How to Move Europe

I am trying to move Europe. Or actually, I am trying to move the countries in Europe a little closer together. Europe is full of great (Agile & Lean) ideas and initiatives, but they often stop at our internal borders. Language is an issue, of course. And distance. And culture. And history. But I think we can overcome these challenges and cherish our diversity at the same time. If we try.

That’s why I initiated the Agile Lean Europe network (= working title). And it seems I struck a nerve. At the time of writing the new group has 530+ members. In two weeks I received many dozens of emails and tweets saying things like “Cool idea!”, “Good work!”, “Shows necessity” and “Let’s get started!

There are many things we can do to get Europe collaborate better. One thing that can work is simply to make a list of active communicators in Europe (A-H) (I-R) (S-Z) and a list of European conferences. Because I believe increased visibility of the network (=radiating information) can help increased collaboration.

Of course, Europe wouldn’t be Europe if there wasn’t some disagreement about my approach. I received the following comments from a few skeptical Agile thought leaders:

“Better collaboration is not a good purpose for a network”

A network is a complex system of people cooperating for their own purposes (help businesses, make money, be famous, improve life, etc). But the system can also have a “higher” purpose, which transcends the goals of its participants. This higher purpose should be an emergent goal. I refuse to impose a purpose on the whole network, like a parent should not impose a destination on a child. Instead, I prefer to guide the system, and I will try and coach it to “do good” and “be happy”. Therefore, the only purpose I have is for the network to function better. And then we’ll see what else European self-organization comes up with.

“We already have plenty of local initiatives”

Indeed, we do. My aim is not to replace them. On the contrary, I want to help everyone to do better, and let them cross-pollinate local ideas and initiatives across Europe. I hear that conference organizers don’t know which foreign speakers to invite. I see that speakers don’t know how to reach out to local communities. And I see great ideas not crossing borders because of language issues. If we acknowledge these problems, we should also acknowledge that the typical European “localized” approach has its limits. By fertilizing connections across borders, the local growth should be increased.

“Making a list of people is not useful”

Maybe. Maybe not. However, merely the fact that I'm making a list appears to activate people. Many have reached out and offered additional names for the list, because the first version was far from acceptable. One could even argue that, in order to rally a herd, publishing a bad list might work better than a good list! And listing people and conferences is only one of many things that we can do. Some people will not believe in the usefulness of lists. That's fine. We should do much more. Not everyone will believe in the usefulness of some activities. I have no problem with that.

I am very thankful to people taking time to respond and reflect on what I’m doing. Good natured criticism is very valuable! If you think I can do better, don’t hesitate to let me know. (But please, be gentle. My capability of receiving feedback is strongly correlated with people’s ability of giving it.)

Fortunately, a good many people are offering help. Marcin Niebudek of has offered a separate page for European Agile/Lean conferences. David Harvey has offered to perform social network analysis on the ALE network. And Vaidas Adomauskas and Oana Juncu have suggested to align Agile Tour 2011 with what will be emerging from our network.

If you want to lend a helping hand, then please do so! I will initiate several discussions in the ALE group in the next few weeks (about choosing a new name, creating an on-line presence, and getting together face-to-face). Just chip in whenever you feel like it!

We just got started…

p.s. I am all for full transparency. If you question some activities, or if you wish to know more, ask! (Never assume.)

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