You may be thinking, "What do Mandalorians from a galaxy far, far away have to do with software developers, project managers, and designers?" Well, the Force must be with you, cause I was just about to start talking about the parallels between the galaxy's most feared bounty hunters and your friendly neighborhood Agile team.
Mandalorians and Agilists both adhere to a set of values and principles that guide their actions/practices. For the Mandalorians the mantra (and thus rallying cry of Star Wars fans worldover) "This is the Way" embodies their dedication to their code, their culture, and their comrades. Similarly, the Agile Manifesto serves as a guiding light for software teams, emphasizing the importance of collaboration, flexibility, and iterative improvement over rigid processes
So what can we learn from the Mandalorian creed?
Strap on your trusted blaster and let's dive into the three examples of Mandalorians we meet in the show and uncover the hidden Agile wisdom they reveal.
1. Cobb Vanth: The Poser
In Season 2 of the Mandalorian, Din Djarin encounters Cobb Vanth, who wears the classic Mandalorian armour of Boba Fett. Din demands that he stop wearing the armour, since he does understand or follow the Mandalorian Creed. It's as if he's taken the Agile Manifesto, put it behind him as part of his Zoom background bookshelf, and then proceeded to ignore it completely.
You may have encountered a Cobb Vanth-like person in your own Agile journey. They're the ones who use Agile terminology but lack the commitment to the true Agile mindset. They focus on superficial aspects of Agile, like stand-ups and story points, without understanding the core values that drive Agile's success.
In practice, these Agile posers might pay lip service to the importance of collaboration and adaptation but when the going gets tough, they cling to unsustainable practices like pushing teams to meet arbitrary deadlines at the expense of delivering value or responding to new learnings.
To really follow the creed, we must embrace Agile values and principles genuinely - not just the practices.
2. Children of the Watch: The Fundamentalists
The Children of the Watch represent the extremes of Mandalorian culture. They are diehard followers of the creed and never remove their helmets, even among their closest friends and family. Their agile counterparts are the ones who rigidly adhere to every Agile practice, no matter the circumstances or the needs of their team.
While their dedication to Agile principles is commendable from a certain point of view, these folks often sometimes lose sight of the bigger “why”. They can become so obsessed with following the "rules" of Agile that they forget the reason behind those rules: to improve collaboration, flexibility, and the ability to adapt to change. Anyone who violates these practices get’s cast aside and must atone for their sins by bathing in the Living Waters of Mandalore…. or whatever the SCRUM version is… Iterating Waters? Sprinting Waters?
When it comes to Agile practices, the Children of the Watch might rigidly adhere to every detail of their chosen framework, whether it's Scrum, Kanban, or something else. They might insist on daily stand-ups, even when they're not productive, or enforce a strict timeboxing of meetings, even when more time is needed for meaningful discussions, or force a retrospective item to have an action item, even if the discussion is what the team really needs.
Creed lesson number 2: strive to do Agile practices, but remember that Agile is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
3. Clan Kryze: The Balanced Agilists
Clan Kryze (Bo Katan specifically) represents a group of Mandalorians who follow the creed but allow for some flexibility. They understand the importance of their culture and traditions while recognizing that the galaxy is ever-changing and that adaptability is crucial to their survival - especially on a planet with a solitary biome. Similarly, a balanced Agilist knows that Agile principles and practices are essential, but must be adapted to the unique (and ever changing) circumstances and needs of their team.
This approach to Agile emphasizes a healthy balance between adherence to principles and flexibility. Agile is a framework, not a rigid set of rules, and that the ultimate goal is to deliver value to the customer, not merely to follow a set of practices. They follow the principles of "do what works, do the right thing," as they emphasize the need for pragmatism in the application of Agile practices.
In practice, this means tailoring one's Agile approach to the needs of their team and project. They might use Scrum for one project and Kanban for another, or they might blend elements from different frameworks to create their own hybrid approach (proper XP). The key is to remain focused on the values of collaboration, adaptation, and delivering value while being willing to adjust practices as needed.
Last lesson of the Creed: Embrace Agile values and principles, but remain adaptable and willing to adjust your practices based on your team's needs and your project's context.
In conclusion, in Mando’s journey through the stars, he meets all manner of folk who embody different aspects of the Creed. We can learn from the Agile poser Cobb Vanth, the Agile fundamentalist Sons of the Watch, and the balanced Agilist Clan Kryze, and apply those lessons to our own Agile practice.
Remember to embrace Agile values genuinely, strive to uphold Agile principles while recognizing that they are a means to an end, and remain adaptable in your approach. By learning from the Mandalorians galaxy-wide, we can all become more effective Agilists and bring balance to our software development teams.
May the Fourth be with you!