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In 2006 NBC launched a television series in the U.S.A. called Studio 60, a comedy/drama about the production of a weekly live variety show ala Saturday Night Live. The series gave viewers a behind the scenes look at the intensity with which each new weekly variety show is planned and executed. Unlike typical weekly TV shows, each episode of a live variety show is planned in a “just in time” fashion. The content must be adapted to current events, the decisions of producers must be responded to immediately, and the cast and crew must be highly adaptable to change. No matter what happens during the week, the show must be completely planned and ready to air at a fixed time. And it must be good enough every week to keep viewer ratings very high or risk cancellation. Imagine the pressure!

A live variety show team consists of a diverse set of skills including studio executives, producers, writers, actors, stage hands, props, lights, camera crew, etc. After an episode airs, the execs, producers, cast and crew celebrate their success, monitor viewer ratings, and then immediately start planning for the next episode. The team must work fast and be highly collaborative to pull this off. There is absolutely no room in the schedule for superfluous meetings, ceremony, or formality. However, there must be a sufficient attention to detail and rigor to ensure that the show is highly successful every single week.

This got me thinking – what if we developed software and BI systems as if we were producing a live variety show every week? And, what if we measured success with the same ruthlessness that TV networks use viewer ratings? Agile developers work in short iterations delivering chunks of end user functionality incrementally. What if we behaved as if the project’s future were dependent upon high “viewer ratings” at the end of our current iteration? We had better not only have new features for our “viewers”, these features better be great!

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I fear that, “agile as the latest magic bullet” has crossed the chasm, but that “agile as a different way of behaving” has not."
- Ken Collier
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