Agile Teams and Professional Sports Teams — What do they have in common?

One agile team could be anywhere between 3–8 people, but what do you do when you have multiple agile teams of 3–8 people that have the same overall/company goals?

I was sitting on my couch a few days ago and thinking about this and I think I found a very good comparison. Multiple agile teams in a single company division can be compared to professional sports teams within a professional sport association.

Let’s use NBA (National Basketball Association) as an example to do some comparisons.

(1)

Teams?

All teams in NBA have two main goals:

  • Win and make their coaches and team owners happy. Bring in spectators and revenue for the team.
  • Follow the rules of NBA and have NBA win overall in rankings, popularity and revenue.

All agile teams within your company division also have two main goals:

  • Deliver projects on time with quality while meeting and exceeding the expectations of product management.
  • Deliver for the overall company in coordination with other agile teams.

(2)

Team Members?

Each NBA team consists of a few superstars, a few solid contributors and a few rookie contributors that are hungry to prove themselves. They all have the same goal and that goal is to win as a team.

Each agile team consists of a few exceptional performers, a few solid contributors and a few juniors who are hungry to prove themselves. They all have the same goal and that goal is to deliver on time meeting and exceeding expectations.

(3)

Resource Managers or Sport Agents?

NBA has agents that represent multiple players and a single agent could be representing players from multiple teams. It is in their interest to best represent their players and players have to be playing well in order to give agents enough reason to properly represent them.

Your company division may have a group of resource managers and a single resource manager could be representing/managing employees from different agile teams. Employees have to do great work to impress their managers and managers need to be representing employees to best support them in their career growth.

(4)

Trading season?

Everybody is on a different career journey.

NBA players have different journeys. Some players like the team and city they represent and they like renewing their contract with the team if they played well and if their agent represents them well in front of the team owner. Some NBA players play well, but decide not to renew their contracts and decide to explore other options as they and their agents believe that is good for their career. There are also opposite cases where the team owner decides that a player is not a good match for them and they decide to find somebody else in exchange. So NBA introduced the concept of trading in the middle of the season and also at the end of the season when contracts expire. The definition of trading is that you get a player in exchange for another player from a different team. It obviously gets more complicated when multiple players are involved, but you get my point.

Employees among agile teams have different journeys. Some employees may like the team and the type of work that their team is performing and they decide to stay with the team. Some employees who perform well believe that it is good for their career to change agile teams after giving the team enough contribution. A resource manager representing an employee could also recommend or arrange for that employee to be moved to another agile which would be a better fit. Therefore, a company division running multiple agile teams could introduce the concept trading to allow employees to grow their careers and to find the best matches for the agile teams.

(5)

Competing against each other is NOT in common, but it is similar.

NBA teams compete against each other, but at the end of the day, they are all part of the same community.

Agile teams within your company division should not necessarily compete against each other but the spirit of competition can be channeled in different ways for their team to exceed expectations and deliver.

Conclusion:

Use some of these similarities and go have fun with it. You and your company can go as far as naming your teams by cities or by the names of teams in NBA/NFL/MLB/MLS and etc. That will make work that much more fun.

Almir M.

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