The spirit of the (Agile) game.

The spirit of the (Agile) game.

As a Scrum Master it would be easy to assume that rugby is my sport of choice but even a quick glance at my TV habits would reveal that football (soccer) is my preference. The sad fact is that I actually have a love/hate relationship with the game and in one of my rare moments of enlightenment, I noticed a similarity with my relationship with Agile and I started to consider why this might be.

As kids, if we wanted to play football all we needed was a ball, at least 2 players and some sort of goal. The only rules were very minimal and based on the unspoken ‘spirit of the game’ (eg: no obvious hand ball and limited force to be used in the tackle).  For most games the pitch was only limited by the street or playground, the goals ranged from a pair of jumpers to open drains and the final whistle came only when mum called us in for tea.

With a limited set of resources we spent many happy hours building lifelong friendships and improving fitness.  For this ‘pure’ form of the sport we didn’t need a set of rules imposed by the Football Association. Without those rules we focused on what was important rather than finding ways to ‘game the system’, by diving or time wasting.  It’s this so called “professional footballer’s approach” to winning which creates much of my frustration and sadness about the game today, where more effort seems to be spent on deceiving the referee than on creating something of genuine intrinsic value.

So the moral of the story? If you want to be Agile and reap the benefits you don’t need a huge set of rules to follow.  Understand the three core pillars of empiricism: Transparency, Inspection & Adaption and ensure everything you do is rooted there.  Don’t be distracted by silver bullet frameworks, methodologies or branded solutions.  Return to basic principles and work to understand the spirit of Agile rather than how to pass the next certification exam.


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