Interview with Arie van Bennekum, Agile Manifesto co-author, conducted by Mirosław Dąbrowski (November 2014)

How do you enjoy Poland? You are not first time here, are you?

I’ve been in Poznan, twice in Cracow and this is my second time in Warsaw.

You had an opening talk on Agile here during 9th International PMI Poland Chapter Congress. How do you feel about the conference? Do you think PMI becomes more aligned with Agile principles?

I think PMI will adapt, they are already in the process of adaptation. I think that someone was asking the question: is PMI waterfall? PRINCE2 used to be waterfall as well but now PRINCE2 can be perfectly adapted to work Agile, because PRINCE2 is about agreeing on how to work and working accordingly. And when you can work Agile, work accordingly – that’s fine. I think PMI will be the same because I think all the time, every project we do, like Virginia’s talk about BIG DIG this morning, it has a lot of Agile in this mega, 20, 40 or even 60 billion dollar project. There is a lot of Agile, because these days we talk about complex solutions and I have three steps: from simple, through complicated to complex. Complex means there are a lot of different factors and the outcome cannot be predicted… And I think that’s what life is all about these days. Giving technology, politics environment, education, people, marketing, there are so many factors in there that the outcome is not predictable. So you have to be able to adapt, and that’s what Agile is.

In case of PRINCE2 are you aware that AXELOS is going to publish PRINCE2 Agile qualification?

The DSDM Community is the one community that has not been afraid to look behind small efficient functioning teams which is for example in Scrum very important. And behind it you see a bigger perspective. Agile project can be done including PRINCE2.

There was already a PRINCE2 and DSDM whitepaper in 2000. So it’s already there. I’ve worked for years in DSDM and PRINCE2. Then it became Agile.

We clearly see that Agile is changing the world. How do you feel as Agile Manifesto co-author, do you see the difference, that you are changing the world in case of approach of people working together?

On the one hand, Dutch culture inside me tells me that when I say “yes” – I’m very arrogant [smile]. But on the other hand, to be very honest, it has changed the world and will change more in the world to come… When I go to football game with my son, when I travel on the airport – I meet Agile people, I meet Agile coaches. When I go to average city to the conference or Agile communities meetings or gatherings there are so many people doing this. And yes, I’m proud of it, to be very honest. I’ve put so much time and energy in the communities – not paid work. And I’m proud that I can be the part of it.

Fot. Obiektywni Right after the interview: Arie van Bennekum and Mirek Dąbrowski

You surely are the part of the Agile movement, your work is defined by philosophy and style of working by Agile, not strictly defined by business or monetary focus but rather who you are and values you promote in everyday life.

I always say that true Agile is who you are. And if you have kept this kindergarten piece of you to explore and to accept “do not know how complex solutions look like in detail”, so that you have to find out on a long way – if you can keep that, then you are Agile… and it is very good. If you are not Agile and try to do Agile you will never get above “mechanical” level.

Do you see a possibility of having a Project Manager with classic skills required to command and control but also with leadership/coaching skills?

I think so. Especially when you agreed on how to work during Foundation (a specific phase in DSDM method), when you agree with the team (including the client) that you work Agile, that you know your Dailies, Heartbeats, that you prioritize work. With the quality and the discipline you applied when you use Agile techniques, values and principles. Sometimes it takes a strong, natural leader and you can name him an Agile Project Manager. A natural leader takes his team on the side and is not afraid to correct and to say “This is not the way we agreed to work in the Management Foundation”. “I need you on this process, don’t step out” … Yes, I can see the combination.

Going back to basics, the people and interactions between them…

When you look at group dynamics and group phase models like Tuckman’s: Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing… When you are working with the group for the first time in the Forming phase, a different form of leadership is needed than in the Performing phase. There is a lot more there. You cannot just say the team is self-organising. Self-organising teams have to grow, have to develop. Until they are not developed, they do not need command and control but they do need strong natural leadership. Good Agile Project Manager and Team Leader will do this.

Changing the topic to Lean and Kanban… Agile Manifesto was defined when Lean Software Development and Kanban weren’t so to say broadly present in the IT market. Yet currently they are seen as complimentary or compliant with Agile principles. Do you see them Agile?

I think so. First of all, I think that Lean and Agile are not the same. Agile is rather for short cycle delivery and Lean is for more industrialized processes. We industrialized software development processes with a lot of Lean and Kanban principles and there is a lot of Agile there as well.

Lean has been developed in the Toyota factories. Lean is an efficient process for manufacturing cars – originally. For example Scrum is a very efficient process for developing software. So it is almost one on one I would say. You have a slightly different approach but there are a lot of principles you can use in order to be efficient regarding documentation, team dynamics, daily stand-ups and so on.

You are also the chairman of Agile Consortium upon which you are promoting Agile principles and many different techniques. You also offer certification schemes. How you can distinguish them from others like PMI-ACP,, Scrum Alliance, DSDM AgilePM etc.

First of all the focus is Agile. So the other might not be in there. That’s one difference. When we put certification in the market, we wanted to have an independent certification, independent from methods. We believe everything in the Agile as long as it is within the value and principles is fine. Let’s do something good!

The other thing is we also said: what we want is to have certification which has an independent quality label to both suppliers and clients. What we say is we do exams but not to make one but to put a quality label in the market. We don’t live on our exams and there are a lot of organisations that just make one and their focus is on the revenue. I think that is not the reason to do exams.

Do you think that the market is lacking such quality label?

I think the market is too much laminated by commercial exams instead of quality exams. That’s why we work in the Netherlands. It is also very popular in the United Kingdom and in Scandinavia. It will be popular example in the Italy, in the Romania and actually today we had the first Foundation exam in Poland. I don’t know the results yet [smile]. But there is someone who wants to try without the training, a very experienced person. So we will see.

Fot. Obiektywni Arie van Bennekum presenting „Agility in business” during 9th International PMI Poland Chapter Congress.

You also offer knowledge sharing via webinars and co-join meetings with other consortium chapters spread around the world.

We have an international umbrella architecture, we have local chapters. All the local chapters have their own agile event in eight to ten weeks. They also have interactive workshops. They do all sorts of things. For example in the Netherlands we have meetings between 40 to 80 people. In Belgium – more or less the same. Italy is growing at the moment. It is a membership model, so you pay a fee as a member, you can go freely to Agile events, you can go through certification process. You can also participate in innovations. We share knowledge on those events and based on sharing we innovate and this innovation is published. If you like to participate in innovations, your name will be on the publication and everyone can benefit from it.

Agile is spreading all around the globe. You hear Agile almost everywhere. When you open a fridge you see Agile. How do you see Agile in nearest two, three maybe five years from now?

The biggest thing is it will be like a drop of oil into water. It will go across business. It is in progress already, as I’ve said during my talk this morning, in Netherlands we have hospitals going Lean and Agile, we have marketing and publication world going Agile and strongly going through Agile certification process. For example the Agile Consortium provides an Agile certification for Agile Foundation in Marketing and Communication. They have very different terminology than IT. We have our own dedicated Practitioner and Master exams, they are oral. It is something which you can do in a talk. Yes, we still see there could be more in specific areas.

So do you see that Agile will go into specialities?

For now it is Marketing and Communication. But the next one could be maybe Security and Education.

One of the most visible changes in Agile is UK Government going Agile, which was presented during ABC 2014 conference in London where we both met.

Yes, I saw the presentation. It was very impressive. Taking an organization with you on an Agile transformation that’s what they did. Very impressive.

In the Netherlands we have model with first and second chamber which makes the laws but if they doubt they have specialized institutes – it’s called Chamber of State. They can check the law. The chairman of this governmental organisation said this summer: “The world is changing”. These days in the Netherlands we have trouble with waste loads. You use something a couple of months and then you throw it away. This requires a lot of adoption and agility from all those involved, which means local, original and national governments.

We will build a total change in time. This is the world as we know it today and I don’t think that the rate of change will slow down. I think it will be faster, driven more by the technology.

The interview was conducted by Mirosław Dąbrowski during 9th International PMI Poland Chapter Congress, November 24th-25th, 2014 in Warsaw