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This post is from the Collabnet VersionOne blog and has not been updated since the original publish date.

Last Updated Jun 01, 2016 — Enterprise Agile Planning expert

The ‘Game’ of Agile Compared to Football: Draft Day

Enterprise Agile Planning

More than 30 years ago Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka wrote an article titled ‘The New New Product Development Game,’ which compares product development to rugby. This year's NFL draft inspired me to make a similar analogy to American football. This is the first in a series of articles comparing agile and football around the major events:

  • Draft Day
  • Training Camp
  • The Football Game
  • Super Bowl

A football organization has a team of coaches with different experiences and strengths who are experts at football. Not only do they know the rules, but they specialize in one area (offense, defense, and special teams). Some are very inspirational, some are great with the owners of the team and some thrive on being in the trenches with the players. To be successful, they have to know what makes their players tick.

  • Agile coaches are experts in agile and gravitate to various areas of focus (enterprise agile, new transformations, team level coaching, engineering best practices, etc.)

Team management and coaches are given a budget to spend. On draft day, they pick their top college and trade picks based on position, experience, potential, and how much they cost. The players receive a salary for the season and therefore the cost of their salaries are fixed.

  • Agile teams are fixed and therefore the cost of labor doesn’t change.

Coaches recruit a cross/functional team for the different positions needed for the game (quarterback, receiver, guard, tackle, kicker, etc.).

  • Agile teams are made up of individuals with all the skill sets needed to deliver value (developer, tester, user experience, customer representation, DevOps, etc.)

The team is made up of multiple individuals that play the same position so the coaches have options when deciding who should participate in each play.

  • Agile teams can also have individuals with the same skill set. However, the team, not the coach or ScrumMaster, decides who should work on what.

Players are designated as first line or second line to indicate the stronger player. Even so, they don’t want a single point of failure, so they make sure all levels are as prepared and as skilled as they can be.

  • The agile team succeeds together and fails together so it’s in their best interest to build up the weakest link by pairing the stronger member with the weaker.

Each play has a main position and a secondary position so players can help out in time of need.

  • A team member may primarily be a developer, but can help out by executing test cases (not for their code of course) or with documentation.

The team captain designation is a team appointed position indicating the player is a leader on and off the field.

  • Some agile teams may also designate a member as a team lead. That individual is performing work along the side of the other teammates and provides guidance to and outside of the team.

Stay tuned for the rest of the articles in this series:

  • Training Camp – July
  • Kickoff Game – September
  • Super Bowl – February

For more information on the fundamentals of agile, check out our Agile 101 resources.

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