Did you know that SNL uses Agile ways of working?

In a podcast on Agile Amped, Chris Murman, Accenture | SolutionsIQ business agility consultant, interviews Matt Badgley, founder the company BluHound Solutions, and John Krewson, a former actor and founder of Sketch Development Services. They discuss what it means to iterate and fail, and how high performing teams and leaders work.

Enjoy this snippet and listen to the entire podcast to learn more. 

Chris Murman: John, how did you first get started with Sketch? 

John Krewson: Sketch comes from a recognition that software development is almost a precise mirror of the way that sketch comedy is created. You look at the way that Saturday Night Live, for example is constructed every week. You look at Upright Citizens Brigade or The Second City and see the way that they create staged comedy. It's all independent, little batches of comedy that can be deployed by themselves or as a collection that yields greater value. 

Chris Murman: I've been to those places and appreciate the work that they do. We were joking before about this idea that you go to those shows and you think they just stand up and start talking. Just like people think in Agile there's no planning or anything. You just walk in and start talking, right? But there’s actually a lot of work that goes into those efforts, right? 

John Krewson: Yeah. And that's where the overlap is. It's not planning in the traditional sense. It looks a lot more like practice. There's a lot of practice that goes into the creation of these things. And we see that in successful software development teams, too. 

Chris Murman: Yeah. And a lot of failed experiments. I don't know how we took this turn, but we're not really allowed to fail or make mistakes anymore. It's like, bring the consultant in, tell us what to do, and then right out of the gate we're supposed to be awesome. 


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John KrewsonYeah. But ask any comedian that is successful if they've ever bombed, and none of them will tell you that they haven't. My previous career was as a professional actor and the genesis of the talk was the week that I was on Saturday Night Live as an extra. So my session this week was Live from DC, the agility of Saturday Night Live.  

Chris MurmanWhat was the premise of the session? 

John KrewsonAt its core, we like to see organizations that are doing the things that we talk about. So, to see an organization like SNL and to look at it through the perspective of four values and twelve principles is kind of enlightening. 

We look at their iteration schedule and Kanban boards. We look at the breakdown from season, to three-week chunk, to one-week iteration, to the activities that go on in order to get what we would consider a user story, which in their world would be a sketch. These tiny independent units of value that they can deploy by themselves or as a whole. 

Matt BadgleyWhat I found really amazing about the whole thing was they start at a hundred and they get it down to 10. In a week. And they decompose or they prioritize, they rehearse, they run through all the cycles, then decide yes or no. And then it gets down to zero and they start from scratch every single week. 

Chris MurmanSo Matt, what was your session about? 

Matt BadgleyMine was Skipping High-performance and Going Straight to Badass. And it was a play off of Kathy Sierra's book, "Making Users Awesome." I'm stealing from that ways that teams can change and move forward and give feedback. One thing you guys were mentioning is the amount of feedback that happens in that process of SNL. I'm like, holy cow, not only can they have a pitch on Monday and they get feedback from a host, but they then start doing all these rehearsals and people keep being very critical. Which is a good open way to make sure at the end of the day, they have a good show.  

And there's writers or the actors that might not get anything on until midway through the season or ever. And they just go through that struggle every week. They keep on fighting to get their piece of value prioritized. And we see that in organizations today. A good high performing team will not quit. And that's kind of amazing to me.  

John Rudd

Global Business Agility Lead

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