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What Football Can Teach Agile

Filed Under Software Process, Thought Stuff

An American Football

Scott Belware is currently pondering what tomorrow’s Agile methodologies will be. A good and noble question indeed, but at this point in time I feel this question can be misleading. If the old (Waterfall) is in the East and the new (Agile) is in the West, does tomorrow’s Agile methods lie further West or more towards the East? I will try to be more clear, and here is where football comes to play.

The NFL adopted instant replay in 1999. Referees could now replay what had occurred and it was viewed as a great evolution to the game. Unfortunately, referees became much more dependent on the technology. Games became longer. Players and fans didn’t appreciate the long waits between plays. People started to hate instant replay.

In 2004, the NFL got wise and realized that a blend of both technology and human interaction was needed to “iterate” plays quicker. As a result, instant replay was available to teams in controversial situations and referees were able to make decisions that kept the game moving.

With unanswered questions such as the relationship between Agile and fixed budgets, the transition from Waterfall to Agile seems impossible to most. As a result, should we be concentrating on better Agile practices that move further West or explore back East to find a better blend? Maybe a better East-West blend doesn’t exist, but could we find processes that help bridge the transition between Waterfall and Agile, thus increasing adoption rates?

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5 Responses to “What Football Can Teach Agile”

  1. Paul Bourdeaux on September 4th, 2007 9:25 am

    Anytime you can bring up football in a tech blog, you will get my attention. 🙂

    My guess is that (for better or for worse) a type of bridge process like you mentioned will evolve to help make the transition process easier.

  2. Scott Bellware on September 4th, 2007 9:37 am
  3. Max Pool on September 4th, 2007 9:53 am


    There are a ton of different opinions as linked in the article at Jermey Millers latest entry:

    In that article Udi suggests talking them out of doing fixed bid. Is that an option for most military RFPs? Nope, hard and fast budgets and constrants before any prototyping is even allowed.

    This major kink in the Agile armour can not be fixed with a single dogmatic ideal. Moving the unwashed masses from Waterfall to Agile will need much more practical tactics for the fearful to change.

  4. Jason Gibb on September 5th, 2007 8:59 pm

    At the risk of offending all the developers out there, many see fixed price/fixed scope projects in black and white, when the reality is often more gray. Even “fixed scope” projects are open for interpretation and some flexibility in how the requirements are implemented. This may just be the wedge a team can use to insert agile into seemingly un-agile projects.

  5. Max Pool on September 5th, 2007 9:09 pm

    No, that’s a good point. Unfortunately, it completely hinges on how much the project leader is a “yes” man compared to a snake oil salesman.

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