Monthly spotlight on Pam Ashby
30 July 2019
Posted by: Abi Walker
Each month we have been interviewing a member of the Agile Business Consortium community. For August's spotlight interview, we have Communications Strategist and Facilitator Coordinator for this year's Agile Business Conference, Pam Ashby.
What's your current job title?
I’m a communications strategist, agile marketer, and a coach – improving marketing communications and agile communication to support business agility.
How would you describe your role to a child?
I help people make their customers happy. I support people to enjoy what they do, and get better at it.
What is the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?
Ooh, tricky question. I’ve done some fun stuff involving aircraft and satellites, but one job that was really good fun was creating a 10-year anniversary commemoration for the creative services group where I was Marketing Manager. Our clients were the top 10 design and advertising agencies in London’s West End, so we were aiming for something really ‘top notch’. We created a beautiful little book called ‘Rabbit and the Tin Drum’, a bit like a Beatrix Potter book but I almost want to say nicer!
I was project manager and wrote the storyline, and then a children’s storybook author put it into rhyme. Our best illustrators worked on the rabbit characters, conveying their emotions through detail like the tilt of an ear or a paw. There were lots of blocks to the project, and quite a lot of tension, as everyone became deeply involved in it. We had a big team, and there were lots of stakeholders, but the end result was amazing and we even had a small enamelled tin drum on the front cover.
Very proud, even now. The job was a credit to the team.
Pam's copy of The Story of Rabbit and the Tin Drum
How did you come to agile?
My agile journey stretches from doing writing around AgilePM® when it first launched, to recently being identified as one of the LeanInAgile100.
Some years ago, I sat the AgilePM course and spent that time realising how powerful these principles were for marketing. I realised I’d always been working in an agile way, and could build on that foundation to improve further and help others to do the same.
I’m now certified as a coach and exploring how coaching can support business agility.
What is your understanding of business agility?
Business agility is where organisations accept that the default cannot be ‘what you did last time’. Agility demands a pause for thought before action, to evaluate a context that’s changing and decide what could work most effectively.
Businesses that are truly agile collaborate to deliver a vision, breaking through functional boundaries, sharing knowledge and feeling safe to be transparent and experiment. Agile businesses know there isn’t just one ‘right’ answer and that we need to work together to test and learn.
What agile techniques do you use in your day to day life?
I use MoSCoW prioritisation to plan my day. I’m also a heavy Trello user as I’m not a big fan of email. It makes so much more sense to me to keep conversations alongside the issues you’re working on! I recognise you’re differentiating between working and home life though.
There’s a question here, do we use agile principles in ‘day to day life’ or does agile working reflect the principles that have long been common socially and domestically. Do standups reflect ‘How was your day?’ Does visualisation on a KanBan board reflect what’s seen on a family kitchen noticeboard? Does ‘No, we can’t do that until we’ve finished painting the house’ reflect the focus of a sprint?
When you start thinking in an agile way, it tends to affect everything you do. I go for Minimum Viable Product every time – my husband wanted to make me a bird table that was straight, edged, and beautiful but was persuaded to be agile. It’s not edged, it’s not level, but I got it faster and the birds love it!
What’s the first thing you do when you start the workday?
I go for a half hour fast walk. Being home-office based, this is my virtual ‘journey to work’.
I get fresh air, exercise, and a bit of mindfulness to clear my head and start the day feeling energised.
Tell us a random fact about you?
I’m a bell-ringer. A second random fact is that this doesn’t mean I’m a campanologist – I only ring them rather than study them!
What do you enjoy doing out of work?
Ringing bells, walking, dancing, socialising and partying, reading, going places, experiencing new things and meeting new people.
What is your motto or personal mantra?
Keep it simple and get it done!
What's the biggest issue you see in your community at the moment?
People valuing having a community but having little time to build it alongside their professional lives.
Simon Hayward’s ‘The Agile Leader’
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Agile Business Conference?
Hearing the 20-minute talks from agile thinkers like Simon Hayward, and then having the space to explore new ideas, and their impact in different contexts, in the deep-dives.
Pam Ashby is an agile communications strategist and a certified coach. She helps organisations and individuals work in a more agile way – using communication to align their values, actions, and strategy with purpose and mission.