The Value of community

“We are in danger of looking too far for opportunities to do good and communicate. In reaching for rhododendrons we trample down the daisies” – anonymous

This is one of my favorite quotes because it can be applied to so many situations. For me, it speaks of the ongoing need to develop culture within our organization and to ensure that this extends to the communities we serve and even those we desire to serve. I was reminded of this recently within our own company as we reflected on what we can be doing better to serve our people and contribute to our communities in better ways.

The second half of this quote is a reflection of this principle; the importance of getting your immediate community collaborating well before you can serve others. It’s a bit like the safety instruction video you watch on an airline before taking off that tells you to put your oxygen mask on first before helping another person so you can ensure you both make it.

That said, in reflecting on the value of community, I thought about the journey that Emergn has taken with the development of Value, Flow, Quality® (VFQ). It’s a journey that started as an idea in 2008 to develop a professional services company that would better serve the growing demand of agile and lean principles in the IT and business environments of all types of companies. From the beginning we knew that consulting would not be enough if our clients and we wanted change to stick and learning to advance.

In it’s earliest iteration, VFQ, was called Emergn Enablement and was an idea to essentially document how to apply the many principles and practices within agile and lean in practical ways. Even then, we knew this would be an enormous effort, not because we were adverse to taking this on but because we knew that without the inclusion of a wider community it would not be possible to produce an education product that could serve the market for years to come and deliver objective, fresh thinking that wasn’t about someone’s methodology. We also knew it would be critical to provide our own people with a baseline that could help us all get around a common set of principles.

To me, this is where community really took shape. As we were developing our business we were learning that there were several challenges to overcome. First, agile was being bought as a label more than an outcome. Second, the talent in our industry, while good, was really independently minded and had less people than we expected that took a wider view on how to help organizations really change and see the kind of results all consultancies promise their clients. Third, it was going to take a significant effort to learn our community better and find people that shared our vision and purpose and ultimately want share in this journey.

The effort paid off as we began to meet people that wanted to work with us but also bring their vision, their passion and ideas. Together this allowed us to learn faster as a company and see where our own gaps were. The honesty and transparency that many of our people brought helped us understand that to build, what eventually would become VFQ, required commitment but also an awareness that we could not fall into the trap of a “not invented here” attitude. The learning had to come from many channels; our own people, industry colleagues, practitioners and clients.

I’ve learned that we underestimate the power of community. It’s one of those things that we inherently agree with and think we understand but don’t always do much to make it work. In the busyness of our work we tend to treat the development of our community as an afterthought; something that will always be there and we’ll get to it when we have more time or just get involved infrequently.

Is it really as simple as the old adage says, “you get out of it what you put into it”? I’m beginning to believe it is. Another key lesson has been the realization that so many people in our industry, who are typically viewed as competitors, actually have been allies and friends on the journey. In the past it was unheard of to go and vet new ideas with your competitor, especially if those ideas could potentially give you a significant competitive advantage. We’ve learned that in our community around the world, collaboration and cooperation have proven far more valuable than holding our cards close to the vest. More importantly, our clients have benefited the most from the openness in sharing ideas, not being tied to one school of thought and in many cases, having played a role in contributing to VFQ.

VFQ is a testimony to how a community of like-minded people, not necessarily always in agreement, can work tirelessly towards a common cause and produce an exceptional product. We are proud of VFQ not just because Emergn developed it but because so many people from within and without played an important role in making it happen. To have it recently selected by BCS as the platform upon which they have launched the Agile Professional Certification, which will become the standard for those that desire higher learning, is just one more reward for all those that contributed.

Thank you to all of you that have been on this journey with us and continue to do so. We have all learned the importance of building a community and the hard lessons have proven to be so critical in building a foundation for continued learning and of course, success.

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