I Love Agile Goes On An Adventure: Hong Kong 2016

Agile Hong Kong was on 17th April 2016, a Saturday. Guillaume and I had arrived the night before on a late afternoon flight with PALO IT T-shirts, buttons, kakemono and a round “I Love Agile” board. Not only were we speaking, PALO IT had also sponsored the event. But really, it was the “I Love Agile” board that had the most adventure. We merely live precariously through it. Here is how:


When we were packing at PALO IT office, I had realized that our luggage was way smaller than our baggage.

We chose the foldable kakemono, T-shirts and brochures. Before we walked out, I decided, we couldn’t leave “I Love agile” behind. It has to come. And how would we have guessed, it would test us in so many areas.

jasWhile at the airport, it was the proudest thing, we carried it on our shoulders, proclaiming we were Agile people. It sat on our push cart. It went through passport control and security with us. Then, before we board, we realized we had left it behind in the waiting lounge. And this really began our love-hate relationship with Agile, oops, I mean Agile board.

7.45am, 17th April, Saturday morning, we arrived at Blue Print office where Agile HK is. Before we arrived, “I Love Agile” had already suffered 2 setbacks – I stepped on it because it got in the way and I couldn’t change my steps enough to avoid it. While we were sleepy and tired from a long week of work and travelling, we had left it at the hotel counter and then almost left it in the taxi.

When we arrived, there was actually no one. Agile HK next to “I Love Agile” looked sad and lonely.

agile And we were hoping for a caffeine fix before Daryl (the organiser) showed up and the HK PALO IT gang (Clement and Sophie) arrived.

agile 1

We found a home for “I Love Agile” and set up our little couching clinic. It’s our home for the day, where we returned to rest, inspire, regroup and go out after.

The crowd streamed in around 9am, surprising for a Saturday morning. People crowded around the coffee tables and we started preparing for the day. The day’s programme had 2 parallel tracks and we took our picks on where to go. I was particularly glad that our session was moved and was no longer at the same time as Cyrille Martraire who was going to talk about documentation and domain driven design. Not only could I go to his sessions, we could also avoid competing for participation. Phew!

Agile HK was true to its spirit; organised by the community for the community.

agile 2There were predominantly local speakers getting down to the business of agile. Personally, some topics seemed old but to a new community, going back to the basics and more common topics had its merits. There were a mix of technical and organisational topic but predominantly presentations where interactions were more limited had good students attending, listening and taking down notes.

danseAfter lunch, our session was second in line. Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect with the crowd. Our session was “Product Owner and Development Team – A Tango in Communication” (although we had shifted it towards talking about leader and follower style communication). It was the only session where people were required to stand and do things with us. I should have filmed the surprised faces when we told them, there would not be any chairs and sitting down. Other than technical difficulties with the speakers, I thought our session ran smoothly. By the end, people were dancing and sharing their experiences. While “I Love Agile” sat in the couching corner, it was not far from our mind in the challenges of communication in agile and the importance of communication in adopting agile.

Our graphic recorder drew it out beautifully for us.


Communicating, trusting, taking time to pause and regroup, finding our posture, leaning on each other, balancing needs and finding neutral grounds were the steps we taught in tango and the principles we wanted to share in communication.

In the end, I thought we left an impression. Even if it were a small dent, I would be glad for whatever we could do to further the adoption of agile.

We ended the conference with a panel discussion. This was put in last minute as the original speaker couldn’t make it. And suddenly, I was sitting in the middle of the other speakers who made up the last minute panel.

There were questions on the practical side of things:

  • “How does agile and UX work together?”
  • “How do we convince clients to adopt agile?”
  • “What do we do with middle managers?”

There were questions more specific to culture and Asia:

  • “Can we adopt agile in our culture?”
  • “What are some ways to overcome resistance?”

I was glad I had the final word, really not by design but due to time.

And this was what I said in response to Asia, culture and agile methods. 融會貫通(rong2 hui4 guan4 tong1) It meant melting all our understanding together to find a logical path. It’s the Ri in Shu Ha Ri, the essence in my culture, the ability to learn, integrate and use what works. And that was why I said agile is made for our culture, we had every reason to find the path, because it has been with us for thousands of years. We just had to remember it. Many young people came up to me afterward to ask me about this phrase, because they didn’t know it. It is also why I love agile.

Before we took our flight home, we would have lost “I Love Agile” again, at the check in counter. It never ceased to amaze me how we could lose something so big, but our eyes sometimes angled in the tiny details and forget the big thing in front of us. Before we brought “I Love Agile” back safely to Palo IT office in Singapore, it was almost stepped on by children, left in the plane and amazingly, we didn’t lose it but we lost the kakemono instead. Someone had taken it by mistake. It all got back to the office safely eventually.




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