4 Agile Lessons from LOTR on #BiscuitDay

#BiscuitDay Blog

The story begins in The Shire and like all Hobbits we are of an unobtrusive nature, for we love peace and quiet and well-maintained servers and updated software, a well-ordered and well-documented Confluence pages are our favourite haunt. We do not understand machines that are forge-bellowed, water-mills, or hand-looms but we acknowledge their place in history.

In true style of J.R.R. Tolkien he takes us on an epic journey through Middle Earth earning his title of storyteller and imaginer. There are also those that have explored and dug deep into his detailed world, backstories and the relatable characters, cultures and geneaology of the hobbits, wizards, dwarfs, elves, men and many more. This story is about the lessons we learn from the LOTR from the Fellowship of the rings to the Two Towers and then the coming together in the ultimate collaboration in The Return of the King.

As we sit down for Elevenses, as in usual Hobbiton, habitual style and break out the biscuits. Life has a rhythmic pattern in Hobbiton and I believe that celebrating #HappyBiscuitDay would fit right in with the culture and pace. Biscuits in the US are different from their British counterparts, and once again in the Far East and Asia! To our point, it comes down to how we communicate in diverse groups.

Lesson 1: Winning with Diversity

The Fellowship of the Ring is how an unusual and unlikely group of people are selected, recruited and volunteered for a very specific mission. The traditions of Hobbiton are quickly left behind similarly are the traditional ways that we communicate and collaborate in traditional ways. The days of Scuttlebutt or water-cooler (osmotic) communication are bygone and with remote work becoming more common place and for some forced upon by COVID-19 what can we learn from Agile projects, practices, and communication?

The significance of the gathering for collaboration is essential to great teamwork. Agile project management approaches encourage a special effort for in-person conversations and Tolkien recognised in order to build the camaraderie of teams, especially in crises, facing deadlines and for the very basics for survival.

Lesson 2: Agile Communication

There is so much more to agile communication and culture and although this is a two-way process there are many more ways to listen as a practice than we think. Internally we hear and actively we listen to understand and paraphrase for mutual understanding. There is focused listening for content and verbatim information the speaker is trying to relay and then there is global listening which is more subtle for behaviour and environmental indicators and out listening for creative problem solving which is less common.

Lesson 3: Agile Documentation

During the Fellowship the goal was clearly defined, no-one took minutes and very little value was placed on creating large numbers of complex documents and status reports on process. Agile documentation is simple with a focus on careful sufficient “artifacts” that contain the essentials that convey project concepts and progress at a glance.  Another note was the members of the meeting being the core, and although there are those eavesdropping sometimes an external perspective can be useful in the long run. As a rule of thumb the structure should be to enhance, not hinder or reduce, productivity.

Lesson 4: Teams that Scrum

Many missions are seldom a singular and the complexity of solving problems may require different skills and teams which will have to work apart. As the Fellowship starts to split and separate, they continue to aim for a united goal and continue to fight their own battles mimicking isolated and distributed scrum models. In Tolkien’s books this was my toughest emotional and strenuous part of the journey before the glorious days ahead after the great battle.

The unique approaches to team dynamics on agile projects is what SmarterTeams success. Atlassian’s collaboration tools address easy integration to enable meet “in-person” ability, managing multiple time zones for flexibility, simple documentation processes, transparency and most importantly making teamwork fun

A Day in the Life of a Hobbit

Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people, more numerous formerly than they are today; for they love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favourite haunt. They do not and did not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom, though they were skilful with tools.

by Angela Ho