Tuesday, 14 October 2014 00:00

The Godfather's Agile Approach

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With no doubt The Godfather is one of most popular films of the 20th century.  Inspired by Mario Puzo’s famous novel, winner of many awards and directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1972, the film featured actors like Marlon Brando and a young Al Pacino as the leaders of a fictional Mafia family based in New York.

I have seen this film several times, maybe because I am a Southerner Italian (not a Sicilian though, sorry to disappoint) and there are so many stereotypes in the movie that made me giggle - the accent of the different characters, the gestures, the big wedding with many people having loads of food and wine and dancing the regional songs.

After seeing the movie for the 10th or 11th time, I have realised that the Corleone family can be seen as a proper business and its members as the members of a Scrum Team.

Why do I think the Corleone family operates in an Agile way of working?

The Values

When you see the movie, you can easily recognise in the Corleone family the typical Scrum's values: courage, respect, openness, commitment and focus.

You can see the courage when the Picciotti (the soldiers in a Mafia organisation), on behalf of the Godfather, go and risk their lives to accomplish the missions for the benefit of the family.

Respect is key - since the Godfather is the most important member of the family, everybody respect him.

Openness is a fundamental value of the Corleone family: within the core family they are open and honest.

All the members of the Corleone family have a strong commitment to do what the Godfather wants - at all costs, even if this means losing their own lives.

Last but not least, they focus only on a few things at a time and produce a very good work together.

As a result, the Corleone family is the most successful amongst the New York five crime families.

The Team

After recognising the values of the Corleone family that can be related to those of Scrum, let's try to identify who are the members of a Scrum Team within the Corleone Family.

I can see the Godfather as the ultimate Product Owner.

The Don is the man who has the interests of making the family even more powerful and defeating the competition.

The family's faithful Consigliere, Tom Hagen, is the ScrumMaster. Tom, a lawyer, makes sure that everyone in the family embeds the family's values (as described above) and works well. Tom is responsible for coordinating the work, removing impediments, and he is ready to provide support to Don Corleone.

All the other characters like Clemenza, Luca Brasi, etc, are like the members of the Development Team - they make things happen, they produce something potentially shippable as per the Godfather's will, even if this is a murder.

All the tasks that Don Corleone, as the Product Owner, asks to do can be seen as items in a backlog, and in the film you can see they are even reordered depending on what drives more value for the business (that is, the family) or when fixing urgent matters is required. As an example, consider the part when the Godfather receives the visit of his godson and popular singer Johnny Fontane, who can't get a role in a movie produced by Jack Woltz that could make him a real star. Johnny pleads for help the Godfather, who mandates a visit to Mr Woltz to convince him. Mr Woltz refuses to close a deal with the Corleone family and Tom, as a good ScrumMaster, makes sure that this impediment is immediately removed. He speaks to Don Corleone, who reorders the backlog and adds a new item with the highest priority so this blocker can be removed. Yes, that's the infamous horse's head scene! The item will be eventually delivered, as Johnny will be starring in the new movie produced by Mr Woltz. Done.

The Activities

In The Godfather you can also see some of the Scrum activities.

An example of a planning meeting is when the members of the family discuss about doing business with the drug baron, Mr Virgil Sollozzo. In this meeting, the members of the family estimate benefits and pitfalls of the deal.
All the Corleones have a continuous engagement, as in a Scrum Team, and they are also empowered to make decisions - see the example when Sollozzo's men attempt to assassinate Don Corleone, who lands in the hospital and is not able to make decisions.

Conclusion

If you haven't seen this brilliant movie, please take 175 minutes of your time to do so.

After reading this article you will understand why I think the Corleone family is a good example of a very good performing Scrum Team!

This proves that Agile and Scrum are not for software development only.

We all use Agile in our lives, sometimes unconsciously.

Note: please no horse's heads around!

Don't forget to leave your comments below.

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Eugenio Bartolo

Eugi Bartolo is a Senior Business Analyst and Certified ScrumMaster, with a strong interest in new technologies and an extensive experience in different industries, such as Telecommunication, Retail and Healthcare.

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