I recently watched an X-Men movie and it occurred to me that one of the great things about iterative development is the opportunity we have to evolve quickly. We mutate our approach, activities and processes at every generation (sprint). Like evolution, we implement natural selection. We try a new process or activity and if it helps the team, it survives; we keep it and we may build on it in the future generations. If something doesn’t work, if it doesn’t help us, it dies off and the “mutation” is not inherited by the next sprint. Having said that, it can be difficult to have the courage to make some changes. Some teams using Scrum may be reluctant to “mutate” anything that would contradict a purist adoption of the methodology. It’s easy to fear change and there’s a good argument that sticking to the script and using best practice helps us avoid mistakes. However, we should remember that Scrum is about adapting as well as inspecting.
My team recently started using a points based burndown in a sprint. I confessed to this on an agile forum and it was swiftly branded as heresy by some and led to an interesting debate in the community. The truth is we tried this mutation for a single sprint as an experiment. It yielded interesting results; giving the team an insight into the leadtime for delivering value in the sprint.
One chap on the agile forum suggested that to truly mimic evolution, we would need to introduce random changes. It’s true, nature’s mutations are random; however I fear for example, that randomly choosing to decrease sprint length to 2 days would prove disruptive. Perhaps a better approach is to choose a number of acceptable “mutations” in retrospective and randomly select from these.
It took many generations and many mutations to create the modern human that is capable of writing this blog post. We should mimic evolution and remember to introduce small changes frequently.
Don’t be afraid, mutate! Create agile X-Men!