, there's no way we can predict the future with as much certainty as we would like or pretend. Remaining adaptable and curious is key.

However, one thing we also know is that there are non-complex things we can do a lot better and much more reliably than we do today. These are the sort of repetitive activities that can be very time-consuming and should be done with minimal failure. They are also things that make a difference in providing a great and polished experience. We may not really notice them when they happen, but we certainly notice them when they don't. If you don't believe me, try to forget the birthday of any of your loved ones!

In business, these are the things that can make the difference between a long-term relationship and a one-off encounter. Interestingly, many aspects of them can be scheduled or significantly automated. This is what I call our Flawless Service and our aim is to free some of our workload so that we can sustain the creation and delivery of the awesome products, experiences and relationships that, hopefully, define us.

Here is to the next 5 years. We hope we can build great memories together with you.

Cat, Amaad, JP, Vic and Jose

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