When I was traveling for work a lot, I checked to see what kinds of agile events were happening there. Sometimes I found that a vibrant agile community (Agile Denver is one such locale). But other times – despite companies doing a lot of agile work – the community was lackluster or nonexistent. In those places, I inquired of residents why there wasn’t a more active community of agilists. Reasons ranged from “we just don’t really have one” to “no one seems to care”. Yet no one seemed to think that they were responsible for making the community happen.
Evaluating Your Agile Community
Figuring out how engaged or disengaged your community is pretty easy. Just figure out – usually from Agile Alliance – if you have a local group and who’s in charge of it. Look to see if there’s a local website for meetings. Communities like Agile Denver use Meetup.com, but it’s not a rule. See if there are any meetings scheduled on Meetup or the website. If not, reach out to the main contact for your group and see when the next meeting is.
Another way to see what’s up is to ask your coworkers. Is anyone engaged in the community? What has their experience been like? Your colleagues are the best source of information about your local agile community. Use them for advice and guidance.
Contributing to Your Agile Community
So now you know when your next meeting is. Go! Attend those meetings. Even if you’re just starting out on your agile journey, you have unique experiences you can share. You have experiments that you’ve tried that have succeeded and failed. All of those things help a community grow.
Agile Denver is surprisingly large and engaged. Several hundred people come together every month to work together in different SIGs (special interest groups). The number of attendees at each SIG meeting varies wildly and there is usually only a little overlap in attendance. The important thing is that many people are sharing their ideas and their experience with other agilists. And that is critical to making a community work.
If your community doesn’t have a SIG for your particular interest, say Product Ownership, what should you do? The best advice is to take some guidance from Wikipedia – be bold. Find out how you can start your own SIG. Talk to the organizers or other people in your community about starting your SIG. Attend other SIG sessions to let people know about it. Spread the word about your interests. It’s pretty likely that others share your passion for that topic and want to talk about it.
What If There IS No Local Agile Community Organization?
If there’s no organization currently serving your community, start one! Seriously. There are a few steps you should take to get one off the ground.
Set up a Meetup for “Agilists” in your area. People who have an interest in agile will get notifications if you use Meetup.com for those events. Meetup is a great starting point but there is a hard limit of 50 people before you have to pay to get more members. If you can get 50 people, though, you may want to start asking them to donate a little to defray costs. When I started my SIG (the Agile Denver Book Club) I just paid out of pocket for it.
You can also reach out to Agile Alliance and other groups to see if there’s a local or regional group for your area. Contact the organizers and see what’s been happening and how you can help. Because these are volunteer gigs, “life gets in the way” and the momentum dies. Sometimes a booster shot from someone in the community is enough to get the ball rolling again.
The other option is thinking locally. Get a group of like-minded colleagues together for a book club or Scrum Master guild meeting. Holding these conversations at work can allow you to talk more specifically about issues you’re facing. And you’re likely to get higher attendance.
Velocity has invested in doing quite a few things to grow our community. We have a weekly Community of Practice for agilists and a Scrum Master Guild. Several of our employees attend regional conferences and I attend and speak at conferences around the country. There are local agile meetings in the cities where our offices are located. We’re working to increase our presence at those meetings and at the regional conferences as well.
Your agile community is only as good as the people who participate. Someone once said, “decisions are made by those who show up”. It works with political groups and special interest groups. Your participation in the community can help grow that community. It can help spread the ideas and ideals of agile to a broad audience. I’m fortunate that Denver has such a strong and vibrant community. It’s through discussions there that I’ve overcome my impostor syndrome (though hopefully, I haven’t created Dunning-Kruger in its place wink).
Be bold. Get started. Get involved. The next steps are up to you, but reach out to others you know share your agile interests. Find ways to get them engaged. Invest some of your time to get the ball rolling. Once it starts, it may end rolling downhill and pick up a ton of momentum on its own. Or you may feel more like Sisyphus. What Sisyphus lacked, though, were friends to help. There are people in your area who want to talk about agile and Scrum and scaling and books… About almost everything.
Feliz entrenamiento, mis amigos! (Happy coaching, my friends!)