Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cycling and Scrum

Every year I join a group of friends and ride a 100K charity bike ride.  This ride takes about 4 hours and has turned into a fun yearly tradition. This year, as I was battling my way up the hills of Chilmark (the ride covers most of Martha’s Vineyard), it occurred to me that there were a lot of similarities between the cycle ride I was a part of, and a Scrum team.

Some of the similarities I came up with were as follows:

  • Once you know the basics, you can ride a bike a long distance, or participate on a Scrum team.  However, having solid training for each makes doing them much easier and more efficient.

  • Developing a regular cadence is valued in both Scrum and cycling.  Going to hard and fast early on can quickly burn you out, making it hard to finish the job.

  • Buying a Scrum tool doesn’t make you a better Agile organization, just like buying a new carbon-fiber bike doesn’t make you a better, faster rider.

  • I’m a long distance runner, and not a great cycler.  However, riding with my friends, many of whom are serious cyclers, makes me a better rider.  As the ride progressed, I rode smoother, tighter and faster.  Working on a Scrum team has a similar effect for team members.  Knowledge readily spreads to the teammates through frequent communication via daily stand-ups and backlog grooming activities, making them stronger, better engineers.

  • Due to the fact that the ride occurs mid-Spring, each member of the team arrives with a different level of fitness, depending on how much training we put in on indoor trainers during the long New England winter.   As such those of us less capable rely on help from the stronger riders. With cycling, teamwork is core to the effort.  Riders work together, take turns leading the group, breaking the wind for the rest of the team,  pulling the group, allowing others (slower, tired riders!) to draft behind them.    Similarly, Scrum is focused on teamwork and less about solo achievements.  Sprints (and thus product releases) can only efficiently succeed if the team works together and arrives at the end together.

  • There was a strong team commitment to finish the full 100K. During the ride there were several opportunities during the ride to cut it short - to quit early.  Additionally, the event offers 2 shorter rides, of 10 and 30 miles. But we, as a team, committed to completing the 100K ride regardless of the weather or any other adversity that came our way.    Scrum teams develop a similar strong focus and commitment to delivering potentially shippable product increments and overcoming impediments.
My friends and I had great weather and a fun ride.  We reached the 100K mark, the “finish line” together with a team velocity of 17 [mph] story points.  I’m looking forward to next year’s ride.

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