Monday, June 17, 2013

Agile Finland 2013: Creating a Larger Community

A few weeks back, I made a personal commitment to direct my energy to the local agile community, showed up late in Agile Finland annual meeting just in time for voting of the new executive committee members, volunteered and got elected. With agile being a meaningless buzzword but also an ideal of the type of software projects that are productive and fun to be in, I want to do something to advance the ideal and help the agile community grow to some direction.

From a discussion we had in the first executive committee, Antti Kirjavainen wrote his view into a blog post:

Just looking at the picture, I find myself disagreeing. The picture takes a view of other communities, that need to be introduced to concepts of agile. The other communities in the picture don't overlap, only depicted common ground is "agile".

What I thought we were talking about back in the executive committee meeting is to split our agile into interest groups where everyone is invited, but there would be natural starting points for all sorts of views into agile. It's not just development & testing (craftmanship stuff), but that stuff is really relevant and needs some grassroot activity to build up skills. It's not just development with various agile models, there's such a thing as business agility. It's not just the people who manage to live up to all the ideals, but also those who are no longer in the waterfall world,  but not agile practice- or culture-wise. And I would definitely hope it's not about developers complaining about managers not getting it and managers joining in the conferences and meetups finding this extremely uncomfortable. All in all, I would hope we would allow and promote diversity, without the silos - bringing same and different interests and skill sets together in whatever way people find useful.

I'd like to see people becoming members. As of now, Agile Finland officially has 394 members. The linkedin group has 1387 members, and the yahoogroups list has 438  members and facebook group has 187 members. The cost of people becoming members in any of these forums is their time. I'd like to see us focus on good value for who we have, and allowing for more people to join. It's great if we have people who never become members, but join some event. But what I'd really like to see happening is people doing sessions for their own interests and needs, and making them available for others while at it. Agile Finland is a great platform to practice giving presentations or guiding dojos (practice sessions of all sorts) or facilitating discussions to get deeper into any topic close to your heart.

I think Antti's post was about Participants in the above picture. But I feel our main challenge and focus should lie with Members. We need good stuff for the Members, and we need some of the members participate in building the good stuff. There's value in the community for both joiners and organizers. At least I feel every hour I've spend on organizing has been worth it for the discussions and lessons I get from people who did not organize but chose to commit their time and joined in.

Also, I'd like to see us create a better possibility of members who belong to advance things in the name of Agile Finland without assuming the executive committee is always involved. There's very few things that actually need executive committee decisions in running a community. Self-organizing within limits should be what the executive committee enables.

Next for me in this theme:
  • Investigate how to bring back the dojo culture for coding and testing. It might take supporting new people wanting to learn to do things like this, connecting with those who do, or something completely different. I'll organize a session to discuss this in August, and organize a testing dojo. 
  • Build larger events that would regularly serve the multiple needs of the community, sometimes with more focus on one theme and another the next time. Some might be multi-track conferences, some might be single-track. Similarly, whole-day / half-day / short sessions.
  • Take the less discussion oriented events and build them into a webinar series, where we could have the Finnish community stories represented in a large variety. I'd like to see some of these in Finnish, some in English. 
  • Introduce LAWST/LEWT-style facilitated workshops to bring people really together to share and discuss experiences. There's similarities to unconferences, main idea is a session of peers where everyone contributes.