The State Of Agile In Indonesia

17 October 16

The State Of Agile In Indonesia

I recently moved to Bali for a year to experience something new and enjoy life (it’s not a completely business-oriented decision). To dive into the IT and Agile community, I spoke at a conference in Jakarta last week. The conference was organized by Discussagile, a group of Agile enthusiasts from India. Although the conference ended up more like a workshop due to the size of the crowd, it was a positive experience.

What surprised me was the level of knowledge about scrum (the main topic of both days). Saket Bansal kicked off the conference with his great style in explaining the basics of scrum and agile. It immediately became clear that most people in the room only had some basic notion of scrum. The other speakers immediately started changing their presentations. On most Agile conferences I spoke at in Europe, the room is filled with Agile practitioners and consultants. All have a high level of knowledge and experience. So most talks in Jakarta were geared towards such crowd and we had to adapt.

After Saket, I had the chance to share some knowledge about implementing agile with distributed teams. You can see my slides if you’re interested. I won’t go through all talks, but an interesting speaker was my friend Evan Leybourn. He spoke about Agile beyond IT and of course about his #noprojects. Agile and scrum evolved from the IT industry and now spreads everywhere, From HR to finance to sales. To make this evolution possible, companies need agile ‘managers’ (or people with an agile mindset, because the term ‘manager’ has a lot of weight in this context).

Evan also believes we should stop talking about ‘projects’. We’re creating products and value and this is a never ending process, on a beginning and no end. He’s organizing a conference in New York later this year about the same topic.

Fleur van Unen shared her experience about implementing scrum in a multi-cultural, multi-location Dutch bank. She works from the Singapore office and helped her teams spread out over Europe and Asia move towards scrum. She spent most of her presentation on the basic graph showing ‘scrum’ and had to skip 60% of her slides.

On the second day, I like the talk of Sylvain Mahe of Palo IT. He spoke about what it takes to become an agile coach. What stood out for me is the role of empathy he uses in his role as a coach (and in his role as a trainer/speaker). Where most people in the business world are driven by rationality and money, he seems to have his center in understanding, listening and helping people and organizations become more ‘human’.

On the second day, Fleur and I did a small scrum workshop. Part of it was the marshmallow challenge. We used this game to show how self organization works and how mature teams compare with CEO’s and kids (as explained in this video). I’m always keen on observing what people do, especially within the different cultural backgrounds. What I saw was that the power of self organization was very strong here. As teams tend to have ‘equality’ over here, you don’t see ‘bosses’ standing up (which I do see happening in Europe). They don’t spend 8 minutes on planning, but just start building right away and improve through trial and error. The result was a quite tall standing structure. I forgot to bring a measure, but I’m sure we did great!

I discussed the stage of Agile with many people during the two days. My conclusion is that there’s a very big opportunity for spreading knowledge about scrum and agile in Indonesia. The country needs some pioneers to develop awareness and help companies transform to agile ways of working. That also brings the main challenge: as the level of adaptation and awareness is still low, there’s less money to be earned right now (this will change in 1-2 years). People are not ready to pay the money for scrum trainings we pay in the West or even in India. And companies also don’t have the budgets to hire expensive consultants for such jobs (except the big banks and multinationals). So far, I’ve heard of only one trainer (Joshua) in the whole country as his name is the only one popping up everywhere. He seems popular and he’s also the only certified trainer (with that speak Bahasa.

A few days back I went out for a drink with some guys working in a development team on Bali. The same image got confirmed: the level of scrum/agile adoption is still low. However, they did start using scrum and managed to keep doing it for 10 sprints now. They learned scrum online and whenever they faced a challenge, they tried to look up the solution online. We discussed several challenges they faced. A lot of it has to do with the level of scrum knowledge throughout the company. If some people are in favor and some doubtful or against, it become a challenge to implement scrum. And if some people still operate under the command and control paradigm or feel they are ‘project managers’ and things need to be ‘planned’ with ‘deadlines’, it’s a daunting task. I came to the conclusion that we should make scrum training and knowledge better available on Bali and Indonesia. Anybody ready to help or looking for knowledge, drop me an email!

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