Never Give In

Winston Churchill

Even with Stay at Home orders subsiding, saying we are still in “uncertain times” seems to minimize the reality the world is facing. At Sigao, we’re also experiencing the fear and uncertainty of the time.

Thankfully, a core tenet of Agile — embracing change — and a large dose of tenacity has allowed us to keep moving onward and upwards.

We in the business world face significant challenges in the current economy. Your business may be just opening after being closed by the authorities. You may have chosen to close because of personal convictions. You may be part of the Work From Home (WFH) movement and wondering how you can achieve results. You may have been laid off or “furloughed” (which is supposed to be better, I guess). Your customers may be “sheltering in place”. Or your B2B customers may be delaying projects that are “non-essential” to them, but essential to you.

This is a story of a challenge we faced at Sigao. It’s not a story of self-congratulations or humble-brag. We’re telling it for three reasons:

  1. We hope that it inspires and encourages you
  2. You may learn from our experience
  3. And, it might help us build a relationship with you

Pivoting the pivot

In January, through lots of relationships and experimentation, with preparation, luck, and lots of help, we launched an experiment into training. We held our first public Licensed Scrum certification course. We had a previous failed attempt, but we had learned some things and wanted to try again.

The January class was so successful that we planned another class – three full days of training, starting March 18th. As of 3/12, we had a fully booked class to be held on the premises of one of our partners. Our estimates showed us making a much-needed five-figure revenue for three days of work.

On March 13th, we started talking about mandating WFH. On March 15th, we decided to send our employees to WFH on the following day.

What happens to the class that starts in three days? What happens to our (did we say “much needed”?) revenue? Could we do the class remotely? Scrum training is highly engaging and high-touch; there were very few examples of successful, virtual, Scrum training.

Would it work?

The “Lightning Fast Pivot” is in our DNA

When we started Sigao, we knew a couple of things: 1) we knew that although we had a talented team, we weren’t household names or published authors, and 2) we wanted to start a company so we could test our ability to do good things for people (employees, customers, and ourselves). With that goal and at least some financial bandwidth for risk-taking, we started the journey that led us to today.

We did some research and found The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. We started in the fall of 2016. We tried to internalize Reis’s “experiment and pivot” methodology. We tried and learned. We pivoted. We moved to Birmingham. One of us lived out of town and had to work remotely for a significant percentage of the workweek; we learned something about remote tools. We talked to people about what we were trying to do; we confused a lot of them.

We changed our pitch.

We worked to form a team and to be reliable and accountable to each other.

It took patience and perseverance and just about the time we had run out of resources to pivot again, we got our first three contacts within a week. We rented office space and hired a few people. We experimented and pivoted more. We joked that we would try anything, as long as no one else was doing it. 

We learned from our clients and relied on our experience. And while we absolutely had times in which we weren’t sure if we could make payroll, we always did. And, we pivoted some more.

Applying the pivot during a global crisis

So, we looked at our scheduled 3/18/2020 training and said, “Why not?” The worst that could happen is people just not showing up or some sort of technical failure and loss of (did we say “much needed”?) revenue.

We had a week of long hours. Lots of experimentation. Lots of fear. Lots of learning. At the end of the day, we pulled it off, thanks to the patience of our attendees, significant scrambling around behind the scenes, and luck.

Flash forward to May, we’re on track to virtually train over 130 people how to be rock-star Scrum Masters and Product Owners. Our virtual class NPS is near 100, and is higher than our in-person classes. Additionally, our average test scores are consistently going up in each class and are now exceeding our in-person training average. We’ve built an engaging virtual training experience that will last beyond COVID-19 and is transforming Sigao as a company – for now.

We are also confident that we will pivot again…and again….and again.

By the way, we are hosting a free webinar for called “Scrum in the New Normal” that covers the topic of building and growing an effective team when working in crisis and beyond. Check it out here.

Here’s the message

The world was changing quickly around us and our ability to keep paying our team was at risk.

We were challenged to do our best, while not being sure that our best was going to be enough. But we gave it a shot. It paid off, but it won’t be the last time we will face uncertainty. Our ability to pivot has helped us grow, and we’re thankful to have a team and support to make those fast pivots.

We don’t know your circumstances or the challenges you face. But, we believe in you. We believe that you have the ingenuity and insight to experiment and pivot. And we know that most of you face different circumstances and could use a pivot.

We’d love to figure out a way to help you meet your challenges and use them as a way to develop resilience in your organization or your team. We want the economy to be strong, and you are a part of that.

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