Picture yourself in a world where your worth is measured on how well you do battle. You have to get together with your friends and slay a monster in order to make your living and a name for yourself. You go through the process day in and day out, and you get really, really good at it.
If this sounds familiar to you, you’re probably a fan of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, such as World of Warcraft. Or maybe you recognize what I’ve just described as a metaphor for Scrum or Agile development.
In case you aren’t familiar with what Scrum or Agile mean, scrum.org defines them as “A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.”
It wasn’t until recently when I participated in a Scrum training workshop that I realized World of Warcraft taught me a valuable lesson for more than 14 years. I learned how to communicate with a team, be an effective leader, and work together in an iterative process to get a job done.
It’s not hard to draw some similarities between World of Warcraft and running a business. For example, in the World of Warcraft there are guilds, which are collections of players in the community that have chosen to work together as part of a team. As with business leaders, the role of a guild’s leaders is to recruit new talent, guide their players, and come up with the strategies that will secure them as one of the top guilds on the server.
The most successful guild I belonged to was incidentally the one I had the most fun in — not because we were succeeding, although that played a major role, but because we all knew how to work together as a team. If I learned anything from the Scrum workshop, it was that the projects come and go, but the best teams stay in place.
When you work with the same group of people for a while, you learn what their strengths and weaknesses are and also how they think. In an office or in a game world, these principals are the same. Take a World of Warcraft battle (also called a raid or an encounter) for example. Say you have a battle with a boss (an especially strong enemy) where you have to split your team up in four directions to take care of smaller monsters that come at you, all while still engaging the boss.
Add to this task the complexity that each team has to coordinate with the other teams to defeat the monsters within seconds of each other or they fail. This requires an incredible amount of communication with your group and practice to be able to say, “Okay, everyone, bring them down now!” at the right time. This type of synergy is practiced and mastered as a team, and the most successful guilds and businesses know it.
Method Guild – method.gg
World of Warcraft (WoW) raiding is an iterative process, as is Agile development. Agile development involves iterating in short periods of time (one to four weeks) known as sprints. In World of Warcraft, you spend countless attempts every sprint (night) on the boss, and you either defeat it or you don’t. At the end of the sprint, you talk about what went wrong and what went well, and you go over the analytics to see what improvements need to be made.
On the off chance that you are able to defeat that boss in fewer attempts than normal, you would move to the next item in your backlog (the Scrum word for a list of tasks). In WoW, that means the next boss in the dungeon. The project is the entire dungeon, of course.
After you’ve finished your project, in Scrum you hold a retrospective meeting. In World of Warcraft, completing a dungeon doesn’t mean you’re done. You would hold a meeting to see what players need better equipment and map out how to bring their skills up for the next project (raid) in the future.
Now, you might wonder where the management aspects come into play. Well, believe it or not, there are mods (third-party applications developed to interface with the game) that will get you all the statistics that you would need in order to make predictions and analyze performance. Websites like warcraftlogs.com will capture all the battle data from the game and spit it out in useful charts with different breakdowns and settings so that you can view a full report of your battles.
Warcraft Logs – Photo credit wowhead.com
This is useful to see who your stronger team members are and who needs guidance.
Scrum involves a concept known as the team’s velocity. This is how much the team can get done in a sprint typically. In WoW, your raid’s DPS (damage per second) is considered your velocity. Some encounters have what is called an “enrage” mechanic, meaning that if you take more time than the encounter allows, the boss will become invincibly powerful, and you won’t be able to defeat it and will die almost immediately. By measuring your raid’s overall DPS, you can tell whether you’re strong enough to tackle this boss or if you need to spend some time improving your velocity.
The best ways I’ve found to improve a raid’s overall DPS and a team’s velocity in the real world is by pairing up the stronger players with their less experienced counterparts. This means having them work together to figure out how they can improve their DPS rotation (the order of operations to maximize damage). Similarly, a newer programmer can learn a lot by pairing up with a more experienced programmer. What that pairing does is raise the team’s velocity overall. Good leaders are not looking for the star player — they are looking for the team to work together so that the average becomes higher.
I believe that video games and communities have a lot to teach us, and I value what I learned from playing World of Warcraft for all those years.
BitLoft would like to thank Jeff McKenna for the recent three-day Scrum training! To put the BitLoft Agile expertise to use on your custom tech project, Contact Us.