Mountain Bike Equivalent of Scrum vs. Kanban vs. Waterfall vs. ????

For several years there has been a debate raging in the ranks of mountain bikers about wheel size, though first a bit of history. For most of their history, mountain bike wheels came in a single size: 26". For over 30 years those wheels carried riders and their bikes. A few years ago, the industry introduced a new, larger wheel size: the 29 inch wheel. And a last year we started seeing yet another standard applied from road to mountain: the 27.5 inch wheel.

See, it turns out that one sized wheel is, in fact, not well-suited for all types of riding, terrain, or preference. It turns out that by choosing a wheel and corresponding bike geometry designed for the intended type of riding, that riding can be a whole lot more enjoyable (or lucrative for professional racers).

The thing is, at the end of it all, we ride for the love and fun of it. Riding fills us up, and makes us better human beings. Since each of us and each trail we ride is different, we should expect a wide variety of need. Yet when we don't give each other this space and instead get hung up on internet threads and in-person debates ripping apart what works for someone else simply because we make a different choice, all that goodness that is mountain biking loses a bit of its soul; we lose sight of that shining piece of just how amazing riding a bike is.

There is also currently a debate raging about agile practice, specifically about Scrum versus Kanban. I've been told by Scrum practitioners that Kanban is a waste of time, that it doesn't work, that it can't apply to software since it came out of manufacturing. And I've been told by fans of Kanban that Scrum is just a waste, with its roles, ceremonies, and prescribed time boxes; that's it's bloated and outdated.

See the thing is, organizations and software applications are a lot like terrain; there is massive, and I mean incomprehensibly complex, variety. From our single perspective we simply cannot know what practice will work best for an organization until we get into it and listen to where it is starting from and what it is attempting to become. Only then can we have a possible shot at making a suggestion that will help get the organization there.

As a rider, I've experimented a bit with both larger wheel formats, and while they absolutely smooth out our incredibly root and rocky Maine trails, for me they also remove part of the playfulness of the bike. I don't prefer them for the kind of riding I enjoy and that fills me up. This conclusion is not shared among all of my riding buddies, and that's fine with me.

As an agilist I work with both Scrum and Kanban, depending on the needs and structure of the team and organization.

In riding and agile, one size does not fit all; and that's a good thing. I, for one, strive to keep in full sight the amazing gains that agile practice can bring, and to serve the teams I'm privileged to work with to realize that value. Sometimes it will be through introducing Scrum, some through Kanban, some through just getting started working more closely and building relationships until clear needs emerge.


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