Martin Burns

Martin Burns

Practice Lead: Enterprise Agile Delivery

Meet Martin

Martin Burns is a lean/agile coach with a track record of leading and improving delivery in outsourced enterprise custom software development and systems support, with hands-on experience of introducing and using SAFe, Kanban and other methods. Martin coaches delivery leaders, initiating sustainable transformation to more effective ways of delivering business value.

Martin also writes, speaks to and educates international audiences.

What I Do

I work with large organisations to help them transform towards Lean & Agile ways of working, through both transformative consulting and hands-on delivery, ensuring that clients have both theory and experience to draw from.

Scaled Agile Framework Program ConsultantWith the client base I work with, I have found that the Scaled Agile Framework is often a useful starting place and a model that stakeholders find it easier to buy into. To enable me to be more effective in supporting clients in that model, I am certified as a SAFe™ Programe Consultant.

Sources of Inspiration

I read voraciously to the limits that time and budget permit. All my hypotheses and experiments are systematically validated against both theory and real life experience of others. This is no ivory tower, egghead pursuit, but a thirst for meaning.

Recently Read
Rolling Rocks Downhill: Accelerate Agile using Goldratt's TOC
Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement
Project Retrospectives : A Handbook for Team Reviews
This is Lean: Resolving the Efficiency Paradox
User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development
Selenium 2 Testing Tools: Beginner's Guide
Growing Object-Oriented Software, Guided by Tests
Test Driven Development: By Example

See the full list at Martin Burns's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (recently read shelf)

Currently Reading
The Agile Culture: Leading Through Trust and Ownership
Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives - A Toolbox of Retrospective Exercises
Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders
More Agile Testing: Learning Journeys for the Whole Team
Blossom: What Scotland Needs to Flourish
Back of The Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures
Practical Lean Leadership: A Strategic Leadership Guide for Executives
Nobody Is Exempt From Improvement
What's Wrong With Eating People?: 33 More Perplexing Philosophy Puzzles
Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers

See the full list at Martin Burns's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (currently reading shelf)

Reading Backlog
Thinking, Fast and Slow
Den sociala hjärnan
Välj rätt! En guide till bra beslut
An Introduction to General Systems Thinking
Up Your Impact: 52 Innovative Strategies to Add Value to Your Work
Becoming a Technical Leader
The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone
Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions
The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor
Throwing the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up

See the full list at Martin Burns's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (to read shelf)

  • Delivery Leadership
  • Portfolio and Project Management
  • Continuous Obsessive Improvement
  • Lean thinking
  • Change Management
  • Portfolio Management
  • Programme Management
  • Facilitation and Coaching
  • Culture Change
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Method Innovation & Introduction
  • Commercial & Financial Management
  • SAFe
  • Scrum
  • Lean
  • Kanban
  • A3

My Recent Work

Selected Events

Selected Engagements

Viasat TV to Go


Programme Manager: Emerging Products

Delivery leader across a portfolio of products, including the successful launch of TV To Go across three countries, reporting to Head-Of and C-level executives.

Candy Crush Soda

King Logo

Interim Scrum Master: Candy Crush Soda

Coaching two of the game’s four teams as it moved from a highly confidential project, through its beta launch.



Delivery Leader: IBM Custom Development & Support Services

Leading the delivery and commercial management of multiple contracts for a 50 person multilevel team in the UK and India.

RBS: The Royal Bank of Scotland

RBS Retail Bank

Programme Scrum Master: Electronic Customer Review (eCR)

Contract Agile Coaching role for a large, distributed programme team delivering a portal application, in the first significant Agile delivery in RBS Retail Bank.

Coaching Customers

IBM Logo

Lean Coach: UK & Nordics Global Services Accounts

Coach to large outsourced delivery organisations delivering Application Development and Support Services into major customers.

Recent Writing

Lean/Agile Values

After many years, I have finally found a set of values that effectively articulate my way of working in technology-heavy environments.

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Lean/Agile Values

I have found a beautiful summary of the way I work with organisations, and the values I seek to amplify.

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The Two Agiles

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There are two distinct benefits of Agility. Assuming either is universal and exclusive causes unnecessary conflict: Agilists need to appreciate and value the diversity and find context-specific balance. We are uncovering better ways of developing software says the manifesto, while fudging the question about what ‘better’ means. Exactly what you’d expect in a superficial peace treaty. But by ducking the major source of conflict and focusing on the easy stuff, it pretty much guarantees further conflict. Since its very inception, the Agile community has been riven by conflict. The very manifesto event was essentially a peace treaty between different groups and individuals who had some very different ideas about what they were writing. Like most intractable conflicts, these are not driven by conflicting answers to a question, but different views of what the question is. In Cynefin terms, we are in Disorder, and the clearest conflict is between two Cynefin domains, each of which addresses a different business question. It’s no surprise that the conflict is illustrated through the first two Agile Principles. Early and continuous delivery of valuable software This school of thinking emphasises minimising Cost of Delay, and says that if you start delivering value earlier, and incrementally, you will deliver a lot more total value than if you wait until it’s all delivered. You can find this all over flow-based approaches, in Theory of Constraints, DevOps and Kanban. Move the value through the system faster. Smaller batches, moved more frequently. Deploy often, minimising the time from developer desktop to production. Often in this school, we work to identify reducible uncertainty and variation. Elephant Carpaccio is a... read more

Unveiling h#

h# is a revolutionary new, integrated code and method framework, based on the critical value of Radical Simplicity. By analysing codebases and development methodologies through our unique insight lens of succussion, and taking it through the dilution scaffolding and interface reduction, we are able to ensure the fastest running systems with the lowest defect rate you have ever seen. Right now, we are working on the framework’s features, but we expect it to come integrated with our custom-build rs.gar deployment mechanism and scheduler. We also hope to be publishing a book next year, and simplifying our certification schema to make it more available to licensed practitioners. We’re excited by this and hope to bring you more very soon! @kevlinhenney @mikaelhellden @MartinBurnsSV (Chief methodologists) @jasongorman @russmiles (Senior... read more

The Cynefin Ogre

There’s a lot more to Cynefin than you might think. It’s like an onion. It stinks. And it makes you cry. And it has layers. Quick Cynefin Catchup See the previous post for a short outline, or Liz Keogh’s longer one. Very often, I hear people talking as if a given endeavour is only in a single domain. Often those same people rush to the toughest place to be — complexity. And that’s not entirely stupid, as you should pay attention to the most challenging things first. However, that pulls you towards an overloaded response, that burdens you with far more risk mitigation than you actually need. Which is what we’re generally trying to avoid. Why? Because most endeavours are in multiple domains, depending on what level you’re looking at. Multi Domain Example When I think about Cynefin, I tend to think about travel examples, as they are both concrete enough to imagine (always a powerful enabler for mental stickiness) and contain enough variation to illustrate different levels of complexity. So let’s think about going on holiday. (Well it is a very dark Swedish November afternoon outside). Choosing the holiday is definitely a Complex matter. It involves negotiating amongst family members, based on a shifting compromise of conflicting needs and experiences, and balancing that against moving variables of availability and cost and hassle. OK, so we’ve chosen where and when we’re going. Great stuff. What’s the cheapest and quickest way of getting there? This has some elements of Complexity in it, left over from the previous phase, but this is a matter of analysis. We take this to an... read more