Martin, this one’s for you

A week ago we were trying process the impossible – the news that friend, colleague, encourager, and debating partner Martin Burns had suddenly passed away. Starting with one from Martin’s wife Lucy, here are some touching tributes:

In the light of the above it’s easy to explain my small tribute, which is to dedicate my forthcoming book Right to Left to his memory. Lucy has given her permission, and I’ve had confirmation that the dedication and a postscript can be accommodated at this late stage (it is already with the typesetter).

I have described Martin as “encourager and debating partner”. And it’s not just me – two very strong themes can be drawn from the tributes:

  1. Martin the optimist – always ready to think the best of people, “people positive”, to borrow a phrase from Aaron Dignan’s recent book
  2. Martin the principled – prepared to make a public stand for difficult causes in the face of opposition from people he continued to respect

Those weren’t two different Martins; rather he demonstrated that you could be both things at the same time. To take a notable and relevant example from his recent professional life, he supported SAFe because of what he believed it could do for people in the right context, and not to imply that it should be imposed on people (and oh how I wish that more people could separate those two concerns).

Martin was already named in the acknowledgements as a contributor to Right to Left. This was not just for his SAFe knowledge (key to a chapter on scaling, a potentially controversial chapter and one I really wanted to get right), but for confirming to me that the tension between the left-to-right (backlog-driven and implementation-focussed) and right-to-left (needs-based and outcome-oriented) perspectives manifests itself in SAFe just as it does for Scrum. Moreover, I knew him as an Agendashift supporter, an enthusiastic participant at the first ever Advanced workshop, and a valued advocate for it in his client engagements. To say that his name deserved inclusion would be an understatement.

People like Martin don’t come along every day, and it is good therefore to say thank you when they do. Martin, this one’s for you.

Martin Burns-4-square.jpeg

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