Turns Out You Can Practice and Preach

Apr 13, 2017

Kelley Horton, Chief Agility Officer | Kingsmen Business Agility


As I embark on a new adventure with Kingsmen Software, I find myself reflecting on how I got here. All the way back to my Industrial Engineering Technology days at the then called ‘SUNY College of Technology’ in my beloved hometown of Utica, NY, to my new role with Kingsmen as ‘Chief Agility Officer’ (cool title except the acronym sounds too much like a farm animal), I have been in some type of product development role for over 30 years now. Good heavens I’m old.

As I embark on a new adventure with Kingsmen Software, I find myself reflecting on how I got here. All the way back to my Industrial Engineering Technology days at the then called ‘SUNY College of Technology’ in my beloved hometown of Utica, NY, to my new role with Kingsmen as ‘Chief Agility Officer’ (cool title except the acronym sounds too much like a farm animal), I have been in some type of product development role for over 30 years now. Good heavens I’m old.



I can still remember a lot of my ‘aha’ moments along the way.



• The ‘Red Bead Box’ game from Dr. Deming: fix the system issue causing the defects, not just the defects themselves

• Product Life Cycles are cool: I am a process geek at my core

• Software is way more fun than hardware (even though I did have some type of welding certification at one point)

• Once you ‘go agile’ you can never ‘go back’: waterfall is for suckers!



That last epiphany came in late 2008 for me during my tenure as head of the PMO for a healthcare company. I hated the lean-agile consultant that came in to present this new “agile thing” to us. I was the head of the PMO, been doing this for a long time, what does he know about product delivery! I was giving him my best death stare. Initially, I was hearing, “everything you are doing is wrong”, but what he was really suggesting was that “there is a better way if you are open to listening”. Aha! Something clicked for me with what he was saying. The practitioner in me was listening to this new preacher. I was hooked.



I took the Transformation Lead role for our move to Lean-Agile. We had great success and great hurdles to get over. The teams that had full leadership commitment thrived, those with leaders who resisted change made some progress too, but it was a battle. Down the road, when there was a change in senior leadership, they had a different vision of how to do things and a lot of the improvements were lost. I mention this not to criticize my old team, but to note that it takes work to sustain the change and leadership is the key. Change is a constant and leaders need to be able to adapt when the going gets tough. It was a great learning experience for me.



My next adventure was to become a ‘preacher’ myself. Lean-Agile was now in my blood and I wanted to help other teams be better than they ever thought they could be. I would never have predicted that decision would take me to a large Bank. I can still remember the interview process… ‘I don’t really want to work at the Bank’, I said, ‘but I can help you for a little while’. In my head, I thought it would be nearly impossible to change the software delivery life cycle at a huge institution. Boy, was I wrong, another Aha! I had the great fortune of landing with a team whose leaders were committed to changing, both in words and actions, both the Business and Technology. They were strong ‘change agents’ and wanted things to ‘be better’. Together we created an end-to-end lean delivery system complete with DevOps that still thrives today after many changes in leadership. I thought it would be a brief consulting gig - I joined the team and stayed three years. It was ‘lightning in a bottle’ and I loved every minute of it.



It seemed like it would be a good idea to broaden my experience with other companies. So, I moved back to full-time consulting, this time with Net Objectives. I was working side-by-side with my ‘preachers’ from back in 2008. So much experience and expertise there - I was learning something every day, but I missed being with practitioners.



So now I have the dream job - practicing and preaching for Kingsmen Software. We have our own software delivery craftsmen and DevOps folks doing Software Delivery as a Service (SDaaS) as well as crafting our own software products using Lean-Agile. I will provide internal coaching and guidance as we adapt to the challenges that face a growing company. Additionally, I will launch the new Kingsmen Business Agility advisory practice to help our clients on their journey to sustained Business Agility – hopefully helping to inspire a few ‘Aha’ moments myself.



Practicing and preaching. This should be fun.

About Kingsmen Software

Kingsmen Software is a software development company that crafts high-quality software products and empowers their clients to do the same. Their exclusive approach, The Kingsmen Way, combines processes, tooling, automation, and frameworks to enable scalability, efficiency, and business agility. Kingsmen’s craftsmen can be found collaborating in the historic Camden Cotton Mill at the corner of 5th and Graham in Charlotte, NC.

Back to Blog