Open Letter to Agile Alliance, Scrum Alliance, and LSSC

Hi,

Since three months I have been working with others to create a network of Agile and Lean thinkers and practitioners across Europe (ALE network). My personal motive was to increase collaboration of people across national boundaries. As someone who visits many conferences and communities in Europe I noticed that people tend to focus only on their local communities, and on things happening in the USA, but not on other European countries. For example, there is Agile Holland, Agile Finland, and many more. But there seems to be little or no direct contact between such communities. One European speaker (Elad Amit) said to me there's a lot of "inbreeding" in Europe. Most ideas circulate in their own communities, but they don't permeate national borders.

As a result of this, Europeans on the international stage are hard to find. Despite the fact that some parts of Europe are leading the world in Agile and Lean thinking, Europe is not so experienced in delivering international experts, writers, bloggers, and speakers. And despite its size, Europe also seems underrepresented in the boards of international alliances, consortiums, and institutes. And there’s no denying it: Europe has itself to blame for that. It's cultural diversity and language differences make it hard for Agile/Lean thinkers and practitioners to collaborate with each other, and transcend their national interests. And therefore I believe that Europe must try harder to make a difference and to make better contributions at the international stage. Otherwise it will just remain a collection of many small countries that prefer to ignore each other.

I blogged about this before. And it appears that this suggestion struck a nerve with many people. The LinkedIn group of the Agile Lean Europe network already grew to 1,000 members in just three months!

Last week, at the XP2011 conference in Madrid, 32 people from many European countries got together and created a shared vision for the fledging ALE network:

The Agile Lean Europe (ALE) network is an open and evolving network of people (not businesses), with links to local communities and institutes. It helps people in European countries by spreading ideas and growing a collective memory of Agile and Lean thinking. And by exchanging interesting people with diverse perspectives across borders it allows beautiful results to emerge.

(Well, actually we played with Lego. But this is my attempt at a condensed version of the result, which was much more colorful and interesting.)

The people at XP2011 also generated 30 ideas for projects that they hope to see emerge from their collaboration. But of course, that will take time, effort, motivation, and (in some cases) money.

Note that the ALE network created its vision and ideas only a few days ago. I could not contact the international institutions earlier, because there was nothing for me to show yet. The network had to validate and motivate its own existence first. But now it has.

It is important to understand that the informal ALE network has no central authority. It is not a consortium, alliance, or institute. And it has no board of directors. There is no competition with anyone. There is only a network of people collaborating across Europe, while they are having fun and enjoying a diversity of perspectives and cultures. There is also no official membership. Anyone who participates in Agile/Lean communities, and who can somehow identify themselves with the challenges our European continent is facing, may consider themselves part of the Agile Lean Europe network. We had Americans and Canadians ask if they could join the network because they like Europe. But they need not ask. Anyone can join the group, as long as they agree on its focus on Europe.

(Oh, and we intentionally have not defined what Europe is. The current definition is something along the lines of “You’re part of Europe if you sing a song in the Eurovision Song Contest.”)

This brings me to a word of caution. Some skeptics don't see the value in "yet another community". Some have called the focus on Europe a "xenophobic tendency". But I beg to differ. I believe there is work to do at the continental level which is not taken up by the global institutions nor by the local communities. And a network with a focus on collaboration across many different cultures can hardly be called xenophobic. We have the EU, the UEFA, and the Eurovision Song Contest. So why not Agile Lean Europe? But I welcome healthy criticism, because it enables me to learn how to communicate better what we do. I'm not always good at that. I can only hope people trust our best intentions.

So, what do I want from the Agile Alliance, the Scrum Alliance, and the LSSC? Well, at some point the network will generate projects that require international support. Maybe even sponsoring. I'm sure the people doing those projects will be knocking on a few important doors. But right now the people in the ALE network only need one thing: encouragement. They came up with ideas like Bathtub Conferences, ALE 2011, Agile Couch Surfing, ALE SOS, an ALE Train, Expert Exchange, Training Apprentices, and many more. But coming up with ideas is easy. The hardest part is implementing them! A positive word of encouragement from the Agile Alliance, the Scrum Alliance, and the LSSC would help a lot. Something like "That's cool what you're doing there. Keep it up. Call us when you need us!" I’m sure it would motivate people. It would certainly motivate me!

Note the use of the word "me" in this text. I can only speak for myself. There is no central authority in this network. There are only individuals, trying to overcome geographical and cultural barriers to work together and promote Agile and Lean thinking and practice in Europe.

I hope you let us know what you think of that.

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  • http://softwaredevelopmenttoday.blogspot.com Vasco Duarte

    well put Jurgen.
    ALENetwork is not about “race” (re: xenophoby), it is about geography, and the need to help people in the European Geography to share their learnings and develop their knowledge through dialogue.
    Other entities should look at ALENetwork as complementing and helping their mission, and i’m sure they will. ALENetwork has already brought people together that would otherwise not meet. That alone illustrates the need we have for ALENetwork.

  • http://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com Mike Cohn

    The Scrum Alliance has always been willing to help other agile groups. I can’t speak for the whole group or its full board of directors but as part of it, good luck taking your group forward and we will be here when you need something from us.

  • http://www.cesaridrovo.com César Idrovo

    Speaking also for myself only (though currently on the Agile Alliance board) I find this collaborative development in Europe very interesting. I look forward to learning more and hearing about the first projects to gain traction. In support of that goal, please keep in mind that the Agile Alliance may be able to provide some support (check out agilealliance.org/programs).
    Another organization that may be able to offer some support is the Agile Leadership Network (agileleadershipnetwork.org – formerly known as Agile Project Leadership Network). This group may be able to guide those that would like to setup a local chapter while staying connected with (and visible to) a larger community. Robbie has recently written a post on our website about our current focus and there may be some alignment with the energies of the ALE network.
    Good luck and keep us posted!

  • http://futureworksconsulting.com Diana Larsen

    Hi Jurgen et al,
    To second what César said, when you’re ready let us (Agile Alliance) know what you need and how we can help. As board members, César and I can speak for the Agile Alliance, because many times the board has discussed our eager willingness to support international communities in accomplishing what they want to build locally, regionally, and continentally. Good on you, mates!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    For the people who were there the Vision session answered that question:
    http://alenetwork.eu/vision/
    If you cannot subscribe to that vision, then that is fine. And maybe we will learn how to communicate it better, to include more people.
    But you can’t say that it isn’t valid and that it didn’t motivate. Because you weren’t there. And it did work for the people who were there. 🙂

  • Roberto Fasciolo

    I like this sentence: “The network had to validate and motivate its own existence first”. That’s a good point, but unfortunately me (as many others) really fail to see how did it validate and motivate its own existence.

  • Roberto Fasciolo

    Yes, as in it’s motivating for people being part of Scientology to be there, but can you say that’s doing good to the world?
    This is now about communicating things better, but about communicating at all. Your vision doesn’t answer some simple questions like:
    – How does ALE justify its existence?
    – What is the mission of ALE?
    – What is its fundamental, basic purpose of being?
    Those answers are completely missing, and it seems you don’t have any interest in answering those.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Robert, I believe I have spent at least 6 blog posts trying to describe what you are asking for. It appears you think I was unsuccesful at answering your questions. This is fine.
    But please refrain from comments such as “not communicating at all” and “no interesting in answering”. To me, given the amount of time and energy I already put into this, they come across as unfriendly.
    I love discussing things with people. But I have no obligation to convince everyone.

  • http://www.hanoulle.be YvesHanoulle

    I think we make a lot of difference at the international stage. If you look at the programs of the Agile Alliance (http://www.agilealliance.org/programs/) you can see that most of the programs are done by non -US people. I would even claim most are done by EU people.
    I’m one of these people who has been to a few US conferences.
    And today I’m convinced that the best agile conferences take place in Europe.
    I’m also not convinced that the local countries ignore eachother. At every European agile conference I met lots of people from different countries.
    http://www.xpdays.net/Xpday2011/Mini%20XPDay/Participants.htmlhttp://agileee.org/2010/demographics/
    I think one of the powers of Europe is it’s diversity. The fact that we already have 30 initiatives shows this.
    All of this, is not to say I don’t like ALE. I love the idea. And I hope with you that such a network will show to more people what are all the initiatives are around europe.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    – How does ALE justify its existence?
    ALE justifies its existence because the people who participate in it want it to exist. They all signed a book with their name, endorsing its existence. I had already described that here: http://noop.nl/2011/05/alenetwork-xp2011.html
    – What is the mission of ALE?
    Its mission is to “help people in European countries by spreading ideas and growing a collective memory of Agile and Lean thinking”. This was already described in this blog post, and here: http://alenetwork.eu/vision/
    – What is its fundamental, basic purpose of being?
    “Exchanging interesting people with diverse perspectives across borders to allow beautiful results to emerge.”
    Your questions have (in my opinion) already been answered, several times. If you disagree, then can you explain why these answers are not satisfactory? It might help me to understand how to do better.
    It serves no purpose to say that I “prevent people to criticize”. I can easily delete your comments, but I won’t. They stay here on my blog for all to see. I look forward to more meaningful replies. Because the comment “no interest in answering” while the answers are already clearly given, is not getting us any further.

  • Roberto Fasciolo

    Jurgen, I’ve been asking one question multiple times and that has never been answered. Thus, I’ve got to my conclusions, which I wrote in my previous comment.
    You think those came across as unfriendly as I think your “But you can’t say that it isn’t valid and that it didn’t motivate. Because you weren’t there.” was personal and unfriendly. I don’t really see the fact that you put in time and energy as a factor that should prevent people to criticize if they think that is what should be done.

  • http://arransbraindump.blogspot.com/ Arran Hartgroves

    I’m in, look forward to discussions on the Linked In group. I’ve learnt a great deal from fellow European Scrum evangelists in the past.

  • http://availagility.co.uk Karl Scotland

    Hi Jurgen
    As a LeanSSC board member, I support this initiative personally, and although we have not discussed it, I believe that the rest of the Board will as well. What we have discussed is to investigate what a “LeanSSC Europe” might look like as a means of supporting a strong European community. This seems to be in line with the ALE vision.
    Karl

  • http://www.crisp.se/henrik.kniberg Henrik Kniberg

    Go go go!
    Speaking as Agile Alliance board member, Agile-Leanist, Swede, and European :o)

  • http://www.joakimsunden.com/ Joakim Sundén

    Great work Jurgen and all others! As you may have heard LSSC is starting LSSC Europe. I have been involved in the starting discussions of that organisation and I hope to continue to influence the direction of it. How to collaborate with ALE was on the agenda from the very outset and I hope the two can help each other spread Lean and Agile ideas in Europe. To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca: ALE, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 🙂

  • http://profile.typepad.com/davidcampey Davidcampey

    Glad to finally know the backstory behind the #ALE and #ALEnetwork tweets I’ve been seeing all over. Thanks for the post.
    Now we just have to work on South Africa’s EU membership 🙂 Or start #ALA (#ALAf?)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/catia1 Catia Oliveira

    Hi Jurgen 🙂
    Thank you for this letter, from my side you really captured our spirit. Great ideas, let us go know for excellent actions! count me in!
    🙂
    Cheers!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Thank you all for the great support!
    This is highly motivating. And I’m sure we can use this to motivate the others in the network. 🙂

  • http://www.oPen-Ware.org fabio Armani

    I was one of person Who signed and shared a common Vision. I don’t think we Are like Scientology fans at all.
    There a list of interesting and challenging Projects to bring to life in the NeXT months…
    Fa

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