Agile Warfare

Smell: how to get boys on board and explain key concepts to them..I often find trying to explain collective ownership, courage, respect and communication can get a few funny looks from the fellas – I can tell they think I’m a hippy!

So how do I convince folks Agile is not simply a love-in but a dyed-in-the-wool way of working better?  I use an analogy of an airforce mission..this exercise takes a short time and has a good impact on how team members work with each other:)

Airforce missions are typically small units of highly trained individuals who all do what they can to ensure success

The team are fighter pilots…pilots deal with life and death..our teams typically deal in software (not always..that is for a later post)

Props to bring:

  • planes to make
  • pictures of war rooms
  • pictures of homicide rooms
  • pictures of military control rooms


1. Ask the team who is involved in a successful air mission?

  • Cleaners
  • Maintenance crew
  • Software support
  • Chief of operations
  • Fuel filler
  • Ammunition stocker
  • Mission control
  • Medical
  • Pilot/Co-pilot
  • Cook

2. Rank in order of ‘importance’. Ask the teams to explain their reasoning.

3. What happens if the ‘lower’ graded team members are forgotten or make mistakes?
*Cook is sick and cooks the food for the pilot?
*The fuel filler mistakenly puts too little fuel in?
*The cleaner forgot to clean the cockpit
*The ammunition stocker ran out of ammo halfway through
*The pilot’s too scared of mission control to say there’s a serious problem

4. Using the trainees examples how do you suggest we ensure such issued don’t affect the mission?

  • Everyone helps out
  • People don’t ‘stick’ only to their job
  • Everyone communicates!!!!

5. Now assign traditional scrum roles of PO, SM and team member to each of the examples

  • Chief is PO – decides long term, big picture. he plans and is fully involved but doesn’t go into battle
  • Control is SM – provides guidance and info to pilots and is fully focused on them attaining their immediate goals, makes the hard decisions for the mission
  • Pilot/co-pilot – team, the people whose lives are on the line if the aim isn’t achieved. NOTE pilot and co-pilot have the same general skills (cross functional) but have specific duties for each flight (focuse on their tasks at hand).

6. Now apply to the team members – what happens if they cock up or are ill?

PS Thanks to Jeff Sutherland for the inspiration and imagination 🙂