There is a perpetual range of setbacks in business to slow progress, derail strategies or completely shut you down. For those leaders that not only survive but find a way to prosper; it is the lessons gathered along the way which makes the difference. As a self-funded, self-educated businesswoman, Fatimah Abbouchi has amassed a fair share of lessons. She has harnessed these life and business lessons to navigate everything from challenging established corporate titans to significant personal challenges.
Supplementing a university degree with hands-on experience
For Fatimah, it all started at ground zero, as a Project Coordinator 17 years ago, Fatimah progressed through the corporate projects’ world, supplementing the hurdle of a formal business education through hands-on experience. Like most of us progressing through the ranks, we are often at the mercy of endless disjointed and inefficient processes – the first of many lessons. Rather than put up with the wasted effort and lost opportunity, Fatimah repurposed these broken processes as opportunities to understand why they were broken, how they could be improved and ultimately implementing change.
Fast-forward 12 years, and a business is founded. Over a decade of learning, testing and iterating had led to Fatimah establishing the Agile Management Office (AMO) . The idea of AMO was born out yearning for a more modern approach to project governance. Software development had spilt into traditional corporates, powering a rapid transition from waterfall delivery to the fashionable Agile methodology. AMO is all about adaptation to fit the need, whilst adhering to the ‘rules of engagement’. The abilities of traditional corporates are often not agile by nature and they are often reactively driven. Their capability to pivot to the changing environment around them is often difficult to say the least. Through Agile Management Office, Fatimah recognised the opportunity to share knowledge and ways of thinking differently that enabled project governance to work in harmony with the pace and ways of working of Agile. During this time Agile Management Office has evolved as market conditions and macro events changed business needs.
Challenging the corporate consulting titans
The second lesson, repurposing skills and experience, saw Fatimah applying the craft of pitching and winning project tenders, to pitching and winning new business. Having proven the methodology with small and medium businesses, AMO passed the next key hurdle of three years in operation; about this time came an opportunity to challenge the corporate titans with a pitch to an ASX200 company. Repurposing skills and knowledge also led to the creation of the platform Agile Ideas. This new concept covering a combination podcasts, blog, newsletters, and YouTube videos was launched to bring together expertise and carefully curated insights and ideas across various verticals of projects businesses and innovation. All to centre the agility of thought and provide readers and listeners with recognition of benefits from working agile in mindset and in action. Leading up to these opportunities, Agile Management Office had amassed a following and a small, mission driven team. A team who through the typical challenges of a small business had forged a dedication to each other and to the mission, which would prepare them for the next hurdle to come. As with any small business owner, focused on winning business that would set-up AMO up for years of growth; Fatimah was on and accessible at every possible opportunity.
“Wanting to run a business and actually doing it are two different things, both are fraught with challenges, but the journey makes it a learning adventure. I have set up two businesses, one that failed and one that is continuing to show that learning from mistakes is the best way to grow” – Fatimah Abbouchi
Shared Vision, Undeniable Determination
This determination to succeed culminated in a medical emergency. A situation which not only took Fatimah from the business for months, but also pushed the business to the brink. Lesson number three – A leader brings a vision and keeps the passion alive, however without a focused team by their side, no matter the vision it cannot become a reality on its own. With that, the deal was lost, the pipeline progressively dried-up and in many respects, it was back to square one. What was not lost, was the vision and the belief in AMO’s potential. Nor was the patience of the team and the determination to batten down the hatches, re-group and do it again.
“Failing is an opportunity to learn and that is why it is so powerful. Some of the best ideas, come from the biggest failures” – Fatimah Abbouchi
With sheer determination and a team that shared a common belief Agile Management Office was winning advocates and supporters, one by one – turning former clients into partners, developing through leadership. The Idea of “practice what you preach” has been key. Applying the same skills and techniques that AMO offers to clients, the AMO Method is continuously developed and enhanced internally.
In 2019 Agile Management Office took the AMO Method to a new level and entered the world of academia. In collaboration with a Danish University Fatimah launched a study programme to further develop and mature the AMO Method and an alternative solution not only to governance but to traditional project management academics. This synergy between industry and academia provided a scalable experience that has led Fatimah and AMO to expand on educational merits of the AMO Method.
AMO and Fatimah are still taking on initiatives beyond the consulting world. Staying in business and keeping up with constant pressures of performing at work and balancing that with so many other commitments often compromise the ability to reflect on our physical and mental health at times. Since 2014, Fatimah has been personally passionate about those in the community struggling with mental health through the Beyond Blue Organisation; having spoken at multiple events aimed at raising awareness, reducing stigma and encouraging others to get involved, she continues to present on issues of anxiety and depression as a mental health ambassador despite her own anxieties, she wants to prove that the sky is the limit.
Being a business owner, Fatimah has also set a green path for Agile Management Office. “Sustainability” is a catch phrase often misinterpreted or reserved to green businesses only. But every small step towards a brighter future for the climate is a step worth taking. In the midst of a shaky and frail 2020, AMO partnered with a non-profit organization that is determined to uplift the cause of reforestation and aid the fight against climate change by encouraging large scale, minimal participation of environmental responsibilities. The partnership guarantees a minimum number of trees donated per month, with additional trees donated for every product or service sold and every candidate placed. A small contribution with big impact to the environment.
While the COVID-19 Pandemic has inevitably changed the environment in business Fatimah and her team at Agile Management Office are already at the forefront of providing proven and innovative agile management solutions that can enhance and transform project capability across businesses, demonstrated by the recent success of their ASX200 engagement with Australia’s second biggest supermarket.
“The pandemic has caused a lot of problems and added stress, but it has also given us an opportunity to rethink, regroup and rebuild into our future, we now know where we are going and what we need to do to get there” – Fatimah Abbouchi
When we fall, we get back up
Without the determination to build from the beginning, careers and businesses would have faltered. Without the patience to learn the domain and the craft intimately, Fatimah may never have spotted the opportunity she did. With belief to persist, courage and one heck of a team it is possible to overcome any setback. The most valuable lessons in life does not happen when running, they happen when you fall down and decide not to back out, but to get back up.
Fatimah Abbouchi is the Founder and CEO of Agile Management Office; a thought-leader providing governance solutions for organisations to manage and govern projects in the agile era. A successful businesswoman, Fatimah has been supporting businesses from start-ups to enterprise internationally for the past 15 years.
Personally, Fatimah is passionate about supporting those in the community with anxiety and depression through beyondblue; having spoken at 45 events aimed at raising awareness, reducing stigma and encouraging others to similarly get involved.
You can contact Fatimah via all social networks or by email on Fatimah.firstname.lastname@example.org