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Running the Agile Marathon


Similarities Between Endurance Racing and Agile Way of Working


This week at the regional Scrum Gathering in Ghent #RSGGhent24, I had the pleasure of meeting many great and inspiring professionals. Interestingly, earlier in March, I was in Ghent to run a marathon. The experience made me reflect on how running a marathon and embracing an agile way of working share intriguing similarities. 


Both require resilience, adaptability, strategic planning, and a focus on continuous improvement. Very intriguing that all these "sprints" we do as a team combined, often feels like completing a marathon. ;)


Endurance and Long-Term Commitment

Just as running 26.2 miles demands physical endurance, the agile way of working requires mental and organizational stamina. Both endeavors are long-term commitments that necessitate sustained effort. Success is not achieved overnight; it's the result of consistent, disciplined action over an extended period.


Iterative Progress

Marathons and agile projects share a common philosophy of iterative progress. In a marathon, runners break down the race into manageable segments, focusing on one step at a time. Similarly, agile methodologies encourage incremental development and continuous delivery, allowing teams to build on successes and learn from each iteration.


Flexibility and Adaptability

Marathon runners often encounter unexpected challenges, such as changing weather conditions or unforeseen obstacles. Likewise, agile teams embrace change and adaptability. They understand that project requirements may evolve, and flexibility is crucial for responding to new information or shifting priorities.


Goal Setting and Planning

Both running a marathon and practicing agile methodologies involve meticulous goal setting and planning. Marathon runners set pace targets, hydration plans, and race strategies. Similarly, agile teams establish sprint goals, prioritize tasks, and create a roadmap for project completion. In both cases, a well-thought-out plan is essential for success.


Continuous Improvement

Marathon runners are always seeking ways to enhance their performance, whether through refining their running technique, adjusting nutrition, or incorporating new training methods. The agile methodology is rooted in the concept of continuous improvement, with regular retrospectives allowing teams to reflect on their processes and identify areas for enhancement.


Team Collaboration

Marathon relays and team-based races showcase the significance of collaboration among runners. In the agile world, collaboration is equally crucial. Cross-functional teams work closely together, breaking down silos and fostering open communication. The success of both a marathon relay and an agile project depends on the collective effort of the entire team.


Feedback Loops

Runners often rely on feedback from their bodies to adjust their pace and strategy during a marathon. Similarly, agile teams thrive on quick feedback loops, with regular reviews and testing helping them identify and address issues promptly. This emphasis on feedback accelerates learning and improvement in both contexts.


Conclusion

In the marathon of business and project management, embracing an agile way of working is akin to lacing up your running shoes and preparing for a challenging race. The endurance, adaptability, and commitment required for both endeavors demonstrate that, despite their apparent differences, the principles of running a marathon and practicing agility in the workplace share a common thread of resilience and continuous improvement. Just as a marathon runner conquers each mile with determination, agile teams navigate the complexities of projects with a commitment to delivering value incrementally and embracing change along the way.





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