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Predictability over High Performance? My Journey Learning to Play the Guitar

Mike Cottmeyer
Reading: Predictability over High Performance? My Journey Learning to Play the Guitar

Okay… taking a quick detour to address something that’s come up several times as a result of my last few blog posts. I made an assertion several few posts ago that most executives value predictability over adaptation. As a result, this is a first order goal for us at LeadingAgile. We always coach our clients that the first objective of any newly formed agile team is to become stable and predictable.

But wait… shouldn’t the first goal of a newly formed agile team be to become high-performing?

Let me tell you a story. I started playing guitar back when I was 12. Back in those days I was into Def Leppard and Judas Priest and Van Halen. I desperately wanted to play guitar like those guys, so I bought myself one and took a few lessons. When I met with the music teacher, we didn’t play Van Halen solos, we played very slow minor pentatonic scales to the steady click of a metronome.

But wait!  My goal wasn’t to play slow… my goal was to play like Eddie Van Halen. WTF!

What I didn’t realize at age 12… that I do realize now… was that in order to play fast, I first had to learn how to play the correct notes. I needed to learn how to stay on time. I needed to learn how to play with precision. I needed language to communicate with other musicians. It was only once I learned how to play with precision and predictability, that I could begin to advance my skills and learn to play fast.

My belief is that learning how to do agile is pretty similar to my experience learning how to play guitar. Of course the goal of every agile team is to become a high-performing agile team. First though we have to learn how to create shared understanding, how to estimate, how to make and meet commitments, and how to deliver working tested software at the end of every sprint.

When I tried to play fast before learning how to play properly… I didn’t make music,  I made noise.  Make sense?  It’s not one or the other… it’s just a matter of precedence.

Next time I’ll regroup and tell you about the house we were going to build and what it taught me about agile planning at scale ;-)

Read the previous post, How to Make Commitments in the Face of Uncertainty.

Next Fundamentals of Agile Transformation

LeadingAgile CEO and Founder, Mike Cottmeyer is passionate about solving the challenges associated with agile in larger, more complex enterprises. To that end, he and his team are dedicated to providing large-scale agile transformation services to help pragmatically, incrementally, and safely introduce Agile methods.

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