When I was 11, my Fir Tree Middle School report for ‘games’ (as we called it in those days) read “Philip is a well balanced athlete and a very agile cross country runner”. I’ve never forgotten that statement; not so much for what it said, but for what it didn’t say. It could have read “Philip demonstrates absolutely no interest in rugby and actually is a bit of a wimp when it comes to sports of a physical nature”.

And that would have been fair. I was the small kid. So when my games teacher recognised my running attributes he thought he could use them on the rugby pitch. So very wrong!

I had developed into a good cross country runner because I realised that the quicker I finished, the quicker I could get back in the changing rooms, have a hot shower, clean the mud off and get warm. Smart! 

But unfortunately, we didn’t do cross country all the time; there was Rugby! especially when your games teacher was Ian McGeechan.

He thought if he put me on ‘the wing’ that with my speed and agility I would be a guaranteed scorer of many tries. Great on paper but as the ball never made it along the line to me then not much use. I just got cold and bored. So he thought let’s put him in the scrum as hooker. Wrong again. The purpose of the hooker is to hang off the 2 tall guys (props) and when the ball is put into the scrum, drag it with your feet back towards your team.

My team never won a scrum with me as hooker. Far too rough in there for me. Big potential to get my legs kicked and muddy my socks so I just hung on the 2 lanky kids and lifted my legs out of the way until the ball had gone.

Games teacher 0 Me 2

And that is why I now hate rugby union. Now if my games teacher had been Syd Hynes, then it might have been different.

So what does all this have to do with the price of fish? Well, in late 2009 I was invited to a meeting. A project to replace my organisation’s intranet and website! There were circa 20 people sat round a conference table. We started with the introductions. We all stated our names and roles and then we got to someone who offered their name and then said “and I’m the scrum master”

“Course you are pal” I thought, “and I’m the Gate Keeper and this is Ghostbusters 4, now let’s crack on cos I’m a busy man”.

They went on – “Phil, what do you know about ‘Scrum’?”. I paused, wondering if I’d come into the wrong meeting, perhaps even passed through the Stargate on my way in.

Me! Scrum? – If only they knew.

Anyway – turned out ‘Scrum’ is a type of ‘Agile’ working approach that is now used in technical build projects. (With that explanation I have probably dissed a whole working methodology – not intended, but actually it highlights a point and what my role with the project was/is). The ‘scrum master’ is one of the key roles in managing the project. The process uses short ‘sprints’ of work that are tested and released and gradually build up to make the whole project. (The subject of Part 2, another post!).

They wanted me to explain this new Agile way of ‘scrums’ and ‘stand ups’ and ‘sprints’, ‘product owners’ and ‘retrospectives’ to ‘the business’

“And why do they need to know?” I asked, preparing my analogy toolkit* for another outing.

And that is how my role as business engagement lead on our web and intranet replacement project started. And boy, did we learn a new trick or two. It was brilliant to be part of the introduction of a new way of working. Part of a proper scrum – where my legs do touch the ground, even the ball and best of all, it’s not muddy.

…….*and one of gracefully swimming swans.