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Experiences with Kickstarting Agile Local CoP

In case you were starting to wonder… Yes, I’m still alive. I’ve been rather busy with business, studies, and sitting in front of TV watching the catastrophe in Japan unfolding in disbelief.

You might have read one of my prior articles about PMI’s Agile Communuity of Practice (CoP) which is currently given fresh life. There were many discussions about PMI’s upcoming Agile Certification, which I’m not going to chime in here. I’d much rather tell you about how I got our local group of the PMI Agile CoP here in Hamburg running.

It all started with a list of ten or so people “interested in agile topics” that I got from the PMI local group lead here in Hamburg. Via Doodle, we agreed the time for our first meeting. In February, we had our first “live” meeting in a local cafe which went really well. We basically used this to agree on ground rules, like place, format, frequency, and timing of our “real-world” meetings, objectives, etc.

How does communication work? We agreed to set up a XING group as the backbone for our communications. (For those of you not familiar with XING, this is comparable to LinkedIn, and much more common particularly in the German-speaking areas of Europe. XING are based here in Hamburg, and one of the early and very successful adopters of agile/Scrum in Germany). We’re using the Events feature to plan our meetings, which we agreed to restrict to 13 people max, as we all felt this is the limit where we could really have one joint meeting. For file sharing purposes, we’re currently testing Dropbox. We’ll see how this works out.

In the second meeting, we developed User Stories for our initial Backlog, which was a really good exercise. We had a few attendees who had never worked with user stories before. They could practice in a safe environment, applying the three-parts structure (As… I want…. In order to…). For the others it was still interesting, as our user stories are very non-technical, e.g. “As an agile evangelist, I want to understand, how fixed price projects can be done in an agile way, in order to explain this to other people interested in agile.” We came up with 11 stories. In the cafe setting, large post-its and a number of pencils worked well, so that all could participate. At the end, we wanted to do a quick prioritization and adopted “Magic Estimating” (as presented by our colleague Sven Röpstorff at the XP Days 2010) into “Magic Prioritizing”. We found that we first needed at least a rough understanding of the size of each story. So we gave all stories S/M/L t-shirt sizes. We then spent about two minutes silently, all moving the post-its around the table, sorting them by their relative priority. After that, we had a brief discussion about two stories that bounced back and forth and had then quickly agreed the initial order of our backlog.

In two weeks, we’ll have our third meeting. We’ll spend around half of the time with networking and chatting, and the rest of the time to start working our user stories.

So far, this has been a real pleasure. Efforts have been reasonable, I’ve met interesting people, and we had many fruitful discussions.

If you’re about to do something similar and would like to get more info from me, just contact me.
If you live in the Hamburg area and are an agile practitioner and/or PM interested in agile, join the group!

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