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5 times agile could have saved "Game of Thrones" characters

Rishabh Goel Student, Bits Pilani

In my second year in college I was taking a course on agile management when "Game of Thrones" premiered. My head was full of all the principles of agile when I watched the first episode. Immediately my mind started making connections, and I realized that a lot of what I was learning in my agile course could have helped some of the show's characters make better decisions.

Here are five agile principles that some "Game of Thrones" characters could have applied to avoid the problems they've encountered:

1. Adapt

This is the cornerstone of agile management. The obvious edge that agile approaches have over the traditional waterfall approach is the ability to adapt quickly, avoiding bottlenecks in the development process and enabling teams to deliver better products faster. Adaptation thrives in a setting where teams quickly understand their mistakes and take time to have retrospectives.

This is something Ned Stark should have done at the end of the first season. When he found out the truth about the Lannisters, instead of falling back on his usual sense of honor and justice, he should have recognized the disregard that his opponents had for these rules and kept the information to himself. He failed to adapt, so he lost his head. Don't make the same mistakes as Stark.

HBO / via giphy

2. Use active feedback

Make sure there is open communication between the product owner, Scrum master, and team members. The requirements of the product, and any issues with the product, should be clear among everyone so that correct actions can be taken quickly. It is important to listen to team members' concerns and not sideline them.

Daenerys Targaryen found that out the hard way. Though she started off well, she became increasingly detached from her council, which slowly but surely is leading to her downfall. Her execution of the freed slave Mossador was the straw that broke the camel’s back. She could not appropriately gauge the mood of the freed slaves who helped her win the city in the first place. She didn't have active feedback, and now she has had to escape an assassination attempt at the colosseum and leave the city.

HBO / via giphy

3. Select the right person for the job

Agile is all about producing higher quality results in a less time. That means ensuring that the right person is handed the right job. This keeps the team motivated and efficiency high.

No matter how much Tywin Lannister hated his son Tyrion, he knew he was the only person who was fit to be the Hand of the King in his place when the time came. Love him or hate him, you cannot deny that Tywin was a highly capable administrator. Don’t take any child-raising tips from him, though.

HBO / via giphy

4. Use common sense

Traditional management is based on written rules that are supposed to be followed closely. In agile management, however, with the team constantly adapting to the demands of the customer and making changes with frequent testing, written rules sometimes have to take a backseat. You have to make sure you understand the issues of the team and judge each case according to the situation.

Some flexibility with the rules would have kept Robb Stark alive. Sure, he acted on the correct judgement when he had Lord Karstark executed, but it resulted in him losing half his army—and losing the faith of the other half. In the end, he lost his head, just like his father.

HBO / via giphy

5. Scale properly

Sometimes, when organizations have success with one agile team, they add more projects and teams without preparing for the growth. Before they realize it, they have a huge number of teams using siloed tools and processes. Scaling in agile is not easy. But if you centrally manage all requirements, tasks, tests, and defects in a real-time tool, project managers can streamline cross-team collaborations and decision-making while eliminating waste.

Daenerys made a mistake around scaling, too. She tried to conquer too much too fast. While she went ahead to capture Meereen, she ended up losing control of Yunkai while administering Meereen. There is no one left in charge of Yunkai, which shows a clear lack of planning. This is something that should be avoided at all costs in any type of management.

HBO / via giphy

Now armed with these tips from "Game of Thrones," you should have a clearer idea what agile management is all about. Are there any parallels you noticed between "Game of Thrones" and your organization's management?

Image credit: Flickr

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