Agile Alliance Americas

Let’s talk about boards.

Not the task board, but another kind of board…

“The Agile Alliance is a nonprofit organization with global membership, committed to advancing Agile development principles and practices.”

Despite the fact that the AA claims global membership, the current board of directors has 9(!) people from the USA, and 4 people from Canada, Brazil, New Zealand and Sweden. Yesterday I received news that the “Nominations Committee” put forward six new candidates for the board of the AA: 3 people from the USA, 2 from Canada, and 1 from Brazil. They were presented to me as “a geographically and culturally diverse group”. I laughed so hard that the British gave me an annoyed look from across the North Sea.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against either the current board members or the new candidates. I know plenty of them personally, and I’m sure they will do fine. But I find it hilarious that AA’s concept of “global membership” has an almost exclusive focus on North and South America. It makes me wonder, do the Americans, Canadians, and Brazilians need so much more help advancing Agile principles and practices than those other few people out there? Like, oh, a couple of billion in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East?

Perhaps they should add Americas to the name of the Agile Alliance. It would give them the much-coveted triple-A status!

p.s. It was suggested to me that travel distance plays a significant role in the selection process. In that case, maybe next time the Nomination Committee could find a geographically and culturally diverse group of people from Salt Lake City.

p.p.s. It’s not much better at the Lean Systems Society either.

p.p.p.s. I'm not complaining. I'm just taking some things not too seriously.

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  • Jbrains

    I don’t intend to defend the board of the Agile Alliance, but when I see someone try to make a point, but make an astounding error in reasoning in the process, I have to fight my reflex to chime in. In this case, my reflex has won.
    I don’t understand the relationship between the geographical makeup of the board of the Agile Alliance and the geographical makeup of the members-at-large of the Agile Alliance. It seems to me that Europeans, Africans, Asians can all join the Agile Alliance without having a fellow citizen — either of the country or the region — on the board of directors.
    Given that board positions are volunteer positions, I imagine that the members of the board of directors benefit personally from their service on the board. They might have noble or ulterior motives. I saw nothing in my two years on the board that suggested any attempt to restrict board membership on the basis of geography. On the contrary, the board tried to expand its reach by volunteering to hold meetings in Europe even when it seemed financially unsound to do so. Unfortunately, it makes practical sense for board members to live within a narrow band of time zones for conference calls and within short flight distances for face-to-face meetings. Given that the epicenter of the group remains Oregon, USA, one would expect the membership to concentrate in the Americas. Typical feedback loop, no?
    So while I, too, question the Agile Alliance as a significant force in the agile community beyond conference organising services, I feel honor-bound to hold you to a higher standard than this sloppy reasoning, Jurgen. You know better.

  • Jurgen Appelo

    I don’t see the “astounding error in reasoning”.
    If the board is _not_ supposed to represent the members-at-large from the rest of the world, then why does the Nomination Committee claim to present a “geographically and culturally diverse group of people”? Such a claim makes no sense if this is not the purpose of a board. And then why do they ask for my vote over here in Europe? Clearly, asking for people’s votes suggests a feeling of representation for most people.
    If the board _is_ supposed to be “geographically and culturally diverse” then why does it not limit the number of North-Americans and actively seek out Europeans, Asians and Africans? Do you expect me to believe there is just one volunteer in the whole world outside of the Americas?? (Note: with ALE2011 the organizers originally limited the number of participants per country to strive for real diversity of representation within Europe. It’s not that hard to do something similar.)
    I think that a board could do some good work on a global scale, even when they all lived in the same city. But then please cut the crap about diversity, and don’t ask me to vote for candidates that I don’t feel to be representing me. Just install the board and move on, for god’s sake.
    I see no sloppy reasoning. I only see sloppy communication, of which my post is a logical conclusion. Really, you of all people should be able to see that.

  • Jbrains

    The board cannot possibly have the same level of diversity as the membership it represents, just like no group of 9-12 people can possibly represent the same leve of diversity as a group of 10,000 people from which it is drawn. I don’t think this is controversial.
    I agree that the board isn’t as diverse as it could be, but it cannot possibly (and I mean that literally) be even within one order of magnitude as diverse as the membership it represents. That’s just numbers.
    I can tell you that the board has actively sought volunteers from further away, but as the board continues to struggle for relevance, it has a harder time holding on to European board members. You can ask previous European board members why they chose not to stand again for election, but I have a few ideas. I agree that they haven’t achieved much diversity, but I don’t think it’s for lack of trying.
    I really don’t like the idea of artificially requiring diversity — it simply doesn’t match my philosophy — but it might help in this case. What might also help is going beyond superficial complaining towards encouraging this group to do what you want, rather than making specious (even wrong!) accusations about what they’re doing. What if a European or African interested in joining the board reads this and decides, “No; Jurgen says they’re a crappy organisation. I won’t bother.”
    One key part of your reasoning still doesn’t work. You wrote that because it is an organisation of global membership, its board of directors isn’t geographically diverse enough. But that’s impossible.
    I agree, though, that if one claims to present a geographically diverse slate of candidates, but then don’t, that that merits some criticism, as you’ve done here, but even you mention that you think the board could do good work, even if all the members live in the same city…. so I’m left confused.
    Your words confuse the membership of the Alliance with the membership of the board. That’s the error in reasoning. The board cannot, under any circumstance, be as diverse as the membership at large. To hold the board to that standard is unfair.
    On a more emotional note, I find it sad that you prefer to infer bad faith where so little exists. Unless something radical has changed in the past two years — and it’s mostly the same people I served with, so I doubt it — the board’s lack of diversity comes from two main sources: the typical problems that come with geographically distributed teams, and a relative lack of purpose and focus, which doesn’t pull hard enough on people to overlook the practical annoyances of participating on the board.
    (As for sloppy communication, I agree, but I believe they’re trying.)

  • Jurgen Appelo

    “The board cannot possibly have the same level of diversity as the membership it represents”
    I agree, so why don’t they cut the pretense?
    “I can tell you that the board has actively sought volunteers from further away […] I don’t think it’s for lack of trying.”
    I find this hard to believe. According to various sources I’m the “most popular/influential” person in the Agile world in Europe. No matter if that’s true or not, nobody ever approached me for the AA. If the nomination committee doesn’t even approach me, should I believe they are able to find others over here in Europe?
    “rather than making specious (even wrong!) accusations about what they’re doing”
    I did no such thing. I’m merely observing they claim diversity, where it’s not. That’s stating a fact. The only thing I accuse them of, is sloppy communication. You agreed to that one.
    “Jurgen says they’re a crappy organisation”
    I never said anything like that. In fact, I literally wrote “I’m sure they will do fine”. You believe you’re stating facts, but the only thing I see is emotion.
    “One key part of your reasoning still doesn’t work. You wrote that because it is an organisation of global membership, its board of directors isn’t geographically diverse enough. But that’s impossible.”
    My reasoning is fine. My “false” assumption was based on AA’s false message of “geographical diversity” to its global membership. If they had not made that claim, I would not have made the “wrong” assumption. The error here is not mine. I was reasoning within a given context.
    “Your words confuse the membership of the Alliance with the membership of the board”
    No, AA did that. I merely replied.
    “I find it sad that you prefer to infer bad faith where so little exists.”
    I find it sad that, when you see a person all agitated about something, you prefer to tell the person not to be agitated. Instead, you could start a 5-Why’s and wonder, “What made Jurgen reply like this? What can we do better to prevent such a response from people next time?”

  • Jasonlittle

    I can understand it being easier to co-ordinate when people are in the same timezone, or at least within a couple of hours of each other. That said, there’s plenty of technology available to have more European/Asia Pacific members on the board. That’s a problem easily solved IMO.
    What would you like to see happen? What problems do you see as a result of the current board makeup? Personally, I don’t see much benefit of any of these Alliances outside the conferences they organize. All the local Agile/Lean/XP chapters in my area are started up with people in the community without the support of these groups. All the local conferences are organized by volunteers in the community, again, without the support of these Alliances.
    As a Scrum Alliance member (until it expires next week….hopefully I won’t be forced to erase my brain), I’ve received no support after asking them 2 or 3 times for help creating a local Scrum group so I did it myself.
    I’m a little surprised at the backlash on twitter over this post, I don’t understand the big deal, every system needs a good poke once in a while to shake up the status quo, isn’t that what our professional is all about?

  • Lo Sai Chu

    Hi, can anyone point me to the legal document or legal prove that the phrases ‘Agile Alliance’ and ‘scrum alliance’ are patented/copyrighted/trade marked worldwide so that no one can have use for their own country, such as ‘agile alliance Spain’.
    I was told they have, but seems to have no prove, except their logo is a trade mark of their organization.
    Also, when come to domain name, it is not possible for them to have country such as .kr for Korea) unless they have a registered organization there.

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