Kiev Ukraine: After 5 days in Kiev, I learned much about the state of Agile in Ukraine, and the state of business in Ukraine’s capital. My first visit to the Ukraine held many surprises. The downtown area of the capital was interesting, attractive, an similar to other European cities. The architecture combined Soviet style massive design, buildings with intricate architecture similar to classic European buildings, and more modern apartments and offices. Beyond the buildings to the street, I expected to see clear signs of a depressed economic region, like closed shops, bad roads, and inexpensive transportation. However this is the capital of a 45 million strong nation, and I was surprised. Construction cranes were everywhere as new offices and business centers were under development. More surprisingly, it seems the Lada has been replaced by the Porsche Cayenne, Bentley, and High end Mercedes as the cars of choice in Kiev. A Bugatti Veyron? Yes. I saw a higher concentration of high end cars on the bumpy streets in Kiev then I have seen in London, Brussels, or Paris. I quizzed my hosts about this, and heard a combination of embarrassment and frustration. It seems for politicians and bureaucrats of the Orange revolution, Kiev is open for business that will fund their new, rich lifestyle. This was set against the backdrop of the crisis in the world financial markets and massive spending of taxpayer’s money for disastrous portfolios of high risk mortgages and credit insurance swaps. As someone who helps teams and businesses better compete legitimately, seeing the corruption implied was disheartening.
Meeting the people in the Agile community in Kiev and at the Certified Scrum Master class reminds me of why this is a great profession. The Certified Scrum Master class was a mix of software developers, managers, QA, business analysts and even a couple account managers. While half of the students had been doing Scrum, we also had people who were completely new to Scrum and Agile. We generally have smart people in our profession, and this class was no exception. While the class was in English, the exercises were in Russian. My Certified Scrum Master class covers a ton of material on Scrum, Agile principles, roles of Scrum, and how to establish Scrum with a team. The class asked good questions, and were sometimes surprised by the results of the many exercises we did. With this class I dropped the “59 minute Scrum” in favor of the “Save Earth” and “Ball Points” exercises from CST Boris Gloger. The exercises are great ways to show how we can fail or succeed based on our own personal actions, and they also put students in a different frame of mind, loosening their preconceptions from past experiences.
My main challenge with English as a second language classes is usually pacing. I choose words more carefully and I go slower to ensure understanding. With a packed agenda this means something needs to drop, but, like an over eager development team, I sometimes over commit, trying to squeeze in too much material. The rise in knowledge of the students and the deeper experience of the trainers may lead to a 3 day course. Some trainers such as Mike Cohn and Mishkin Berteig have already adopted a longer format, with Mike offering 2 days of training on requirements and planning around the 2 day CSM class.
The Agile Ukraine gathering 6 on Saturday 10/12/08 was a great opportunity to meet more of the Agile community, as over 150 people packed a large conference room for the day’s events. There were numerous talks from Ukraine’s Agile advocates and thought leaders. Alexey Krivitski is the organizer, and single handedly put together this event for the community. I encourage more of Ukraine’s Agilists to lend a hand and take a leading role with Alexey to create sustainable group of organizers of Kiev’s Agile community. Topics at Agile Ukraine gathering included Introduction to Agile, How we do Scrum, Agile Metrics, mixing Agile and RUP, and Agile and business. I had the opportunity to provide the Keynote presentation on Lean, value stream mapping, and how to apply lean principles to Scrum and Agile projects.
Overview of Lean, Agile Ukraine Gathering Keynote 10/2008
I covered the history of the Toyota Production System, and how speed delivers a competitive advantage to businesses. Most of the IT and software teams in the Ukraine are engaged in offshore projects. Lean can provide a great way to highlight what slows their offshore teams down, and gives them a way to articulate this to both management and clients. The culture of eastern Europeans has an advantage over Indian teams when using Agile methods. Transparency means teams need to have courage and be honest with their customers. This means saying no, managing expectations, and building trust. Teams that always say yes, don’t manage customer expectations, and then hide when it becomes clear there is no way the team will meet the commitment is common in offshore teams. The culture of eastern Europe is not socially hierarchical and there is a tolerance for open discussion and debate within groups. This means teams in eastern Europe are biased to Agile methods when compared to teams from hierarchical cultures like India’s caste system. I don’t think Ukraine outsourcing poses any threat to the Indian outsourcing industry, however Agile is a growing market where Ukraine outsourcing can have a competitive advantage, provided that they can demonstrate and market this advantage. I will update later with photos from the events.
– Robin Dymond.