Sunday, April 8, 2012

Make it stick.

A few days ago I was watching a recorder workshop by Angel Medinilla given at the Barcelona Lean Camp this February. He was explaining lean principles to the participants by having them practice a series of Aikido techniques or movements. But there was something in particular that he said that resonated with me.

"Metaphors are a powerful way of explaining things to people, because they stick, because they create a paradigm." I totally agree. In fact this post is a compilation of some of the metaphors and similes that I tend to use when explaining agile or explaining agile practices to someone. As usual, this is just my personal repertoire, but I would love to hear what you guys think about it or if you have any other examples that your prefer.

I plan to keep updating this post as I find new examples that I like. I hope you find them as useful as I do.

Angry Birds

I think most people know the angry birds game. In this game you have a goal which is to kill the pigs sitting at different positions on the map by throwing birds at them from a slingshot. You also have lot of obstacles that may prevent you from getting to the pigs directly. for example you would have boxes, metal crates, glass, etc. and some other variables like gravity, speed, the effects of impacting an obstacle, etc.

This is a good example in which to analyze and discuss the advantages of adaptive over predictive planning: transparency, risk management, etc. Another good question to ask would be: What if the pigs could move?

Crossing the river
You need to cross a river in a small boat but there are lots of stones on the way that you can't see because they are under the water, this stones will probably delay your arrival to the other side or even sink the boat.

You can discuss how frequent feedback cycles are like allowing you to lower the river's water level so you can see the tip of the rocks and avoid them in time or minimize damage.

Growing Roses
You are growing roses. You care after the plant and you know who long it will take to grow and give flowers. However, you don't know exactly how many flowers it will give. You can compare the plant to a product being developed and the flowers to the scope or features for the product.

Running a Sprint vs a Marathon
This is kind of evident. You would compare having a sustainable pace, flow and  rhythm,  to running a marathon, and burning the midnight oil to running a sprint. At the heart of everything is the question: How good are you when you are tired?

It is easy to define sustainable pace but hard to apply. It doesn't mean you can't sprint once in a while. Marathon runners do it too, at the end line, or to surpass another runner. But if you need to do it every time, you have a problem.

Building a road
Suppose your client wants you to build him a road so that he can go to his beach house. Does it need to be an 8 tracks highway or just a 2 ways paved road will suffice? Would a track in the middle of the woods be enough?

There are different levels of achieving the same end results or goals and building incrementally gives you the opportunity to deliver value (an unpaved road in the middle of the woods) and then improve upon it with your customer's feedback at hand. Maybe the unpaved road is enough. Or maybe at the beginning he thought he needed a highway, but he realizes now he doesn't. This is also a good sample to discuss prototyping vs building incrementally.

A car going somewhere
This sample is particularly centered on the roles of a SCRUM team. Where the whole car signifies the project or product being built. The driver is the product owner who has the vision and knows where car needs to go. The Team is the chassis or engine, and the Scrum Master would be the oil or liquid for the breaks.

This is it, for now, if you want me to include something else let me know. :)

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