Getting agile teams ready for takeoff
June 25, 2009 —
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Related Search Term(s): agile
There are as many issues involved in safely guiding an airplane to its destination as there are in software product development.
Michael James travels throughout the United States and Europe talking with agile teams about common themes between agile development and flying planes. Some of those themes are situational awareness, or knowing exactly what’s going on at any given time or iteration; and assertiveness, or being assertive when making decisions.
When a pilot takes a seat in the flight deck of an airplane, he or she must be extremely alert. The pilot must ensure that the navigation display is showing the correct route, and that the mode control panel is showing the right speed and altitude. And more than anything, the pilot must have an open line of communication with the rest of his or her team.
Flying a plane safely across a continent or across the globe requires utmost communication and teamwork between air traffic controllers, ground control and pilots.
Since radar, flight data processing systems and other technologies used by controllers are very strong nowadays, many problems arise out of communication issues, not technology.
“Aviation is interesting because it’s a place where we measure teamwork so precisely,” said James, a certified Scrum trainer with agile training company Danube Technologies. “When an air traffic controller and pilot team gets into a non-routine situation, that’s when you see what the team really has.”
One difference between the two is that in software it can be harder to measure success and failure, because teams are building something that’s never been built before, so there is not much of a basis of comparison, James noted. Operating an aircraft safely, however, for the most part is a repeatable form of work. Crew interaction and data recordings can show what went wrong and what went well.
Play it again, band!
In James’ seminars, agile discussion doesn’t just center on ties to aviation. The trainer also tries to help teams get in rhythm by explaining concepts based in jazz and improvisational theatre.