Who is Kenji Hiranabe (@hiranabe) ?

Kenji was invited by Diana Larsen and Henrik Kniberg.
I was at Agile 2008 when Kenji received his Gordon Pask award. During the whole week, I noticed asian people doing some strange kind of ritual. I assumed it was a zen kind of tradition. Boy was I wrong. It turned out, they were practising for his speech. He did not want to accept the price alone, he wanted his peers with him on stage. (A least that is how it came across to me.)

I had already noticed him in a session where I was impressed by his knowledge and questions.

It’s great to learn about people from other cultures buying into the agile mindset (although I have to admit, we probably borrowed more from their culture…)

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

There is a temple called “Eiheiji”, the head temple of the Soto Sect of Zen Buddhism near my home, and I visit there sometimes.

Eiheiji is still an active monastery with around 150 practicing Zen monks. And you can visit and see them. The most impressive thing there is that this education system has been working for over 700 years! An incredibly sustainable system.

On a wall of the corridor I found a panel saying;Without Practice, No Emergence.

Pretty agile isn’t it? In the Zen context, practice is Zen(meditation) and emergence is Satori (individual enlightenment).

You may think Satori is the goal and Zen is the means, but wrong! Dogen Zenji, the originator of Soto sect says that the two are there as one. Thus this coincidence of “thinking” and “doing” is my strong belief that supports my advocacy for agile.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?

I wanted to become a Jazz guitarist. I still like listening to Jazz music a lot. + Pat Metheny + Lee Litenour + Jim Hall + Wes Montgomery

are my giants.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

Japanese software industry is still suffering from waterfall syndrome and people struggling in hard projects. But it is always wonderful to meet positive people trying to change their environment and also themselves.

What drives you?

One thing for sure is that I like drinking with people celebrating success together. A wonderful moment of life.

What is your biggest achievement?

Japanese Agile community! Please watch my speech of Gordon Pask Award about it. And Astah, a UML and mindmapping integrated tool which is used by 460,000 people worldwide.

What is the last book you have read?

“Be the wind” a Japanese novel about a high school runner.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

Q: What places do you recommend to foreigners visiting Japan? A: Definitely Kyoto for sightseeing, but try Toyota factory tour. They are open for visitors and English-speaking guides will escort you. I took Mary/Tom Poppendieck, Craig Larman, Bas Vodde, Gabrielle Benefield, Bent Jensen and more than 20 other Agile/Lean leaders worldwide there.

Who do you think I should ask next?

Shintaro Kakutani who is an organizer of RubyKaigi. He connects Japanese Agile community and Ruby community.

If you like these answers, please check out our book: who is agile.
In the book Kenji also answers
Jerry’s Question: What is the meaning of life?