Finding the Steady State


illustrated above, projects and organizations need to find their steady state in which teams feel comfortable delivering in a consistent model rather than a few quick successes. These projects may be slower in the beginning than projects that sprint, but will have the better endurance and finish early. Isn't that our ultimate goal anyway?

Like runners, teams must have an overall vision and strategy for the race. Each iteration may contain its unique challenges such as environmental factors (e.g. hills, bridges, weather) but also team-based ups and downs. World class runners use these environmental and personal factors to their advantage and include it into their race strategy.

Although many organizations are going full force and are very committed to agile principles they will need to keep an eye on consistency and continuity in the project delivery model. If they are striving for more than a few successful sprints with quick and flashy results, the analogy may not be always appropriate. The interactive industry we are part of provides compelling reasons for faster, higher and further, but it is as important to keep a fresh new look at our surroundings as well. A tunnel vision, a lack of quality and a low morale would not help building the products customers like to see in the future.

We incorporate this learning process into our strategy and adjust. For example, we have learned that many agile projects tend to over-commit and under-deliver in early iterations. Beside the very initial iterations, they do however under-deliver in quality and morale. I am seeking a more moderate approach and focus on under-committing but over-delivering in all parameters equally. Ultimately we would like to find oursteady state and simply "commit" and "deliver".

Next Steps


It is not about replacing the word sprint with iteration or not. It is about managing the expectations of what this term means in your organization. On the one side, a sprint may convey the wrong message in an organization among executives and the team alike. It requires, however, little explanation because everyone knows a sprint is short. It could simply mean, we are "fast", but it could also mean "over-time" or "aggressive schedules". Explaining iterative-incremental may not be as intuitive as the notion of a sprint but if you are looking for a long-term and lasting agile impact, perhaps the marathon analogy helps you find your steady state. If you have good reasons to sprint, consider a longer recovery time in between iterations and projects.

Last but not least, here are few things you may consider. Marathon runners get better with age and experience, they pick-up food and refreshments on their way, communicate with others while running and have great memories to share.


About the Author

Jochen (Joe) Krebs ( is the author of the book Agile Portfolio Management and has written several articles about project management and requirements engineering. He is frequently invited to speak at conferences, chapters and organizations. At AOL, Joe is responsible for the successful adoption of agile development as the Director of Program Management.

He founded and spear heads the local chapter of the APLN (Agile Project Leadership Network) in New York City. He is affiliated with the New York University (NYU) where he offers courses related to project management and provides mentoring services. Relevant only in the context of this article, he is a licensed triathlon trainer and has completed several marathons and triathlons. During those events, he did hit the wall in numerous occasions and learned important lessons from it.



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