My feedback about Agile Tour Singapore 2015

It was on November 26, 2015 at the Agile Tour Singapore (ATSG) that I did 2 things I had not expect to do in the beginning of that year, join PALO IT and speak as a member of PALO IT and on top of that, spoke on the subject of Agile HR in Asia.


Agile Tour Singapore was co-organized by PALO IT and Why Innovate!

The event counted over 300 participants over 2 days with speakers from all over the world. It was also the first time I met the PALO IT team who had tirelessly worked to make the event a success. The event started with keynote speakers before breaking into 2 parallel sessions that crossed all topics in agile as well as organizational challenges. I was impressed with the team who were the first faces we saw in the morning and the last when the last participant left. Sometimes, I wished to give them a hug, a squeeze in the shoulder to tell them “great job”. And I thought they greatly deserved it.

The event covered 2 days with 2 parallel tracks each day and over a wide range of topics from inspirational management topics to agile practices. This was also where I found the greatest difference from agile conferences I had attended in Europe. Characteristics to its young presence in agility, the conference catered to a wider range of interests and covered more topics on challenges in adopting. Speakers came from various places including Europe, US and a large majority from Asia which was also testament to the growing practice in Asia. Among them were speakers I had known from Agile Tour Vietnam.

In addition to the differences in topics, one of the greatest difference was the setting and atmosphere.

Agile conferences I’ve been to in Europe such as Agile Tour, XP days were largely casual and ran like a community. The setting was less formal and more conversational driven. Agile Tour Singapore was set in the beautiful building of Marina Bay Financial Centre using the auditoriums of DBS, the largest local bank in Singapore located in the financial district. Its attire and mood formal, official and more of show and tell than practice. Perhaps it was the eagerness to absorb knowledge and to learn. And there were less war stories to share, less hard worn faces than those I saw in Europe. And less familiarity among the audience. It was refreshing at the same time distant.

My topic was originally “Dare to manage your organization with user stories”.

That was changed last minute to “Agile HR – 2 sides of the same coin”. And I found out at the start of the conference when I saw the programme. In a weird twist of fate, it had actually worked out well for me. The topic of HR was often a bitter sweet story in agile transformation. 2 years ago when I started talking about it, there backlash from experience agile practitioners from all over. Some were still licking the wounds of clashes with HR, others had been reticent and most have regarded HR as an ancient practice that should be made redundant. Yet, after 2 years of preaching for the need to reengage with HR and extend agility to the soon outdated practice, some of my harshest critics have turned around and started to look at it with fresh eyes. In Singapore, where agile transformation is only beginning, I saw a real opportunity to consider HR in the transformation process as partners in the journey. Yet, it is also with weariness as I hit on a sensitive topic in a new territory. I wondered if I should take cover quickly. In Chinese, I felt “战战兢兢”. (Standing on pins and needles)

I started my session with the best humour I can bring with an audience of familiar faces in my country and yet foreign to me. I have not worked in Singapore for 10 years. The session went by quickly, there were some challenging questions but mostly interesting observations and I supposed in the mildly expressive Singaporean culture, the occasional nods were good enough as confirmation of a topic well delivered.

After which, I could enjoy the conference and participate in the discussions. A few topics stood out such as scrum by colours and managing conflicts. The friendships and discussions over coffee forged were equally precious especially among the speakers, each with their tales to tell and their battle scares to show.

At the end of the conference, we all went out for drinks at the esplanade and I saw finally the relaxed faces of the organisers.

It was their time to celebrate and let down the heavy shoulder of responsibilities for a well-deserved beer.

Personally, it solidified my decision to return to my home country, my employment with PALO IT and my desire to do my best in my new/old home. There is much to be done and much to be wished for.



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