Interview with the Agile Slovenia conference founder, coach and trainer Voranc Kutnik.

You began with the organization of the Agile Slovenia conference in 2012. What lead you to the organization of the first Agile conference in Slovenia?

When I decided that Agile is the thing I want to work with for the rest of my life I set up an audacious goal to make Slovenia more Agile. Organizing a conference was a logical step which brought me closer to this goal. Somehow I managed to persuade Jurgen Appelo to come to Slovenia and give a keynote with the title “How to change the world” which was a perfect fit and it set the stage for the future. We had almost 100 attendees at the first conference which exceeded my wildest expectations. It gave me the confirmation that people see value in such a conference and the energy to organize it again next year.

How has the state of Agile in Slovenia changed in 7 years? Has the world of Scrum, Agile, Kanban and other Agile core methodologies become mainstream or are we still very far from that?

It has changed a lot in the last seven years. I still remember the reactions from people when I mentioned and explained Agile or Scrum back then. It was only known in the IT sector and even there I felt a lot of resistance in adopting it. Nowadays it became mainstream in Slovenia. All kinds of organizations, from manufacturing to banks are searching for ways to improve their business agility – which means to better sense and respond to market changes and continuously deliver value to customers. They know that to survive in today’s VUCA world they will have to change the way they operate and develop their products and services. But of course, sometimes I still meet people who are convinced that their organization is not in a VUCA world and that they don’t have to change anything.

Agility has begun as a part of the IT world. Gladly, other industries are also adopting Agile practices. In your experience, which industries are the most prone towards Agile and which industries are still very far away from it?

Majority of IT companies use or at least try to use the Agile methodologies for developing their products, in most cases they use Scrum. Additionally, industries like manufacturing, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, insurance, and financial services are also doing big steps in adopting Agile. The most anti-Agile if I can say so is the public sector and I’m not sure if that will ever change – I think it will be really hard to make a mindset shift there.

You have been implementing Agile methodologies in Slovenian companies for several years. What are the biggest challenges that companies have, once they decide to make a step towards Agile?

I like the quote “Scrum doesn’t fix your problems. Scrum shows you your problems. You’re supposed to fix your problems.” Agile methods often expose problems that were previously ignored or otherwise invisible, and the biggest impediments of Agile adoption are organizational, not technical. Having said that, the biggest challenge is still the organizational culture which is against the Agile values. The reason is that agility is not a set of procedures. It is a mindset that values collaboration and adaptability. Most of that is about changing organizational culture and learning how to manage people differently. Employees have to learn new behaviors, such as thinking independently, taking risks and collaborating across interdepartmental borders. In a lot of cases, there is a problem with inadequate management support which results in giving mixed signals regarding their support for Agile. 

Imagine that you would get a magic Harry Potter wand and that you could make a wish regarding the state of Agile in Slovenia in 2030. What is the one difference you would love to see the most?

I would like to see less fake Agile. It is still very common in Slovenia for organizations to only adopt Scrum just because it’s popular at the moment. They rename project managers to Scrum Masters, rename specifications to product backlogs and start working in iterations. And of course, they start using Jira for managing their projects. That’s it. They are convinced they are Agile now. They don’t understand that doing Agile is not the same as being Agile. The first step is easy and can be achieved in a few days, the second step is hard and it is a journey. So, I would like to see more organizations on a journey to delighting customers by delivering value and achieving excellence through engaged employees all working together towards common goals.

On 17th of October 2019, the agile community will meet at Agile Slovenia conference. If you imagine that someone has to convince his/her boss to spend a day at the conference – what should they say? Why is Agile Slovenia worth attending?

Our conference is the biggest independent Agile event in Slovenia. It brings together like-minded people and give them a chance to learn, interact and exchange experiences. The fact is that Agile is here and is not going anywhere, but it is not staying the same either. So, we provide a once a year opportunity for people to hear top foreign speakers, attend accompanied workshops and to see what are the new trends in Agile. So join us and hear what the Agile community is talking about.

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