An incredibly intensive 1st ALE2011 Unconference – Agile and Lean Europe in Berlin

 (Olaf Lewitz, one of the central organizers, on a photo by Marcin Floryan)
In February, 2011, the Agile and Lean Europe network was founded in LinkedIn by Jurgen Appelo, Author of Management 3.0. He asked the European lean and agile practitioners and communicators to join. We were about 1000 members within a month, and there were lots of active interesting discussions, “bathtub conferences” and many ideas how to collaborate more closely. The first real-life meeting happened at XP2011 in May in Madrid. Since then, 47 people with a vision created the best and most intense (un)conference I have ever attended. My own role was to be part of the “industry sofa” – we had “sofas” instead of “chairs.” I spent some of my free time reviewing abstracts and finding out whether these people were good speakers, if I had not heard them speak before. The final result we composed is amazing – .

    The audience was amazing

All further work was organized via real-time collaboration tools: Skype, Basecamp, GoogleDocs, Mindmeister, Twitter, and Conftool. Real-time mostly meant evenings, sometimes even weekends. The final event structure included one keynote every day – with Rachel Davies, Bjarte Bogsnes and David Snowden, we had three highly interesting speakers, two of which are not from the software world, but are teachers of lean concepts for management.  Each day started with a funny coding dojo warm up, followed by 30-minute talks in the morning, lightning talks after lunch, and Open Space all afternoon. Virtually everybody participated actively in something: more than 220 people from at least 27 European countries. Talk topics ranged from “Software Craftmanship” and “Metrics in a complex world” to “How to change the world.”

Bjarte Bogsnes from Statoil, Norway
For me, Bjarte Bogsnes with his “Beyond Budgeting” talk was most inspiring ( ), but… yes, but… the 7 levels of hierarchy between me and the CEO of our company make me think that this is not the easiest thing to put into practice by myself. Fortunately, many other talks also had inspiring contents!
From Henri Kivioja from Ericsson, Finland, I learned how we can guide managers to practice go and see with the Scrum teams: they just got rid of all kind of upward reporting from project to line managers. They also reduced their full test cycle dramatically, from about 1 year for the whole system (100%) to about 1 week for 90%.
dojo2Eva Kisonova and Sabine Canditt presented a funny game of cultural differences they have practiced with our Scrum teams in Slovakia. It showed the stereotypes that may exist on both sides, which can make collaboration difficult if the teams have not reflected on them. Putting it into practice in a small example among the participants was really fun.
Rob van Lanen explained why and how they had realized FedExDays with his company’s developers in the Netherlands. This is a 24-hour slot, in which the developers can develop whatever they want – the only condition is that they must present it after that time. The department provides food and drinks, and the CEO is present at the demo at the end. The participants created 4 products, a traffic light tool for the software build, and a gaming application. They self-organized to do Scrum in one-hour slots and even pair programming. It was a great motivational boost for the teams.
Claudio Perrone gave an excellent introduction to A3 and Kaizen, which can actually be understood when you look at this outstanding presentation: In this way, continuous improvement can be introduced on all levels: in the project team and on organizational level with the managers. This is something we should put more emphasis on soon.
Torsten Kalnin explained how the Wikispeed team builds modular speed cars using very little fuel with lean and agile virtual collaboration of volunteers around the world – an amazing example for agile hardware development – see also at
I visited a few more talks related to big agile transitions, offshore and distributed experiences, which we later followed up with discussions in the Open Space.
Open Space facilitated by Mike Sutton
The most intense part of the unconference was surely the Open Space sessions: everybody posted his/her topics at a common marketplace, and there were a lot of different spaces in the venue where we could start discussing around a flipchart. On the first day, I proposed a talk about organizational impediments, to get stories of what happened and how people actually resolved them.  Later, I was in another big agile transition discussion, and there I met a couple of people who also used communities of practice in their companies. So I had my topic for the next day: how to get CoPs going, and how to keep them alive in their original sense, as a means for knowledge acquisition, best practice exchange, and as a catalyst for improvements.
You can find almost all references from the conference in two places: and with #ALE2011 on Twitter. A lot of lean and agile conferences in the next future will be powered by the spirit of the ALE-Network, I am sure! 
DSC_6380 ivanKostial JurgenAppelo respect4people
Andrea Heck

Organizing ALE2011 unconference with 47 agile and lean colleagues

How I happened to sit on the Industry Sofa

Nearly at the end of the XP2011 Conference in Madrid, I stood in the garden together with a few colleagues from different countries and different companies to say goodbye. We talke a bit about the new ALE network we were all in some way participating in it, and at some moment, Olaf Lewitz said something like: „let me summarize the results of this session shortly…“ and someone else said, „oh, we are actually in a session?“ – and it turned out that this had started as a follow up on the session about planning the brand new ALE 2011 conference, which would take place this time in Berlin but it was supposed to tour through the European (= European Song Contest member) countries.

He listed the current state of „sofas“ that were planned, instead of the usual „chairs“, putting the emphasis on the collaborative way it was going to be planned. – I said I was missing an Industry Sofa, for getting enough really interesting industry speakers into this new conference. Oh yes, – why don’t you actually take it yourself, you have a lot of industry contacts?
So this is how I happened to occupy the Industry Sofa, and before I finally left the venue, I convinced Ken Power from Cisco/Ireland to share this sofa with me, and I still thought a third member covering perhaps Eastern Europe or Scandinavia would be great.

When I arrived back home, I already found Olaf’s blog entry „
I am organizing a conference“ and saw our „Industry Partner Sofa“ listed with all the others – oha! Some work to be done!
Very quickly, also the basecamp accounts were set up by
Sergey Dmitriev in Norway, and a group of people started to fill the conference website with all the infos we have already agreed on.

Decisions with 47 distributed organizers

I have to admit that it is sometimes very difficult to find out whether something that has to be done is actually done by someone already, or if a decision has been taken finally, or who are all the people that have to be asked to get to a final decision about something. Every day I am going through quite a couple of mails in different threads, mainly on my mobile, when I am sitting in the train coming back from work.

But as all the organizers are agile and lean people, it is quite less stress than I had thought a few days after start. We managed to post the Industry call for papers as quickly as needed. I sent the call to many people I know personally, and so did the other sofa members, Will Gill (Australian at Nokia in Berlin) who joint us the next day, and Pierre E. Neis in Luxemburg.

We found way to distribute information quickly and also have people quickly decide something. For example, the deadline shift this week was decided through a Doodle sent around to everybody, ending 24 h later. To get and share info directly, there are Organizers Skype calls every few days.

It is very interesting and challenging. Of course, a week before the deadline for submitting talks, there were only about 3 contributions. But on the second last day, we had 36, and on the last day, after we had decided to extend by one week, there were already about 50. WOW!

Now we are all reviewing and commenting. – Still, there is nearly a week left for submission of new talks.

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