After a month of binge-watching football let the hangover begin.
The runners-up match the day before — between Holland and Brazil to determine who finishes in 3rd place — can only serve to separate the truly addicted from the merely interested. I devoured that game like I had the previous 62.. but ask me today who came third in 2010. I can’t tell you and I’ll probably forget at some point that Holland came third this year
I was happy to see Germany win against Argentina in the final — I have some German friends, a European team has never triumphed in South America and this is the first win as a unified country. When the Germans last won in 1990 it was as West Germany in a divided nation.
So Glückwünsche Germany… you deserve to be world champions.
During the week the Evening Standard in London published an article examining the German squad and the ingredients to their success.
I’ve linked to the article here in full resolution. I found the newspaper on an Underground train and took it home to scan the article. Immediately I could see lessons to learn for my teams at work.
What can Agile teams learn from the World Cup champions?
Organise, organise, organise
Perhaps the over-riding Germanic characteristic — the football squad was fantastically organised.
Agile teams can learn from this — Agile is not a byword for anarchy and Agile is not an excuse not to plan or not to organise. There are many opportunities to do this in an Agile squad, from the cadence of regular ceremonies to the hygiene of the product backlog and the presentation of the team board. Be organised.
I believe the German team won because of their formation, discipline and routine. They didn’t have a single standout player like a Messi or Neymar or *cough* Rooney.
The German team were well prepared as should your Agile team be.
Teams reach a level of high performance once routines that add value become ingrained into the team — like a muscle memory.
Pair programming, writing testable code and accompanying automated tests. Good communication. These things don’t happen, they are practices that need to be taught, honed and integrated until they are routine.
My favourite! I’ve bought copies of Patrick M. Lencioni’s book The 5 dysfunctions of a teamfor the teams that I work with and I encourage everyone to read it.
It describes high performance teams and the absence of traits that could kill high performance. For example — if a team has Absence of trust that leads to Invulnerability. The presence of Invulnerability leads to Fear of conflict.
You can see the model below but please run… don’t walk… and buy that book for your team.
Work as a team
For me this is the most telling attribute of the German team. I’d heard of only a few German players before but they won because the sum of their power and skill was greater than the 11 component parts.
Does your team perform as a whole better than the sum of the individual efforts?
The Evening Standard introduced the German word for ruthlessness (Unbarmherzigkeit) which I’d use more often if enunciation wasn’t such an issue! :-)
This unbarmherzigkeit is what lead to a 7-1 demolition of hosts Brazil in the semi-finals and I’d like to see my team be more ruthless… in the right way.
The reason that my team switched from abstract story points to cycle time (elapsed time from starting a feature until it’s acceptance) is that we can be more ruthless in the elimination of wasteful activity.
Moving from “We complete 20 points in a sprint” with the associated opportunities to fluff and pad and alter estimates to our current system of “Our cycle time for features is 6 days” exposes wasteful activity. It gives the team a chance to be predictable, have a target to aim for and to be ruthless in its execution.
To keep this article short.. lets roll up all of the above under the heading “Be disciplined.” I think it works anyway.
Teams should be organised in their artefacts (stories, backlogs, team boards) and in their practices (design, build, test, deploy).
Teams should discover which practices work for them and incorporate them into their working agreements and daily routine. By regularly practicing good practice simply becomes muscle memory.
Teams should have a shared purpose and objective and should be comfortable enough with each other to highlight negative behaviour without it becoming personal or vindictive.
Teams should be ruthless in their execution. Train hard and execute well now when the pressure is off and you’ll execute well when it’s a week from the end of the release and you need to make late changes.
All of the above takes discipline from the team, from the ScrumMaster, Agile Coach and management team.
Doing well in the previous sprint is no guarantee that you’ll do well this time around.
Team performance suffers hugely through atrophy and you have to actively keep improving through introspection.. even to keep performance level.
Be humble and always on the lookout for ways to improve. Retrospectives help.
So the World Cup is over and so are my hopes that England can put together a decent team for 2018.
During the next 4 years I’ll be concentrating on applying the learnings from this years World Champions to the Agile teams that I work with.
I hope you do too!