As the Commonwealth Games continue in Glasgow this weekend, it’s a great time to look at how sport in general, but more specifically, the rugby sevens tournament, compares to working in an agile environment.
As the name suggests, scrum working draws huge parallels with a game of rugby. So what are these similarities?
A scrum team is usually made up of seven members, ‘plus or minus two’, who work collaboratively and cohesively in order to reach their Sprint Goal. In the same way that a rugby scrum works together in order to achieve tries.
In an agile environment, each team member may have a specific role such as software engineer or a web designer, but each has to be a ‘generalised specialist’ and take on a variety of roles asked of them in order to deliver the best results for the team as a whole. In much the same way that any member of a rugby team, be they a prop, a wing or a hooker, can score a try at any point during the match.
When working in Agile, the scrum master acts in a fairly similar way to a referee in a game of rugby (but instead of watching from the sidelines, they are fully involved and are in fact a team member themselves). Their role is to reduce ‘noise’ – basically anything that might be blocking the flow of productivity of a team, in the same manner that a referee allows the game of rugby to flow naturally by allowing teams to ‘play on’.
A product owner can be compared to a rugby manager, but again, they are also part of the team and attend daily scrum meetings. In rugby, it would be the manager who ‘trains’ the team, setting out goals and the way in which a team is set up and plays; in agile, the product owner is basically the person who sets the goal and defines how this goal which be achieved- signing off on all methodology.
One of the key things in agile is regular reviews (retrospectives) on past sprint performances and planning ahead. The ability to fail is vitally important – only by making mistakes can an agile team learn from these and improve. In the same way, a rugby team isn’t going to win every single game they ever play, but a good team will improve each match- becoming faster and better every time. Sometimes a rugby match will require the team to play defensively, sometimes they will need to be focused on attacking – an agile team have to adapt their way of working depending on the challenges each goal requires.
Interestingly enough, the Commonwealth Games site states: “..hard hits and heroic sprints…It’s all about teamwork, skills and stamina and with just seven players per team, everyone’s got a job to do.” This couldn’t sum up agile working any better really!
Only by working with trust, transparency and the ability to pivot at any time, can the sprint goals be achieved.
Interested in the rugby sevens? Check out the Commonwealth Games’ timetable here: http://www.glasgow2014.com/your-games/sports/rugby-sevens
Want to find out more about Agile? Check out: http://agilemethodology.org/