Chris McDermott
May 20 · 4 min read

Thank you for helping – a tribute to Martin Burns

I was woken on Sunday morning to the saddest message, it informed me of the sudden passing of my good friend Martin Burns. Since then my thoughts have been filled with many fond memories of him and my eyes filled with tears. I’d like to share a few of those memories here.

I first first met Martin on the 20th of September 2012 at the speakers dinner of the inaugural Lean Agile Scotland. I was running late and he offered to welcome the speakers who had travelled for the conference. He helped me for the first time that night.

He got in touch with me earlier that year keen to contribute to the conference. We discussed his talk, he shared his passion for Lean. He submitted his talk to the CfP (late… his Big Blue employer took there time signing off his submission), I accepted it. I’d like to think that helped him on his Lean Agile journey.

In 2013 I was looking to find a new venue for the Lean Agile Scotland speaker meal. My knowledge of Edinburgh’s restaurants was limited so I asked Martin and he helped.

Later that year he ran his first public SAFe training course, I helped him organise it. I encouraged him to wear a Lean Kanban University hat during the PI planning section of the course that I had picked up for him at a conference earlier that year. We thought it would be funny for the SAFe Release Train Engineer to wear an LKU hat.

He told me a story that year that I think explains in part why he so passionately believed in SAFe. While working for a client he was asked to help them design an approach that would allow them to scale their use of Agile. He thought hard about this and designed a model for them. Weeks later he stumbled across SAFe online and noted the strong similarities with the model he designed for his client. I think he developed an emotional connection at that point that led him to invest so much time and energy in SAFe.

Martin had a habit of falling asleep during conference talks, it made me giggle… especially when I was the speaker. In 2014 at London Lean Kanban Days he told me of this habit when I sat next to him for a talk. He asked me to help by nudging him if he fell asleep. He did, I nudged, he woke up :-)

In early 2015 he and Lucy organised the inaugural SAFe Leadership Retreat in Crieff, I helped (in a small way). I witnessed Martin work hard to build a community that could make what he believed in better for those who worked with it.

In the summer that year he and Lucy returned with their children from Sweden. I was in need of help, lots of it, with Lean Agile Scotland and Martin encouraged Lucy to join in. I’ll be forever grateful, not only for Lucy’s help but also her friendship.

At Lean Agile Scotland that year he and Lucy opened their home to speakers who travelled. They gave some a bed to sleep in and at the end of the conference they gave us all party to celebrate our new friendships and the community we were part of. They’ve hosted their party every year since and have helped make the #lascot community what it is… some of us call it the party at the SAFe House, I think he knew, I hope he giggled along with us.

In 2016 he asked if he could bring pronoun badges along to Lean Agile Scotland to give away at the reception desk. I didn’t know what they were, he helped me understand the importance of wearing such a badge and giving others the opportunity to wear theirs.

That year at the conference party we played guitar and sang Caledonia together. It’s my fondest memory of him.

In 2017 he tried to help us pack the delegate bags the night before the conference. He tried to organise us, I’m not sure it worked out quite how he hoped it would. It made me smile, he was trying to help.

Just last week I noticed that he looked at my LinkedIn profile. I DM’d him, here is our exchange:

It turns I had helped him see the importance in meaning when framing practice. This was our last exchange, the last time we helped each other.

I wish I could help him again and have the opportunity to receive his help.

Thank you for all of your help. You did many many good things. I am proud to have called you a friend and to have received your friendship.

May you rest in peace.

Other tributes

Lucy Burns

Dave Snowden

Chris Matts

Melissa Perri

Chris Corriere

Gordon McMahon

Sal Freudenberg

    Chris McDermott

    Written by

    Lean Agile Coach, husband, dad, founder of @LeanAgileScot, co-organiser of @LeanAgileGla interested in complexity.