We at APUS Software GmbH consider ourselves an agile company. While project management outside APUS might often take rather familiar routes, internally we work by scrum or kanban.
Our Public Transport Team has been very successful with this for years. Scrum project management implies a retrospective at the end of every sprint, to take stock. We want to find out what worked particularly well so that we can do those things again, and also what went badly. In the latter case we try to identify the causes and reasons for the failure. In doing so the point is not to assign blame, but to find potential for improvement at the team level. Because there will always be mistakes in daily work; the question is, what can we learn from them for the future?
Because agility is such a good fit for us, we try to infect others with it wherever we can. With this in mind, last November we invited the SBB team at Frequentis to take part in a retrospective in order to expand our use of that tool beyond the boundaries of our company. Everyone enjoyed it, and it showed how much potential such retrospectives have for a project team.
At this meeting at APUS south of Graz, Austria, mention was made of our discgolf championship, which we hold twice annually.So we invited the SBB-Team to join us for the Spring championship.
Discgolf, for those who may be unfamiliar with it, is a kind of golf as the name indicates. It is played with a Frisbee. Much like in golf, the idea is to get the disc into a target – in this case a basket - with the fewest possible throws. The winner is the player who needs the fewest throws. Discgolf courses are generally found in public greenspaces and recreation areas. In our case we played at the Schockl, the local mountain of Graz. The Frequentis team aquitted themselves very well.
But what does this have to do with scrum and the analogy mentioned at the start? Scrum and other agile methods are used when you know the goal, but not entirely how to get there. That makes both scrum and discgolf very much like real life. You have a course - a project - and you have a goal - a basket. You do your best to get the Frisbee into the basket, but once it leaves your hand natural forces affect the flight path. Gusts of wind can push it off course, if it's too slow the trajectory will be loopy, and often enough the disc lands in the rough. All you can do is to do your best, and learn from each throw how to do it better next time. You can't predict the flight path in advance, as wind and weather are too complex. And that makes discgolf not at all unlike scrum - or real life.