Santa only knows how to do a “big bang” delivery. At first glance, it’s easy to suggest that Santa isn’t very Agile at all. But the more we inspect his actions leading up to the big day, it’s evident that he’s been reading an Agile blog or two.
Santa’s approach to Requirements Gathering
We can’t fault Santa for his Just In Time techniques. He only asks for his requirements a few weeks before delivery, giving his millions of stakeholders plenty of time to figure out what their highest priority items are. And they’ll inevitably change frequently.
You might view Santa’s approach to requirements gathering as succinct. Whilst it is true that there is often no clear definition of done and some gathered requirements can be vague (For example, saying you want “some surprises” at the end of your list), it’s great that he takes it upon himself to talk directly to his customers. Many modern implementations of Agile rely on a proxy Product Owner, often meaning that the development team never communicates directly with the business.
The role of Santa’s elves
Self-organising teams are fundamental within the North Pole workshop. Santa’s workshop is filled with cross-functional and multi-skilled little elves who all work together in a co-located space. All the elves are trusted to do their job and are empowered to get things finished in time for delivery; whatever it takes.
Santa’s post Christmas checklist
I’d like to think that every Boxing Day, Santa, Rudolf and the rest of the team sit down to hold a retrospective. If they didn’t do this, I can’t see how else they could continually adapt to the changes within their industry. Continuous Improvement is key within any Agile implementation and without it, Santa today couldn’t do the same job he did 50 years ago given how different the world around him is (think; more children, more advanced toys to make, less houses with chimneys, etc).
Even if your practices are perfected, industry trends could change things in an instant.
Setting expectations and meeting them is key
Santa operates in a regular sprint rhythm. Whilst his sprints are long, in 12 month cycles, this routine ensures that not only his team but critically his stakeholders all have clear expectations of when they can expect the next delivery. Setting expectations, and meeting them, is key.
So, is Santa Agile?
So, whilst Santa isn’t the perfect advocate of Agile, there are certainly more good Agile practices involved in his tight operation than initially meets the eye. You could argue that the extensive feedback loop is by design, but try telling that to the child that got some eggnog for Christmas instead of the Xbox that they asked for.
Ultimately; the seeing is the believing. And that’s the true magic of both Christmas and a successful Agile delivery.
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