Would you believe your agile teams can deliver more software by slowing down? It's a paradox that most managers are unable to grasp.
Slow practice will get you there faster because Agile Development is a practice just like playing guitar or playing golf or playing basketball is a practice.
I want to tell you a story about a college basketball coach who won 11 NCAA championships by using principles of slow practice, but before I do let's look at how our greatest artists employ slow practice.
Musicians say, "Practice slow in order to play fast."
As a boy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart learned slow practice from his father. His father placed 10 dried peas in the young Mozart's left coat pocket. After each successful attempt at a passage, Wolfgang would move one pea to his right pocket. If he failed on any piece, all the peas were placed back in his left pocket and he had to start over. When Wolfgang reached his tenth pea, he played the passage at normal speed.
This kind of practice made Mozart slow the tempo to the point he moved all ten peas to his right coat pocket.
World-class clarinetist, Daniel Bonade presented a similar technique.
His formula is 9 + 1 x 10. Perfect a passage so you can play it nine times perfectly at 1/10 final speed. Then play it one time perfectly at performance speed. If a mistake is made in any of the ten reps, start over.
Ben Hogan, the great golfer, had a secret. Slow motion practice.
"Whenever I'm working on something I always do it in slow motion."
— Ben Hogan
How does slow practice help Agile teams? Instead of hurrying to finish as many user stories as possible in a sprint, and then having a two-week integration sprint to make sure everything still functions, teams should work on technical practices like test driven development and automated testing so that at end of sprint they can deploy working software to production.
This means the team will initially have to slow their tempo to complete perfect sprint passages.
Like tracing an outline in wet cement, this Agile practice will cut a pattern in your team 's neural pathways helping the team speed up — and perform better under pressure.
Like a fast breaking basketball team, your Agile teams will be quick without the need for harried responses.
Back to that basketball coach who won eleven NCAA championships. His name? John Wooden, coach of the UCLA Bruins. Coach Wooden was known for his teaching principles. One of his more famous quotes:
"Be quick, but don't hurry."
Wooden loved fast break basketball. For his teams to move quickly, they had to slow down and practice the fundamentals. Blocking out on the boards, the outlet pass, a point guard who delivers pinpoint passes.
After the team focused on the process and practiced the basics, they could play at a quick pace that forced their opponents to hurry and make mistakes.
Agile teams that master technical practices can fast break too. At the start of each sprint your company could use an OODA loop to survey the court, the market conditions, and the needs of your customers to select the user stories for your next sprint. Now think how rushed and off balance your competition will be when they try to fast break with you.