Saturday, April 23, 2011

Agile Lean Europe: Some thoughts

Just jotting down some thoughts..

A couple of weeks ago, I drove up to Düsseldorf to attend the Scrumtisch Rhein/Ruhr meeting, because the topic was this new Agile/Lean Europe (ALE) Network. Olaf Lewitz facilitated the discussion ( credits to CodeCentric for the free beverages/food).

I first heard about this network in this discussion in the Norwegian agile forum, initiated by Sergey Dmitriev and followed up on by Johannes Brodwall.

Olaf and Deborah Preuss were both involved in the Agile Coach Camp in Norway earlier this year, and I suspect that they already discussed some of these things there. This makes for a firm connection between the German and Norwegian agile scene, and I hope to be able to support this bridge somehow.

Now, why does this European interconnection matter anyway? 
I'll give you three reasons why it matters to me personally:

1) It's no fun doing it aloneAgile is deeply nested with social drive. While it's perfectly fine to drive on the social forces within a closed community (say, the German agile scene), it gets a lot more interesting if we know that this is an international effort. Knowing that other countries are interested adds motivation.

2) A mirror for our culture
We make changes based on feedback and inspection. For the sake of fresh perspectives, we often use externals (consultants, coaches) for gaining insight. Agile depends heavily on, and influences, culture. Ergo, for a fresh perspective, we might benefit from using externals from other cultures/countries.

(One thing is organizations of business, another thing is getting feedback on how our communities are operating.)

3) Synergy, or re-using knowledge and experience in other countries
If I spent hundreds of hours creating some crystallized knowledge on how to deal with some particular problem (like introducing agile in public sector), it would be an awful shame if it only came to the benefit of the few thousand potentially interested in my country. Letting other countries benefit from the same knowledge is win/win.

A few thoughts on Germany/Norway in particular

There are limits to how much we can absorb from American (and even British) experience reports. Germany and Norway are both social-security oriented economies, with conservative innovation habits, well on the way into privatizing a bunch of former national institutions (rail, telecom, post/logistics, health).

So we have a lot of things in common. And if I may say, people are very similar in regards to personality and behavior (the way we eat, drink, talk, politeness, etc.). But Norway is tiny and Germany is huge, which makes Norway a bit like a miniature test-lab for Germany. What works on in Norway could work in Germany on a larger scale.

To name one example: The traditional rejection of agile projects in Norway's public sector projects was overcome some few years ago by (among other things) the creation of an agile contract standard, the PS2000 agile. Since then, several successful projects have made use of this contract, both in public and private sector.

Is this a lesson we could port to Germany somehow?

Also check out Kurt Häusler's thoughts in this post and Olaf Lewitz's summary from the Düsseldorf meeting. Both of them, as well as Johannes Brodwall are attending the ALE Network events at the XP Madrid conference in a couple of weeks.