• Shane Tanzymore

The Marvel of Agile

Since the term ‘Agile’ was associated with collaboration, there have been any number of topics, forums, opinions, frameworks, folklore and alternative perspectives that have cropped up. Call this the Agile-verse, a term that I don’t claim to have come up with but don’t remember hearing it from anyone when I said it! The Agile-verse was a group of celestial bodies harbouring various civilizations within Agile. Purists. Pragmatist. Newbies and naysayers all have a hand in creating this vast space from a spark that happened a few decades ago. In a way, this network of overlapping views, experiences and expressions has created a multiverse not too dissimilar with another multiverse many of us have come to know with Marvel’s Avengers. So that led me to ask the obvious question, what Avengers combination would make a great ‘agile’ team?

To do this in the most scientific manner possible, I have decided to limit the scope of the team members i.e. what are the roles I am fitting these characters into and what characteristics am I looking for in those roles. I will be assuming the team is based on Scrum guidelines, but geared towards what I have seen in development teams more than strictly adhering to Scrum Guide suggestions. That would be

  1. Delivery Manager as Agile Practitioner

  2. Product Owner or Product Manager

  3. Development Lead

  4. QA Lead

I will also rely on a Myers-Briggs assessment to get to my preferred personality type for each of the roles. Myers-Briggs is a useful tool for categorizing people in a fairly simple and understandable way. There are many other ways. This is just what I chose because I ran across an article that used Myers-Briggs among other personality frameworks to type the Avengers and I thought it was cool. Like I said, very scientific.

Stereotypically, this team will be a software product development team. While Agile principles can be used in a myriad of disciplines and contexts, this is a space I am acutely familiar with and have developed preferences over the years from a variety of perspectives. With that, let’s begin.

In considering the construction of a team, there are two baseline realisations. First is that you have to deal with the hand you're dealt. Second is that building a team is as much to do with dynamics as it is with talent. You have to not just consider the depth of skills, but the breadth of them. How the edges blend with each other impact overall team chemistry and performance.

First, I will list out the team, and then, for those that dare to read further, lay out what I went through to get to this team.

Here is my team:

Delivery Manager - Captain America

Product Manager - Iron Man

Development Lead - Shuri

Quality Engineer Lead - Nick Fury

In considering the construction of a team, there are two baseline realisations. First is that you have to deal with the hand you're dealt. Period. If you're blessed to be constructing a team from scratch with a reasonable budget and mandate, then great. Thing about using the Avengers is that they are all flawed, and there are character traits that WILL clash with team roles and each other.

Second is that building a team is as much to do with dynamics as it is with talent. You have to not just consider the depth of skills, but the breadth of them. How the edges blend with each other impact overall team chemistry and performance.

Commander Of Quality

Quality Analyst was the easiest when looking at the Avengers. The best ones I know are pretty serious about their role as the last line of defense. They are expansive thinkers with a single-minded focus when the rubber meets the road. Fury is an INTP - The Commander. Fury sees threats everywhere, and though he trusts that this team can be a significant force for good, in the end, he has plans that have plans that are making plans as we speak!. Fury is resourceful, looks to make things efficient and builds integrity into the systems to mitigate the mess that may eventually need to be addressed by S.H.I.E.L.D. QAs who can hold the line when they must but work to better the team from their perspective to give confidence to the teams is great. They have a critical eye towards not just the what, but the how.

The Debate

Development Lead was also fairly easy. I like my Lead to be nerdily enthusiastic, jovial, and a tad arrogant. For the available personality types on the Avengers, it was between an ENTP (Debater) and the ISTP (Virtuoso). My first instinct was Bruce Banner but there are some troubling characteristics he displays like following Tony to make Ultron that makes him appear gullible. My leads can’t be gullible like that. That left Ant Man and Shuri, which is tough. I went with Shuri because I like my leads to be more festive than sarcastic, although I love some good sarcasm. I also want someone who fosters a deep curiosity and deals with big personalities well….because of what is coming.

Are You Not Entertained?

Product Manager was tough. I’ve often thought that the Product Owner and Product Manager are different. One is a role on a scrum team and the other is a role in an organization. However, what I have seen is that what makes someone really good at being a Product Owner doesn’t necessarily translate to a good Product Manager. That said, if I had a product manager be the owner and have the bandwidth to do the visioning, that’s a unicorn. They do exist. Captain Marvel is a tempting choice. She’s an outgoing team player with a backbone made of vibranium. But Tony Stark is the rockstar in this context. Passionate product managers inject so much juice into a development team. His ability to have the vision to see trends before they are even an idea and be able to understand the details of how to get things done would be enormously valuable to push the team, which is something I love from my Product Owners. Does he have an outsized ego, stays being machiavellian and can be reckless? Sure. There is something about my product manager having some of those traits that really can generate the sort of ideas that a dev team guided by Shuri would salivate over.

Defense Wins Championships

Now that the parts are in place, we need to match the Delivery Manager. The main concern is having someone who can get Fury and Tony on the same page while making sure Shuri has a voice. I like my Delivery Managers to have broad experiences and be able to gain the respect of the team through their vision without trampling over the perspectives of others. As an ISFJ - Defender, Sam is attractive but it comes down to two other ISFJs for me. Both T’Challa and Captain America are able to handle the egos in the room. Both are highly principled and don't shy away from conflict. What it came down to was Cap's ability to build and motivate a team towards a goal. He is used to calling plays as well as allowing the individual talents of the team to shine. His willingness to stand up for what is right without taking the opposition personally is the stuff that galvanized some great teams.

So that is that. That is my team. Leadership at every position. Would make Retrospectives fun for sure. I would be most excited about having Shuri on the team. Tony would respect her tech chops as well as her pushback, which would be very important in that dynamic. She's no pushover but seems to like the acknowledgement of doing something next generational. Let me know what your team would be and how you got there.

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