Agile at Saigon, Vietnam

I had an opportunity to spend some time with teams in Vietnam. Explain them Agile and implement Scrum process, bring in the understanding of it, and help them to apply it. It’s always good to travel for your work to some nice places, and Saigon is indeed very nice city. Very friendly people. How was it? Quite different. The way of explaining things needed many detail examples, however there were fewer problems with having people accept the whole idea.  The most difficult part was I guess to explain the agile mindset, implement agile culture. They always used to be organized by strict hierarchy. Who reports to whom. And now we had a cross functional teams consist of both developers and testers, so who do I report now? Who is going to assign me new tasks? And all those questions. If you for some reason put one person out of the teams as a shared resource, he immediately stop working and did just management decisions from that time. When we asked why, it’s because only the team members are here to do the work. And I’m now more important. So I don’t do any usual daily job. On the other hand, once they understood the process, they follow it. They don’t discuss if they should or not, no complains that they are corporation with specific habits so why they should change them.  Once you explain it so they understood they do their best to make it working.

Agile community

I’ve always tried to meet with local community while I’m traveling. It’s fun. They sometimes reply and you organize something together, sometimes there is no response at all. Agile Vietnam was a surprise; they have extremely active Facebook community. I’ve sent an introduction and in a few seconds I’ve got several replies. So already the first night at Saigon I’ve met with a group of people to talk about startups. Small group, not really from IT environment, but trying to learn new thinks, improve English, it was nice evening.

The next day I arrived on Barcamp. Huge event with 3500 people registered, kind of unconference where attendees are voting for presentation to be presented. I was talking about agile implementations, some British lady about bringing Broadway Theater to Saigon. You can talk about anything. Audience is deciding whether it is interesting or not.

The last event I had there for the community was free Starting Scrum workshop. One afternoon the organizers of Agile Vietnam invited everyone to Saigon Hub. And we had two hours to try basic Scrum principles. I introduced a game where the teams were building a high tower from marshmallow and spaghetti. It was fun. The very good think is the game was working well even in this different culture. They did a great job, and learned a lot about how Scrum process works with respect of the delivery of PSP at the end of every Sprint, communication to the customer, team development.

Back home

So to summarize my experiences, I would love to come back to Vietnam or another interesting country for work. It’s different, it’s fun, and it’s working. The training itself will not make any big difference to them. To change their way of working and mindset you have to be there, you have to spent time and help them understand and apply the theory. This is something which I as an agile coach can help them.

Agile Adoption Story – Common Mistakes (part 3)

To continue with my agile adoption story… The company started to realize that Scrum is not any silver bullet. It’s much more complex than that. But John is really upset. He did all what he could to make it better. But maybe the people inside his company are not good enough to make it. And it’s so simple, just follow the process and keep the practices. What’s the point? But even John must admit he doesn’t know answers to all the problems his Scrum Master is putting on the table, so he finally agreed to give it a next try – let the Scrum Master to get a certification.

Let’s make a certification

So next week the Scrum Master is sent to the Certified Scrum Master Course, CSM, to become an expert. With high expectation from the training he supposed to understand all the difficulties of Scrum from that time and he should be able to adopt the Scrum methods in a way the company needs. Nonetheless in nine out of ten cases the Scrum Master understand the theoretical ideal case of Scrum implementation, get some idea of how is should be, however, when he try to apply it in the company or even change outside company environment he must admit that “Agile is not for us”. We are different, we have too complex product, we are too big/small to implement agile. Our customers are like this and that, and you know, agile is great, just for a different company.

Agile Adoption Story – Common Mistakes (part 2)

To continue with the agile adoption story…  John is sitting in his office, waiting for the measurements and results and looking forward to the great results of the new process called Scrum.

We can use just a few practices

But what happen in the team meanwhile. They started to read all the books and blogs, get known some theory. And get a few practices to follow: Standup meeting, Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Customer Demo, Retrospective, User Stories,… but what actually happen. The retrospective didn’t seem useful enough to be made part of their process as they know each other well and even if they have some problem they feel they are solving it right away. And, more than that, they have the lessons learnt. No one is learning from those, but they still believe they are useful. So why should they do any retrospective, right?

Making a Product Backlog is a strange thing as well, as the business people don’t have any time they can ever spent on such activity, their only concern is to get all they want to as fast as possible without the necessity to described it well in front. They are quite happy to hear the team is making a commitment and deliver all they promised on time. As a result of that, team is not willing to take any responsibility and prefer the technical tasks instead of user stories.

So finally Standup is the only one practice which preserved in the team. They meet every day, talking about what they had been doing, who they had been talking, but usually missing any day commitment and description of any finished work.  As they don’t understand the reason of the followed Scrum practices, they don’t like them and felt the time is spent completely pointless. “The Scrum is just about meetings, we should better work than follow those useless practices“.

As the time goes, they abandoned most of the practices, but still they have those huge expectations of high efficiency, flexibility, improved customer satisfaction and team health. But apparently, no one of those can be seen within a team.

Finally, when John asked how the Scrum goes, he is surprised to hear that “Agile is not for us”. We are different, we have too complex product, we are too big/small to implement agile. Our customers are like this and that, and you know, agile is great, just for a different company.