Why Agile is Like Football

ART04x - edited feature imageIn any team sport, there are persons who never score.  Test your trivia mind on that!

They do not play defense or offense, never call a play, never take a shot, or celebrate in the end zone.  He does not coach or own the team.  He does not cheer or keep stats.

Some may argue that at times he may cheat, however no one can refute the fact that he has the best seat in the house even though he did not pay for a ticket! He never makes a first down yet he is the most powerful man on the entire field.  He has the potential to make or break many crucial plays.  He has the ability take points off the board with one hand tied behind his back.  He can even add and take away time from the clock.

Have you guessed who it is? That’s it! That man is the referee.  We never really pay attention to the ref until something goes wrong.  Rarely do we keep our eyes glued on the ref unless they got in the way of a play or made a call, especially a bad call.  Yet, the refs are working on every single down. Not only that, the refs are hiding in plain sight, they are right there in the mix, taking care of business. Always.

The persona is of a referee is usually low key, they are able to take a mountain of abuse without so much as batting an eye.  Just take a look at this commercial to remind you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uO-E2T1hayU

They can have an immediate effect on issues.  This reminds me of a scrum master.  A scrum master is an individual that is tasked with managing the process of agile.  Some teams have the scrum master as part of the delivery team while others do not. A good scrum master is always there, influencing the flow of the sprint and/or project.  He/she is hearing issues daily and removing road blocks.  You may not notice how hard a good scrum master works.  One may not realize they exist at all until the scrum master makes a bad call or gets in the way.

A good scrum master is like a good ref – monitoring the flow, keeping people in line, enforcing the boundaries of the “game”, and keeping stand-ups short and upright.  Scrum masters may also take abuse sometimes for something they did not physically do, just like a referee.  A ref gets yelled at about what another player has or has not done, even though the ref usually doesn’t have any skin in the game and doesn’t receive the championship ring.

There are companies that internally assign scrum masters to scrum teams that are in a totally different department to deter them from getting too involved in the minutia and focus only on monitoring the process of an iteration. In other words, they are making sure the mechanics of the team and project stay pure and on task.  The scrum master often facilitates the iteration review meeting, as well as often overseeing the estimation poker and sprint-planning meetings.

Even though the scrum master typically does not vote, they have a ton of influence over the process itself.  Many scrum masters do not earn story points, however they have the ability to influence the “score board” through the implementation of the process itself.  A ref and a scrum master have the delightful pleasure of enforcing the rules and boundaries of the game.  For a scrum master, that may mean keeping a product owner at bay and away from the delivery team during a sprint. For a ref, that may mean throwing a ‘ruffing the kicker’ flag in order to keep the kicker safe.

Whether it is on the field or in the board room, these similar roles are created to bring order to the universe. Keep this in mind whenever you feel like arguing with either one of them.  I haven’t seen people be successful in yelling at the ref or the scrum master.  These people are created to take a lot of abuse like it’s nothing – I should know. So in closing, love your scrum master. I mean they have enough to overcome with a title like scrum master already right? Show them that you love and appreciate all the little things they do that no one ever sees, and how you want to do their laundry every Thursday and wash the car on Saturday mornings!  Ok, maybe that’s a bit much…unless?

Don’t worry…. be agile.


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Dewayne Washington

Dewayne Washington

Dewayne Washington is a senior consultant with 20+ years of experience in BI and Analytics in over 2 dozen verticals. He heads a BI firm known as The Business of Intelligence. He is the author of the book Get In The Stream, the ultimate guide to customer adoption and his Data Warehousing and Mobile Solutions implementations have been featured in CIO Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. Dewayne is also a sought-after speaker and mentor for organizations striving to leverage BI and Analytics to meet business goals, thus earning him the title, BI Pharaoh.

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