Writeup by: Maaret Pyhäjärvi, Agile Finland Executive committee 2013

On August 20th, 15 onsite and 6 remote participants got together on a discussion about future of Agile (Finland). This writeup is one person’s summary of what was going on in the discussions, and you can check the recording for misinterpretations I might have created while summing it up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbVxHvfvIPg

Original purpose and what was the world back then

We started from a very quick outline of the original purpose, that was twofold: there was a need to set up a conference to increase awareness of agile – the conference we know as Scan Agile – and to have places where you could discuss and practice the stuff that was still practiced in hiding in companies. The non-profit was set up around early adopters to get out of the bushes and into the mainstream.

Serving a wider audience, with different focus of understanding

From the discussions, a main point delivered seems to be that we’ve already gone far from the early adopters time, and need to serve a wider audience including organizations that are not so agile by their nature, meaning also a more diverse audience. Agile has turned into a buzzword that everyone uses, but for completely different intentions and meanings. The form of agile is very common, but the substance is still hard to find and grasp. Instead of awareness of agile, the awareness theme now is on the substance. We need to, as community, share experiences and reflect to find out how to do things of quality from points of views of many different stakeholders.

Advocating substance over form, how?

We talked about Agile Finland becoming a brand, where agile.fi domain could be used to promote and spead understanding about agile for the larger public and not act just as a community bulleting board. It could be used to sneak good stuff into organizations. Some ideas about sharing experiences with for example different contractors were discussed, but the main trend remains that we should not become the judges of right kind of agile, but more of a warm and welcoming community to discuss experiences, allowing people to make their own judgements.

Save Finland, nothing less

The ones participating in the discussion seemed to share a view of (substance of) agile making things better. Making software that matters in ways that make sense for development teams, the right product, right features at right time for product management, and successful business supported by software. We talked about agile being important to Finland with importance of software and in particular to us as taxpayers thinking of the software projects on public sector.  A question was raised if agile as a word is even useful any more – shouldn’t we just talk about software, software products and system development? Term ‘agile’ may close doors that are open otherwise. And, empirical process control for non-software stuff may also be relevant.

Climbing out of the boxes

We discussed Agile Finland – is that for Finland, from Finland? Agile Finland could also be Finland, that is agile. To ‘save Finland’ we need learnings from outside, and adaptations to the Finnish culture. We were reminded in the discussion, that a lot of these methods have cultural origin in the US culture that may differ from ours. Also, it makes sense to have Agile Finland, since other countries have per-country associations too, but actively collaborating with the other country-based communities would do us good. The boundaries should be more fuzzy.

We should actively network with other communities and be friendly to understand their interests and have actual dialog to learn something.

Our culture, our language

The pace of commenting and sharing views increased, when the discussion touched upon language issues. My impression was that the inclusiveness to the world as well as to the locals who may not speak English was seen as valuable in use of English, but to get to the ‘save Finland’ goal, we would also need to serve a Finnish speaking community.

There is also great material about agile in Finnish, but this tends to be available on consultancies web pages and as their self-published booklets. Agile Finland should pool and promote the good work already done within the consultancies and other companies / organizations, as a non-profit and equal to all source of collected information.  And, creating materials in Finnish as a community working groups would be good too.

Public sector, the pet peeve

Looking at how the projects on public sector are set up financially and with everyone being taxpayers, public sector support in introducing and understanding agile and its benefits was raised over and over again in the discussions. We talked about already having organized a finnish speaking conference last year for that sector in particular and another one coming up, and about the idea that being connected with ministries / public sector actors that are seeking to understand and package the knowledge as parts of their improvement projects would be a good thing. The reasons of not so well practiced development may trace back to laws, and different kinds of tactics to enable changes are likely to be needed than with the corporates.

Example sharing

Another reoccuring theme in the discussion was that we need examples. We need examples of actual projects and discussions of those. We need examples of problems that we may try to solve together. We need examples of good consultancies that were helpful for our organizations needs. We need examples not only from the product/system development point of view, but also from maintenance point of view. And we need forums to share those experiences. There seems to be a need of a collection of solid business cases. Something we could work on together, perhaps?

Also, intercompany relations and mentoring matchmaking services came up as relevant. And, that such services should operate on pull mode, asking something you need and others volunteering to help out.

Multiple entry points to same underlying values and principles

Agile Finland has grown to a point, where not all of its members have equal interests. Some got very existed on the organizational change themes of agile and coaching organizations. Others find software development in ways that make sense their interest. We felt we’re all that: software that matters for developers, right product, right features right time for product managers, something else for organizational and business management. And that the HR stuff is really interesting and relevant.

Big ideas but how does a community decide what it does?

A lot of ideas of what we could and should be was raised. But also, a question of what next, how the decision mechanisms work came up. Since Agile Finland is a volunteer organization, voting doesn’t really work. Things that have people volunteering on them will happen. Usually, someone decides to try something, invited others and people vote with their feet on what themes they contribute on.

This community can turn ideas and energy into reality

Looking again back (details will follow in a separate writeup), this community has implemented many ideas that have been there. We should celebrate the successes we’ve already had, and share the stories about how this community works, not just the contents on agile.

Autumn of Agile Finland

To close up, we summed up things happening already this autumn. There’s a coaching/consulting circle every third Monday of the month. There’s an agile dinner to discuss with peers every month on first Tuesday and agile breakfast (in Finnish) every month on first Friday. Testing enthusiasts are meeting on monthly basis and have set up a meetup group to coordinate this. Scan Agile conference is well on their way and will take place 11.11.2013. And a peer conference on no estimates and an Agile Coaching Camp are strongly bubbling under the hood. Semi-active work is done to see how the coding dojos could be resurrected.

Summing up future purposes we’d contribute on

  • Save Finland

  • Work on the public sector agile

  • Share experiences, learn from one another to take things forward at our own companies

  • Make it possible to build software that matters in a way that feels good, make this possible so that I can start from a better level instead of introducing / teaching two years.

  • Build a brand of agile Finland to chance perception of agile being an expensive waste of time buzzword

  • Provide good ways to learn about agile in Finnish

And all this with an underlying positive attitude: be warm, welcoming, understanding community. Everyone is welcome.

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