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InfoQ Homepage Interviews Stuart Turner on Agile Singapore

Stuart Turner on Agile Singapore


1. [...] We would really like to know what is happening with the Agile movement in that part of the world. But before we get into that, would you mind briefly introducing yourself to the audience?

Shane's full question: This is Shane Hastie with InfoQ and we are here at the Agile 2013 conference, talking to Stuart Turner. Stuart, welcome. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. You are based in Singapore. And one of the things we are going to talk about in a few minutes is the Agile Singapore conference because my understanding is that you are one of the organizers, a volunteer on that conference. We would really like to know what is happening with the Agile movement in that part of the world. But before we get into that, would you mind briefly introducing yourself to the audience?

Yes. I am Stuart. I am originally from the UK. I have been in the software delivery business for about 20 or so years, mainly working in teams, usually in smaller organizations, but also in large investment banks so for the last 12 or so years mainly in the investment banking industry. I spent a couple of years traveling around the world where I did not do much work, but got to see lots of different cultures from a different perspective. Then two years ago I moved to Singapore and I joined a great company called Odd-e and again it is a small organization, but a very different approach to how organizations are structured. In fact we have very little structure and we are a big experiment in whether this is a sustainable way of organizing ourselves.


2. Tell me a bit about what is going on in the Agile community in Singapore and I am assuming that you are working in the broader South-East Asian region?

Yes, we are. So in Singapore itself the community was started 3 or so years ago by my colleague Bas Vodde and another colleague Stanly Lau has grown the community. They have been heavily involved since they frequently visited Singapore and then for the last two and a half - three years they have been regularly holding events and the community has grown so we have a meet up group which meets every month and I think in March we celebrated our 500th person, so about two and a half years to reach 500 people. We are about three or four people short of 700 now, so in the last few months the rate of increase in interest has grown exponentially and there have been discussions about holding a conference and bringing the community more together for a couple of years, as well. I think previously it has been thought that there wasn’t enough momentum or mass to have that. Last year my colleagues and other people in the community held CITCON over a weekend which has been very successful, but for a particular audience, I think. This year we are really going to push forward with a major event and so in November we are holding the first Agile Singapore Conference for between 400 and 500 people and we are really planning on putting on a significant event so much like the event here, just scaled down because it is our first year.


3. You did tell me about a couple of the keynotes. Do you mind letting us know who is coming?

Sure. So, our opening keynote's Jim McCarthy who worked at Microsoft and spent many years developing his Core Protocols together with his wife Michele and they go out and hold what they call boot camps with teams, which is a sort of fast track, a number of guides or protocols that help teams really become a team very quickly. So he’ll open and probably something along the lines of culture hacking which is his general theme at the moment. Our closing keynote is David Hussman so hopefully something a bit wacky and off-the-wall from him.

Shane: The Dude.

Yes. And then a number of great speakers so my colleague Bas happens to live in Singapore so it is very convenient for him to come and then we have Kevlin Henney, and Tom Gilb and Kent Beck and more to come.


4. Sounds like a pretty good lineup. At a personal level (we were chatting briefly) about your passion - do you want to tell us the link to Agile and communities that sounds quite interesting?

Yes. So I think I have had an interest in society in general and in how we can collaborate, cooperate and work together in general. I remember in the ‘80s and early ‘90s always having these thoughts about “How do organizations and companies work with educational institutions?” and “Should they sponsor students at an early stage or does that then lock people in?” and “How do organizations fit within the larger society?”, “How do communities form, neighborhoods?”, etc. This has been something in the back of my mind for a long time, something I have always been curious about and figuring out “How do they all relate together?”

Then in my professional career I have been a software developer and in 2001 my best friend lent me the XP book and I just, you know, saw the road ahead which was what I had been looking for in terms of software development and how we could improve that. And then as the larger Agile movement has come to be more part of my life, I now see how this fits in with the larger community and teams and people within organizations really affect and impact the larger communities and how mobility and things in people’s lives have moved organizations in certain directions and that has changed cultures and it has changed communities. My question is “Are we going in a sustainable direction or are we moving further and further away?” and a lot of the Agile principles guide us that we are no longer small neighborhoods and communities such as a local French village where you would go down to your individual stores and buy a nicely packaged roll or delicacy that had been carefully wrapped even if you are going to walk outside and eat it immediately.

We have moved further and further away from the customers in terms of larger organizations and as soon as you take that one step away from the customer, then you can move further and further away very easily and it is not visible that you are doing that and I think that’s what’s happened in lots of organizations these days that people have moved further away and then they moved even further than that either oversees or to a different part of the organization. It has become quite segregated and I think society is becoming more segregated as well.

I was talking with my family last week when I was visiting in the UK and we had this discussion that people are much more mobile these days so you can commute from a place like my hometown Nottingham to London every day and people do that whereas they did that in the Middle Ages but they would move the whole family once. Now people can do that on a daily basis. In fact my family, much of my family is local but I live in Singapore and there are lots and lots of families that have become more dispersed because it is much easier for people to travel and because we can do that it does not mean it is better for us and perhaps we ought to consider the consequences of those actions. I think the Agile values and principles help us bring back some of those values that are part of life, not just about how we work and create our software.

Shane: Thank you very much. Stuart, thank you for taking the time to talk to InfoQ today. We really appreciate it and wish you all the best for the Agile Singapore Conference.

Thank you very much.

Nov 20, 2013