An Agile Coach

Alexandre Cuva

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bye bye Snake year, Welcome Horse Year

8:00 am January 2014 at the 19th floor of a building, drinking an espresso, with lounge music hiding the sound of the motorcycle in Saigon street. Since I met more than a year ago Saigon, I fall in love of Vietnam.

It is not so much time I left Vietnam, just 1 a month, but I wanted to share my 2013 retrospective. It is already more than 6 months I started as CIO of Smartlink SA. A swiss Company base in Geneva, working around the new Mobile Payment technologies.
I remembered 6 months ago when I was hired, I had plenty of dreams about Agile, Lean, working around an innovative management. Did all this happen?  6 months, it's a short time to do a lot of things.

I wanted to apply some Large Scale Agile practice from Dean Leffingwell, that I meet on a train between Antwerp and Brussels after DARE 2013. The idea behind Dean framework is that we propose a framework to use in a huge company. I don't adhere to using such Framework, it makes me feel we try to apply a complicate solution in a complex world. But there are some really interesting ideas that I adhere, a company should not apply Agile, but Lean and Agile together makes more sense. Who knows me, I  leave with the Lean values, my morning and days are around lean values. How could I do more with less waste. I wanted to use Dean Framework to transform that layer of waste business people, trying to sale their grandma and not thinking about rational values. At time I meet an awesome person in Paris, even my Business Director feels it was an awesome person. I hope he will join our team one day. I feel we could do some great stuff together. That person would have been the perfect actor to be my first Scrum Product Manager, he would apply Agile in the best manner, evangelize the business and create awesome products with the PO in charge to work with him. But nothing the business puts in place another Business person, who maybe wanted to create great product with non trusted behavior. I still work with him, he's not a bad person, he even liked the way we work back in Vietnam, having a review each 2 weeks. It fails because we have to work on other more important project and then he was left on the side.

In August we had finished our first awesome product. I remember someone telling me measure the time to market of all the business request and measure the waist, to learn how to improve. I still measure the time. It is now 5 months, the product is out, but no customer really using it. I think, the problem behind this, we don't have really a Product Manager who feels the product his is life and he need to find customer ready to use it. I am such there is a potential market outside, really interested, but they don't know the product exists.

In August, we start to work on a major Mobile Project, we are nearing the end now, after months of fighting learning to leave between us the customer working in a Lean / Agile way and Waterfall provider. We learn a lot this last 5 month, we pass from Scrum to Nano Scrum and  ScrumBan. We had a first project part, where we tried to do Scrum with this Waterfall provider, they learn from us a lot, they were even happy to work with an Agile Company. But when all was fine, we saw again and again the Waterfall ghost coming from nowhere and making our life a nightmare. But has I said to my teammates, we are Agile and we have the capacity to learn to adapt ourself fast so we can work with them. We learn from our failure fast and were able to move from the chaos to the complexity at each failure.

Today, we are nearing the end of the project, in a few days, the Tet Festival is here and my teammate will join their family, I will be with my wife to enjoy the Chinese New Year. I eager the year of the Horse will bring more Lean/Agile adventure.

There is so much thing to share with all of you. I would like to thank some people that I met during this last year:

  • François Beauregard for his complexity mentoring and the time he took to learn me the way to pronounce in Quebekois the words. 
  • Gael Luisier for pushing me to share my experience with all of you.
  • Dean Leffingwell, for sharing his Agile experience
  • James Grenning's, for sharing his TDD experience in Lausanne during one of our Scrum Beer
And all the other's like Jurgen Appelo, Vasco Duarte, Chris Kruppa, Peter Stevens, the Beagle Team...

Thank's all, I had an awesome Snake Year. Be the Horse year be a more awesome year,

Monday, October 7, 2013

My new agile adventure in Vietnam Part 3

Part 2

Monday 17th June 2013
That's it, this afternoon we will fly to Vietnam, to meet my teams. I'm coming with our Business Development Director (BD). A few last thing to do in the office and let's go to the Airport. Around 3:15 pm, our flight take-off to Dubai.
Midnight we land in Dubai, 1:00 am we are at the Marina to drink and eat something.
First time in Dubai, thanks to our BD, I have a fast Dubai visit in Car and a Diner at the Marina.

Then return to the Airport, wait at the Lounge and finally take-off to Saigon. We finally arrived exhausted in Saigon, but happy.

It's not my first time in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), but first learn to BD how to cross the street in Vietnam. It is not an usual way for most of the foreigners. The first time you are quite frightened, all this car and motorcycle everywhere and no one stop to let you pass. In Europe, you wait the green light and then you cross the street. Here you wait the green light and no one will stop to let you pass. :(
In Asia, you cross the street, not running, walk, never stop, so the driver knows how to avoid you. If you stop, go backward, it's the beginning of an accident. In Europe, you do the same, you are dead. Driver are not ready to avoid you, they will try to stop in front of you :)

Ho Chi Minh, here we are...
First time for BD in Vietnam, so much thing to see, I become a tourist guide. Thanks to friend Than who presented me HCMC last year. We take a cab, visit the oldest HCMC Pagoda (Buddhist Temple), the Notre Damme Church, the Old Post Office, the luxury shop and Ho Chi Minh place.

A small break at the Nguyen Coffee place, for an Ice Saigon coffee and then we run at the Saigon Hub for my Scrum Coffee session with Agile Vietnam

Tomorrow we will fight to Da Nang.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My new agile adventure in Vietnam Part 2

Part 1 <-> Part 3

I had the main ideas on how to put in place the IT's in this new company. Who will not jump on the occasion to put in place all he always wanted to see.

Some of you may ask why I decided to have my teams in Vietnam, why not somewhere more near Europe, like Eastern Europe or some Latin countries. The first time I came in Vietnam, I was invited by the Agile Vietnam Community to present subjects for the HCMC Agile Tour 2012. I had so much great moment. I talk with foreigners and Vietnam people. I loved the Vietnam culture and the most important one I meet a company with a business model as I like. The CEO believes in Agile and he his one of the major agile promotion company. They give free training to the University in two big cities. They are mostly the main Sponsor on all the Agile / Lean event. It's easy all their customers need to work with Scrum. The customer brings the Product Owner, they bring the team and the Scrum Master.
As a Product Owner you don't have just a team of project and that's it. As a Product Owner it's your team, you participate with them at all the team building, you part of the team. You are not someone, a stranger.

Before leaving for Vietnam, I needed to put in place diverse remote tools to promote communication between the teams and me. As a Product Owner I need to be near the team, even if we have thousand kilometers between us and the time zone.  I decided to put some tools I like and I used for many years and also because their business model was interesting for small teams :
  • JIRA + Agile JIRA: To follow the Epics and Stories
  • Confluence: The wiki
  • Bitbucket: the GIT Server
  • Crucible: the review tool, a must if you want to participate with the team in the review of the code
Within JIRA I create different project :
  • Program Management: A Kanban board, I follow the Epics, from their open, confirmed, selected, in progress, In Review, Ready to Release, Close
  • Beagle Scrum Team: A Scrum Board for the Beagle team, only Epics in Progress, In Review appear here.
So here we are, ready to leave for the Vietnam...

Before leaving, I had a first Sprint in remote. I still remember that first day. I was so exited and in the same time anxious. My wife pushes me out of the bed, I could not sleep. It was my first true experience as Product Owner with a team in Vietnam.

6:00 am
That's it, GotoMeeting is on, I hear some sound in the back, I think they are like me. Who will be the PO, he is cool ? How the team will be ? 
After some time of thinking and knowing the team better, I found out that they join the best people for my team. They know I am an Agile Coach, I was an XP Programmer.

The rest of the time I presented the vision of the Product as much I can, it is true I didn't know as much I know now. I present the Epics and the User Story I think they will work on the first Sprint. 
I put also a technical task: put in place the commit stage in the continuous delivery.

To continue...