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The Weather Channel - Agility in Action

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The Weather Channel - Agility in Action

While we talk a lot of agility in software development, it isn't only limited to groups of coders. In this article, we take a look at an unexpectedly agile team.

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[While watching coverage of Hurricane Irma, Zone Leader John Vester recognizes how agile practices are being employed by a dedicated weather service.]

With Hurricane Irma challenging the state of Florida over the weekend, I remained tuned in to The Weather Channel in order to keep track of the storm hitting the state where so many of my family and friends call their home. Some friends, whom I first met 22 years ago when I lived in south Florida, still remain in the Miami area. My immediate family members are located in the Clearwater and Tampa area, while friends span the state from Jacksonville to Boca Raton, to Miami, to Marco Island, to Ft. Myers, to Sarasota, to Dunedin and Tallahassee. All considered in the path of Irma's tremendous power.

Watching the around-the-clock coverage of the hurricane activity, I realized that the team at The Weather Channel are successfully adopting clear agile practices in their day to day tasks and activities.

Iterative and Incremental

The primary focus when giving updates to the audience tuned in to The Weather Channel is to provide information related to the current state of the weather. Since weather is often unpredictable, a continued effort to review and analyze the situation is required before providing a forecast. As a result of their line of work, changes outside of their control can cause prior predictions to become invalid - requiring a continual effort of reforecasting and analysis for the current estimates.

With Hurricane Irma, I've watched how the original predictions for the path have evolved as they understand more about the storm system pushing the hurricane towards the state of Florida.

This is very similar to Agile teams I have been a member of, who continue to improve their productivity as a project progresses. With software development, this is often attributed to the team working better together and also gaining a better understanding of the business needs being met. In both cases, the value of being iterative and incremental in design have rewarding benefits.

Consistent Communication

As things continue to evolve or change, the team at The Weather Channel are focused on communicating everything they currently understand to their wide audience of viewers. Regardless of if the message is good news or bad news, the team is dedicated to providing solid information that can be utilized to make the appropriate decision.

Over the weekend, the message was clear that residents had a deadline by which they needed to evacuate, because of the intensity of the arriving storms linked to Hurricane Irma. This decision was driven by the communication provided by weather forecasters close to the situation.

Within software development, this is the same type of approach that product owners and decision makers employ to make critical decisions as part of a development initiative. As an example, if a team communicates their current status correctly, a business line may decide to alter the feature set for the next major release, based upon the current state of development. A lack of consistent communication could cause unmet expectations with the business down the road.

Quality Focus

With every prediction made, the team at The Weather Channel stands behind their information, knowing they have the trust of their viewing audience in mind. Without a focus on quality, viewers will no longer place value in the forecasts given and likely gravitate to another source for their weather updates.

In the software development world, a team that consistently produces a lack of quality in their work are often re-evaluated to see where (or how) the effort of quality can be improved. This could involve team re-assignments or staffing changes to return the level of quality to a degree that is favorable to the business.

Conclusion

I have often said that being a weatherman is probably the easiest job in the world. Because you can be wrong more than your right, without really any consequence. Of course, my thoughts were quite cynical as I realize there is a great deal of work behind weather predictions. Since the forecasters are constantly dealing with changing conditions, they have accepted the fact that their forecasts often do not pan out. They don't linger on missing their prediction, but instead learn from it and move on to the next set of forecasts.

This is the biggest lesson we can all learn. In our daily tasks, there will be forecasts, predictions or even design approaches that are made which turn out to be incorrect or even totally wrong. In this case, we should follow the practice put into place by weather forecasters around the world and realize the mistake was made, learn from it and move on.

My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted by both Hurricane Harvey and Irma during this unfortunate situation.

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Topics:
agile adoption ,incremental design ,agile ,code quality

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