Can India be truly Agile?

It's Indian Independence day today as I work on this proposal. As I read newspapers today, I understand the importance of the IT and ITES Offshore business, which has almost single handedly provided employment to millions of technically suave and English speaking folks. One question that repeatedly comes to surface is whether the Indian IT industry will be able to up its game from the servicing mentality which started the boom of IT in India. As Agile and Scrum began to become the flavour of the worldwide IT industry, many firms in India also went out on the Agile path, many of them out of pressure from their Western clients. Some of them were successful, but there are also numerous examples of failures of the Agile model and also half hearted adoptions, which have led Western businesses to believe that maybe India is not adept enough to take its game to the next level where teams can follow the Agile framework.

My talk would be driven by my experiences of following Agile in different ways in my different teams over the last 6-7 years. My forays into the Agile ways of software delivery in India have been largely successful and I cannot see a reason why Agile will not work in India.

In my talk, I would focus on the reasons on why Agile would work in India. Right from the way we approach diversity and inclusivity, to the way we approach our post election coalition party governance model, the Indian way of living is rife with finding innovative ways to quickly adapt to change, which essentially is the Agile mantra.

I plan to start with a simple example. Of the Western way of cooking & dining as compared to the Indian way of cooking & dining. A traditional Indian kitchen is a sacred space. It is decorated with auspicious signs. Sometimes, it doubles up as a puja room. In many households, you are not allowed to enter the kitchen with footwear, you are expected to bathe before lighting the kitchen fire, you are not allowed to eat unless you have taken a bath - these can be metaphorically compared with the Ceremonies that an Agile team practising Scrum follows - the daily standups, sprint planning and reviews, etc. However the core delivery is the food. And no matter what ceremonies you follow and what your menu for the day is, the food comes out daily at the same time and is served everyday with the same set of stakeholders. There aren't as many tools and supporting equipment that you might see as in a Western kitchen, but at the end of the day the practices followed in a typical Indian kitchen are very Agile at heart.

There are many other examples from Indian culture and mythology that one can refer to understand that Indians are essentially Agile at heart. Open source product groups, many of which are largely Agile, can also find a reference point in Indian culture and mythology. That which is timeless is referred to in the Indian context as Sanatan. It refers to wisdom that has no founder and is best described as collaborative and open source freeware. Every idea is accepted but only that which survives the test of time, space and situation eventually matters.

There are many myths circulating in the IT industry that Agile cannot survive in India, since Indians cannot be trusted to be self governed and always require direction. Also Indians don't know how to have fun at work. Through my presentation I seek to dispel those myths drawing from Indian mythology and culture and essentially try to make folks understand that reasons for Agile not working in India is the same as Agile not working elsewhere. What you need to make Agile work at the end of the day, is just the belief that it will work.

 
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Outline/structure of the Session

I plan to start with a one/two clips from Bollywood movies, where I can see typically Agile teams at work. I would then draw out my metaphorical observations from those clips and branch out to reason why Agile would work in India. Give examples where an Indian is truly Agile at heart. I would also list out some Myths that I have heard, and specifically try to dispel them with examples from Indian mythology and culture. Finally I would end by reaffirming the reasons for Agile adoption to be a success, and would reaffirm that those reasons have nothing to do with the culture of the region that you operate in. 

Learning Outcome

  • Dispel myths that reasons for failure in Agile adoption are culture centric
  • Seek out examples where Agile practices are followed in people's daily lives in India
  • Reaffirm ways and means to make Agile practices a success, despite of the cultures that one's teams operate in

Target Audience

Indian IT Solutions Servicing Businesses and their clients looking to provide business to Indian IT Solutions Servicing Firms

schedule Submitted 4 years ago

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  • Joe Zachariah
    By Joe Zachariah  ~  4 years ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Srinath, 

    Sorry for the delay in responding. I was travelling. 

    I thought about this a bit more over the weekend after my submission and I agree that 20 mins might be too less. Is there a possibility I could increase it to 45 mins?

    A lot of my ideas are sourced from mythologist turned management consultant Devdutt Pattanaik's works and I will make sure I give him due credit where required. 


    I was also thinking to add some project examples juxtaposed against tales from our ancient scriptures. In one of my projects, pair programming didn't really work and that's because either of the pair looked at it as restrictive of their freedom. Whereas when both parties in the pair are at a level where they are mature at a level beyond their egos, the pair worked good with each other. There are corresponding tales from Indian mythology that one could refer to for this. Again this could be a problem anywhere in the world, and not specific to the Indian context.

    We could also have tales where we need to impress upon the audience the fact that ScrumMaster role is one that needs to set in patterns (enable cyclical ceremonies), while at the same time nurturing a team which is able to innovate out of the box. So there needs to be a good balance between control processes and providing creative freedom. A corresponding tale from Indian mythology could be the one of Vishnu enabling Samudra Manthan. There is the ancient Indian tale of Samudra Manthan with devas and asuras churning the ocean for Amrit. Vishnu acts as the enabler for this process. To ensure that the churning is happening correctly Vishnu holds four tools in his arms - Wheel (review), Mace (discipline), Conch (communication), Lotus (appreciation). These are exactly the four things that the Scrum Master in a Scrum team needs to do to enable continuation and creativity in his team. 

    There are many more such examples that I can come up with creatively, and incorporate feedback from the review committee to make my presentation more effective. 

    Please let me know what you think. 

    Thanks and Regards, 

    Joe Zachariah

  • Srinath Chandrasekharan
    By Srinath Chandrasekharan  ~  4 years ago
    reply Reply

    Hi,

     

    Request you to respond.

    Regard,

    Srinath

  • Srinath Chandrasekharan
    By Srinath Chandrasekharan  ~  4 years ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Joe,

    While its still early, I am wondering if you will be able to do all you have mentioned in 20 minutes.  If you have presented something similar earlier, that would help.

     

    From the description here, the talk looks interesting. Would you also be giving some examples of projects from your experience.

    Regards,

    Srinath

     

     


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