The Agile Game of Thrones

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The Agile Game of Thrones

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I have a confession to make. And as someone strongly tied to software development and technology cultures AND a die-hard reader of science fiction and fantasy books, this is incredibly embarrassing. But I’ll share it anyway and hope for your grace. 

I never watched Game of Thrones in real-time. Instead, I collected the videos for all eight seasons with the intention of binge-watching them at an opportune moment.

Well, enter Covid-19 and opportune moment.

Now that I’ve reached the end, I thought I’d share some quotes from the series that resonated with my agile experience. Or at least I think they might…

1—A Lannister always pays his debts.

I’m thinking of something related to technical debt in all of its forms. And in this case, have the organizational (and family) fortitude to always pay it down.

2—Winter is coming.

It’s a warning and a threat. Its reality hitting you between the eyes. It’s something that you’ve avoided for too long. I guess in agile, I’d like to connect it to Scaling Frameworks. All of them. And the acknowledgment that winter (the end) is coming for all of them. Or, at least I hope so.

3—Everything before the word ‘but’ is Horseshit.

Love, love, love this. I’m a notorious user of “but”. I’d connect this to the giving of feedback all across agile execution. Particularly in the iteration/sprint reviews. Everyone, please take note. If you hear a but, forget everything else and listen to what’s next. It’s all that matters.

4—Chaos isn’t a pit, it’s a ladder.

I think this aligned really nicely with an experimentation mindset. That a lack of plans, not knowing the future, and allowing things to emerge (apparent chaos) can be a very healthy and advancing sort of strategy.

5—The freedom to make my own mistakes was all I ever wanted.

6—I failed. Good. Now go fail again.

Wow! How nicely this aligns with agile leaders extending trust and space to their team members to take risks, learn, and grow. I also compare this to a fail-forward posture or mindset on the part of leaders.

7—A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of a sheep.

I often talk about anti-patterns and this is certainly one of them I recently wrote an article entitled the 4 Horsemen of the Agile Leadership Apocalypse. I think this view probably aligns with one or more of those Horsemen.

8—The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.

I think of this as being leadership centric, in that I want agile leaders to get in the game with their teams. Eating their own dog food, so to speak, and practicing agile as much as possible. Another aspect of this is—leaders going first in agile transformations.

9—When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.

I do like the notion of directional focus this brings into play. It implies that there are winners and losers and not everyone can be or is a winner. Agile isn’t easy and you need to commit yourself to continuous improvement, learning, and growth.

10—Nothing fucks you harder than time.

Well, first, as a Baby Boomer, I just 100% resonate with this comment. But it could also be related to the length of a timebox? And the effect that not working in small batches is a really big mistake.

After binge-watching Game of Thrones, I kicked myself that I hadn’t done it sooner. It was a wonderful series that really struck me in many ways. And I’m still struggling with the fact that it’s over.

I’d more than welcome any other agile-centric reactions to the 10-quotes I pulled out of the series. Please have some fun with it. I’m looking forward to comments that do a better job of mapping them to agile contexts than I did. So, a challenge made! 

Stay agile my friends,



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