Scrum the American Football Super Bowl LII Winning Season

As an American Football fan and a Philadelphian, I was thinking about the Philadelphia Eagles journey to winning the Super Bowl LII and I realized that I could relate it to Agile and Scrum practices and building a winning Product.  I hope you have fun in picturing this as I did.

Why can’t we operate our Scrum Teams like a Winning American Football Team?  With an Ultimate Competitive win like a Super Bowl!

I’m going to walk through the Philadelphia Eagles winning Football Season with one of the final capstone plays call the Philly Special that returned the most value.

The capstone play:

Philly Special Story

Philly Special Story

Let’s start with an offensive football play and in this analogy a play = a story

a Play = a Story

In the Philly Special Story or Play: As a Coach, I want this Offensive formation and series of player moves, So that the Defense ignores the QB Nick Foles and he will be open to score a Touchdown.

The Team

The Offensive Team of 11 players is a little large for a Scrum Team which is typically 7 teammates plus or minus 2 people.  But I have seen some larger teams with specialists on the team.

People and Players

  • Coach = Major Stakeholder, Customer or manager or PO
    • In the case of the Eagles’ Coach he is more like a Release Train Engineer or Release Manager providing a series of plays (stories) to the QB and Team to run
    • By The way, I believe an Agile Coach or Scrum Master is also much like a Sports Coach.  As the team always dislikes how the coach pushes people to achieve more than they think they can, but once the success is had they all Thank the coach.
  • QB = Can be a Teammate or even a PO
    • QB’s can be the PO as they can just plays on the field as they can make the ultimate decision on the field.  At the moment of the formation he or she is responsible for achieving the business value.  They can rearrange the story or even change the priority as the competitive environment dictates.
  • Football Players are the Scrum Team
    • We can have multiple teams working together to deliver their part such as the Offense, Defense, Kicking, Return and even the Coaching Teams.

Cross-Training Teammates

  • During the football season the Philadelphia Eagles had a number of people get injured and they could have just given up.
    • In one game a non-kicker had to take on the role of kicker.  It was not something he always did but for a game, that player could do enough to keep the team working.
  • In the the famous Philly Special Play:
    • QB Nick Foles took on the role of a receiver
    • A receiver / running back took on the role of QB
    • During this play teammates took on various roles to make the story a success
  • QB Nick Foles was able to take QB Wentz’s place when he got hurt. QB Nick Foles started out slow but the rest of the team helped to complete the games.

Agile Coaching Stance: People are Creative, Resourceful and Complete

  • In Agile Coaching training there is a stance that People are Creative, Resourceful and Complete.  This is a great description that a football coach has to be believing for his or her team to achieve the ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl.  Professional American Football player should be treated much like your Scrum or Agile Team.  We have to have confidence that they can do their jobs and they know what to do.

The Story

Just as in a software story the result should be business value. Just like in Scrum and Agile Story the best stories are worked by multiple people.  Why I say this:

football play tasks

football play tasks

  • Stories worked by multiple people return the best well rounded work
  • Tasks can be performed currently vs. a story is worked by one people the tasks are worked sequentially

In the case of a Football play eleven (11) players each have their own tasks to perform.  If all the tasks are performed and no bugs are created the play or story should be a success and deliver business value, such as: blocking, running, fade route, passing, hand-off, catching, etc..  The players worked independently as they new their jobs and did not need to be micro-managed or even nano-managed.

In the game of X’s and O’x (X being defense and O being offense players), the story (play) is recorded on a card just like an agile or scrum story card.  When I was a kid all our plays were written on a 3×5 card.

Here is our “Philly Special” story or play card

Philly Special Play or Story

Philly Special Play or Story

The Sprint and The Football Week

So now we looked at the Team and the requirements or story operations.  Let’s look at the Scrum Ceremonies and a successful release.

I would like to offer up that every week in a football season is the same as a One (1) week Sprint

One Week Sprints = the week between Football Games

There are 16 football games in a 17 week season, plus the playoff games.

Sprint Planning Planning

  • The Eagles have a script of 17 plays or so, that they like to run for each game.  This makes up the initial priority for the team to work.
  • There are also a number of other plays assembled as a backlog that can be used by the team

Daily Scrum

  • Each day the coaches and teammates work together and plan their day to practice and prepare the various stories

Coding, Junit and Testing

The Scrum Sprint involves everything from thinking, visualizing, coding and testing at multiple level before it is released into production

  • Coding involves Thinking, Visualizing, Coding and in football it is reading the play card, visualizing the play and the tasks at hands, walking though the play, then running through the play
  • Junits to ensure that every task is done correctly
  • Testing by the coaches to ensure that the team has the set up correctly, the walk through and then the full speed run prior to the release to PROD or game time.
  • Wallk Through = Dev
  • Full Speed = QA or Pre-PROD Environment

Sprint Demonstration or Review

  • The actual Football Game on Sunday is the Sprint Review.  Every story is demonstrated of business value and some deliver more than others.

Sprint Retrospective

  • After each game, the coaches and players all reflect on their play, practices and activities of each other.
  • They all talk about:
    • What worked,
    • What didn’t work,
    • What could be done to accelerate the team, and
    • Any things they need to watch out for from their next opponent.

Release Planning and Successful Competitive Product Delivery

As I said before each football week is like a Scrum one week Sprint.

Eagles preseason 2017 - Sprint zero

Eagles preseason 2017 – Sprint zero

Every week is is getting feedback on how good your product is doing.  The feedback can be good or bad, but there is always feedback and hopefully your product is getting better with each Sprint.  Just like a Football Team.

The Football Season Bye-Week when the team’s take off can be associated with the Scaled Agile Framework or SAFe IP Sprint or Iteration

  • The Innovation and Planning (IP) Iteration occurs every Program Increment (PI) and serves multiple purposes. It acts as an estimating buffer for meeting PI Objectives and provides dedicated time for innovation, continuing education, PI Planning, and Inspect and Adapt (I&A) events.
  • Here football teams sharpen skills and plan for the next team and heal themselves from the high speed and intense operations.

In the end the Product is really tested in the Playoffs, with UAT and customer trials.

The final test is Product Delivery and the Ultimate Win for the customer the fans and the Team Stakeholders.

The Agile Manifesto

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools – Player Interaction in a huddle for quick feedback vs. strict Plays from outsiders all the time
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation – Winning a Football game verse just books of documented plays that are never used
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation – Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson listening to teammates and ideas from others verse an unchanging contract or plays
  • Responding to change over following a plan – Each Player adapting to what the other team is doing or when the QB calls a different play at the line of scrimmage.

Challenge Question

I have a challenge question for any organization developing code or saying they need to use a waterfall or very long term plan spanning years for successful software.

If a Football team in 17 weeks can deliver a working team to compete in the playoffs and hopefully win the Super Bowl.

Why can’t Software Product be delivered to the customer in 6 months or less?

The 17 weeks is just over 4 months of work with a month in pre-season and a month in the playoffs.  I would also say that building a football team with all it plays and nuances is as complicated if not more complicated than building software.  So why can’t Software Product be delivered in such a short manner.  It is doable with the right attitude.

Just a Thought 🙂

One Last Reminder


Celebrate the Successful Release!

So many companies forget to release some steam and celebrate the success.  It is a part of the reward for everyone, team, customers and stakeholders.  Life is not all Work.  We need to have some fun or we burnout or move on.

Here the Eagles Football Fans are celebrating the Super Bowl LII Victory

Eagles Super Bowl celebration Photo by C. D'Emilio my neighbor and best Ice Treats maker

Eagles Super Bowl celebration Photo by C. D’Emilio my neighbor and Best Ice Treats maker

Have Fun!

Cheers to the Philadelphia Eagles and their Super Bowl Victory and may your teams also have many victories and celebrations.

Greg Mester

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