Remembering Martin Burns

Chris Corriere
May 20 · 3 min read

I met Martin at Lean Agile Scotland 2016. We both stood to volunteer after Chris Matt’s Keynote on culture transformation as folks that were willing to try to experiment with culture. I now believe Martin was expected to stand up and I was just and unexpected surprise, but the introduction and interaction between me, Matts, and Martin after the talk was both delightful and enthusiastic. Later that evening I ended up at Martin’s home for a bowl of chili. Martin and his wife were kind enough to invite the presenters from Lean Agile Scotland into their home for a meal.

As I arrived at their house I noticed Martin and Lucy’s oldest son standing near a door off a hallway. Given his age and how he was dressed I assumed he wasn’t joining the party, but I still introduced my self and asked him about school and his career aspirations. On my way out for the evening I went to thank Martin and Lucy for their hospitality and was surprised to hear them thank me back for speaking with their son when I first arrived. My parents hosted enough parties for me to remember being in his spot myself. While I hadn’t thought much of it at the time it was obvious in parting that the conversation I had with their child meant more to Martin and Lucy than I really understood. I remember telling Lucy it was a blessing to welcome people into their home and feed them. I had hoped they would see a return on the generosity they showed me, and I was glad that I managed to be of some use while I was there.

I ended up coming back to Scotland the following year and had brought my family with me. We had experienced a tragic death in my family right before the trip and almost didn’t go. The invitation to come back to Martin’s home with my wife and kids was an oddly comforting gesture at the time, and I’m not sure Martin ever know how much it meant to me. It was great to see our kids get along so well playing together that evening. I can remember Martin helping us into black cab at the end of the night and the huge hug he gave me before we drove off. I assumed it would be the last time I would see him, but I was wrong.

I managed to get back to Scotland again the following year as a volunteer for an Inclusive Collaboration Workshop. It had been a long week of flying back and forth between Lean Agile Scotland and Map Camp London. I didn’t have energy for much other than beer and guitar, but lucky for me Martin and I had similar preferences for both beverages and music. Matter of fact, I believe it was Martin that first explained the difference between whiskey and whisky to me.

I am no SAFe advocate by a long shot, but if Martin taught me nothing else it’s to meet an organization where they are and constantly challenge them to improve. I have worked with a lot of organizations that practice SAFe, and the twitter sword fights I often saw Martin having with other friends certainly helped me to know what challenges we could expect and what might help us through it.

I have made a lot of friends from around the world through the international tech community over the years. Some occasionally reply to emails, but only one has ever welcomed me into their home and fed me. I am glad to have the privilege of remembering him well.

    Chris Corriere

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    Sociotechnological Mathematician @ Large