The 2018 Olympic Games and Agile

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The 2018 Olympic Games and Agile

Zone Leader John Vester takes a look at the 2018 Olympic games, building parallels with Agile development lifecycle adoption.

· Agile Zone ·
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The 2018 Winter Olympic games are well underway, completing events in a time zone that is fourteen hours ahead of my local time zone. However, having a six-month old baby in the house, leads to some middle-of-the-night one-on-one time with our son. This situation has worked out well as the Olympic games are being played — providing an alternative to infomercials or stale news broadcasts that are typically the only real view choice while rocking our son back to sleep.

Watching the Olympic games made me wonder what parallels exist within the Agile development lifecycle.

The Opening Ceremonies

The opening ceremonies are the point where participants are focused on celebrating the beginning of the games they have worked the majority of their lives to reach. In hearing some of the Olympians describe the feeling, several mentioned the high degree of loudness and awe of the event to cause them to hear nothing more than silence. As each country enters the arena, the cheers cast across the stadium catapulted the group into utter stardom. To those athletes, the thrill of being recognized and appreciated is equally as exciting of being able to compete on a worldwide stage.

While not nearly as glamorous, a project kickoff meeting is similar to the opening ceremonies. For each person in attendance, they were chosen to participate based upon their strengths and abilities to help the project reach the expected goals. As a member of the team, there is an excitement of a new project before them, being able to provide their thoughts and opinions on providing the best solution possible. The thrill here is to be recognized as part of the team that will meet a need important enough to garner budgeted funds from the application's sponsor.

Speed Skating Relay

Watching the speed skating events are very cool. That track is quite small and the racers are often what appears to be a hair's length from each other. A single mistake can lead to multiple racers being tossed aside. I was amazing when the relay version of the race started, as each team had multiple members racing on the track for a given event. One member was on the track, another was inside the track getting up to speed to take over (boosted with a push from the prior racer) and two others team members waited for their opportunity to participate in the 45-lap event. There is a lot going on to complete the event.

To me, the speed skating event on an Agile team would be the CI/CD component, where several participants come together for a common goal: to obtain a successful build. The pipeline implemented by DevOps pulls in the source code from the development team member, validates and analyzes the code being built, executes the build, and deploys the build to a container for others to utilize. One mistake can lead to a cascading effect, causing the build to fail.

Figure Skating

For the most part, I am pretty good at being able to understand the games and what it takes to become a winner. Even the sport of curling was not that difficult to understand and follow. Where I struggle is being able to know what is good and what is great when it comes to events that are scored based on style points. Like the figure skating events. I have no idea what gains huge points with the judges and what yields a lower score. In fact, I thought that a wipe-out would eliminate the possibility for a first-place gold medal, but the 2018 games proved that is not a valid assumption.

The parallel to Agile in this respect is completion of a given feature itself. Perhaps the feature is focused on building a shopping cart for an application. While I understand that the shopping cart process should allow a user to complete an order. At the same time, the shopping cart should not crash, lose some items while processing or even not correctly persist the expected costs from stage to stage. However, I am not sure I have a clear understanding on the style points involved. As a developer, I can make sure the need is being met, but I can only do as best as I can with a very limited understanding of what the customer (parallel to the judge in a figure skating event) is expecting.

I honestly believe this disconnect — because it is subjective — is a reason why features are often considered not working as expected when delivered to the customer.


In the past I have found parallels with television shows Dateline and Live PD, as well as The Weather Channel and the Call of Duty video game. I wasn't surprised that I was able to find similarities with the 2018 Olympic games, especially while watching the games being played in the middle of the night as I steadily rock my son.

Have a really great day!

agile, agile adoption, ceremonies, ci/cd, continious integration, continuos delivery, olympics

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