Agile Leadership lessons from hobie sailing
Heading south from delivering a workshop in San Francisco,
I was up for a Hobie sailing adventure with family in San Diego’s Mission Bay;
while having been a deckhand on a weeklong sailing excursion
in Greece many years ago ( that ended up with severe back pain – but that is another story ), some calm water dinghy sailing on the
East coast and open water sailing in the Med;
Sailing a Hobie is a different story.
With its two pontoons, no boom and no nonsense
acceleration it requires agility in maneuvering and offers
plenty of opportunities for collaboration.
Agile leadership concepts intertwine on any boat,
even more-so on a Hobie:
Agile Leadership – One boat, one skipper, and lots of collaboration
Yes, any sailboat is great for teaming up, the Hobie however,
with the wide deck and accessibility of the two throttles –
Jib and Main; as well as a rudder extension and wide rudder;
requires constant communication for proper adjustment of
the sails, heading and avoiding obstacles;
The explicit scrum master makes sure collaboration
occurs on all levels, while the product owner sets the
destination and provides feedback on progress;
the rest of the team moves from side to side to stabilize the boat.
Agile teams also spend time figuring out how to
complement one another; all too often, lack of
communication leads to a mentality of throwing the
code over the wall to QE/testing – which tends to flip the boat.
Early morning there’s little wind, it grows stronger
As with an agile team, the start can be slow;
the morning wind was light…this didn’t deter us from
heading out, enjoying the slow start for getting our
bearings and figuring out how to work together.
Agile teams need the same focus up front,
especially if they are destined for the long haul.
The down time can be spent creatively for learning
‘man over board’ maneuvers; while agile teams can
spend the time to figure out architecture and better
understand each member’s contribution.
No wind – the goal within reach, sometimes you have to lug the Hobie
The Hobie has no keel, sailing upwind requires tacking as
in any boat, without a keel, this is a challenge;
our goal was upwind and while we wanted to hit home,
eventually we had to let go of the goal and pivot.
We ended up tugging the Hobie on the shore back to
our destination; no worries – good team work and high
morale made this change of plans work for all of us.
The iterative nature of agile requires a prioritized backlog
that is driven by a vision set forth by leadership.
Often the team needs to tack, overcoming
headwinds and adjust the plan; finally the have to pivot
if the original goal is not within reach.
Obstacles Abound – what is your agile leadership?
Due to our sailing speed we had to constantly monitor
jet skis zipping around us, motor boats with water skiers
that seemed to be out to get us and lazily paddling SUPs and Kayakers.
By keeping a vigilant lookout, we frequently changed our course.
You will surely see the parallel in an Agile development
environment where flexibility is key to working around
obstacles and charting a new direction.
Retrospective is key
Last week I polled participants in a workshop about the
value they find in their retrospectives.
I wasn’t surprised to see that 15 of the 25 participants
said that they were ambivalent towards their
retros and 10 downright disliked it and saw no value in the retro.
This saddened me, since the single mechanism for
a team to improve and become high performance is the retrospective.
Over the weekend I experienced how the retro is essential
to any improvement; on Saturday morning we sailed the
Hobie adequately; we improved during the afternoon;
and the next day we rocked! How come?
We learned how to collaborate, where the wind was,
the angle of the sail and the value of collaboration.
Agile teams have to do the same!
Whether you’re sailing the blue ocean of San Diego,
the Caribbean, the Med or just about anywhere else, Agile concepts abound;
And if you’re on an agile team, the ocean is always beckoning t
o learn practices of agile leadership in natural surroundings.
Remember – with Agile Leadership Retrospective is key
Reach out to learn how Lego Retrospective Workshop and other tools and techniques can help your team improve their retrospective.
Check out Michael Nir updated speaker website