Santa only knows how to do a “big bang” delivery. At first glance, it’s easy to suggest that Santa isn’t very Agile at all. But the more we inspect his actions leading up to the big day, it’s evident that he’s been reading an Agile blog or two.
We can’t fault Santa for his Just In Time techniques. He only asks for his requirements a few weeks before delivery, giving his millions of stakeholders plenty of time to figure out what their highest priority items are. And they’ll inevitably change frequently.
You might view Santa’s approach to requirements gathering as succinct. Whilst it is true that there is often no clear definition of done and some gathered requirements can be vague (I always used to ask for “some surprises” at the end of my list), it’s great that he takes it upon himself to talk directly to his customers. Many modern implementations of Agile rely on a proxy Product Owner, often meaning that the development team never communicates directly with the business.
Self-organising teams are fundamental within the North Pole workshop. We’re all well aware by now that Santa’s workshop is filled with cross-functional and multi-skilled little elves, all working together and co-located. They’re trusted to do a job and empowered to get things finished in time for delivery; whatever it takes.
I’d like to think that every Boxing Day, Santa, Rudolf and the rest of the team sit down to hold a retrospective. If they didn’t do this, I can’t see how else they could continually adapt to the changes within their industry. Continuous Improvement is key within any Agile implementation and without it, Santa today couldn’t do the same job he did 50 years ago given how different the world around him is (think; more children, more advanced toys to make, less houses with chimneys, etc).
Even if your practices are perfected, industry trends could change things in an instant.
Santa operates in a regular sprint rhythm. Whilst his sprints are long, in 12 month cycles, this routine ensures that not only his team but critically his stakeholders all have clear expectations of when they can expect the next delivery. Setting expectations, and meeting them, is key.
So whilst Santa isn’t the perfect advocate of Agile, there are certainly more good Agile practices involved in his tight operation than initially meets the eye. You could argue that the extensive feedback loop is by design, but try telling that to the child that got some eggnog for Christmas instead of the Xbox that they asked for.
Ultimately; the seeing is the believing. And that’s the true magic of both Christmas and a successful Agile delivery.