Travel and Trust

I don’t usually talk too much about personal stories here – I try focus on agile methods pretty directly. However, the last two days have been interesting enough that I want to share them, and a lesson from the experience.

About six weeks ago, I started making arrangements to do an in-house ScrumMaster Certification course for a good client of mine. These types of courses are always interesting because it is possible to go into the details relating to a specific organization. As well, because I have worked with these people before, I knew that they would have great, challenging questions.

I was supposed to depart yesterday on a short flight to get to their location. The weather forecast included a substantial snow storm for the day. I decided to make a change to my booking to go on an earlier flight in the hopes that I would get out before the storm. Unfortunately, about 30 minutes before I was to get into a taxi, the airline called to say that the flight was canceled and that I was re-booked on a flight for this morning. Since my course was to start this morning quite early, this was a bit of a problem.

I called my airline and found an alternative flight that would leave late in the afternoon (yesterday), get to an airport about 90 minutes drive from my client, and which was not canceled or delayed. I hopped in a taxi, got to the airport, checked in, went through customs (Canada to the US), went through security, hung out in the frequent flyer lounge, took the shuttle to the terminal, waited about five minutes and then found out that this flight, and all others for the rest of the day were canceled. (I then had to find my way back home which was extremely difficult with all the cancellations; getting a taxi was a two hour wait, so I decided to take public transit. The cost of getting to the airport was 40 minutes and 80 dollars. The cost of getting home was 240 minutes and 3 dollars!)

I called my client to let them know that I would have to arrive in the morning on the original re-booked flight. If I was lucky, I would end up at my client’s site around 9:30am and be able to get the class started before 10am.

My flight this morning was scheduled to depart at 6:20am. Since I am a fair distance from the airport, this meant leaving my house at 4:20am and waking up at 3:55am (shower, brush teeth, dress, check email); thankfully, I didn’t have to unpack/repack.

Before I left, I checked to see if the flight was still a “go” and it looked okay. I got to the airport to do my check-in. The automated check-in terminal told me to see an airline agent. Oh oh! I waited in line for 30 minutes only to find out that again my flight was canceled. The ticket agent was happy to try help out, but because of the weather (freezing rain), most other flights were also canceled and the earliest I might be able to get to my destination was about 3:30pm… if flights resumed in the afternoon. Definitely a problem!

I didn’t put up a big fuss – no point really. So I made my way back home.

The end result: I called my client on the phone, explained the situation. He was quite understanding and we are going to re-schedule hopefully for later this month.

The lesson? He didn’t have to be nice. He could have said something to the effect of “we had an agreement and you didn’t deliver… it’s all off, I’ll find another vendor.” And the fact is, he may still do that if we can’t find a suitable date… but he’s giving me the chance and that is important for both of us.

It builds trust, it is collaborative rather than contractual. And it’s great that two people in two organizations who are doing agile are willing to put the principles into practice even outside of software development.

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