Jono Shields

Athletic Development

I stumbled upon something called Athletic Development just a few weeks ago and it looks very cool.

Before I start, there is guide for it availble here.

I have been working with Scrum for nearly 3 years now. It has been a pretty great experience, but there are some bits that people with a fixed mindset find difficult. One of the things I like about Athletic Development is just how extreme it is in these areas, it helps to convey just how important certain aspects are.

If you can convince a team to try athletic development then I think it could offer several advantages…

1. Cross Skilled Teams.

Moving from I-shaped to T-shaped is hard. In Scrum we have all the skills necessary in the team so that we can do the job, but sometimes you have a front end heavy sprint or make a change that requires a lot of regression testing. This makes the workload unbalanced, if your team is not ready and stuck in a fixed mindset this becomes a blocker. In a new Scrum Team this is escalated externally and may be handled with more resource, or the risk of the work being delayed is accepted. But if this was an Athletic Coalition then “No one works on anything alone” and “We don’t divide and assign tasks by skillset.”

This is something that can help a new team cross skill and I wish this was explicitly part of Scrum. It also makes it easy for the whole team to feel commitment and ownership of the sprint, because they are all working on everything.

Continuous learning is awesome.

2. No more Product Owner.

It is not like there is no Product Ownership. There is, but the whole team do it. This takes the idea of ownership and empowerment much further than Scrum. It is important to mention though those skills still need to be in the team. You need stakeholder management, customer insights and market trend knowledge, among other things.

3. Deliver value daily.

One of the parts of Scrum that is often overlooked is the purpose of a daily stand up. People get into the habit of sharing a progress update. But the real value of the daily scrum is as a team to inspect and adapt. Look at where you are and where you want to be at the end of the sprint and adapt what your plan to suit. Athletic Development splits this into its own event at the end of the day. The team along with stakeholders look at the increment produced that day, feedback from this session be taken on immediately rather than in the next Sprint.

Scrum mentions that the team can adjust the Sprint Backlog if needed, eg. add or remove items. But it doesn’t talk about how. When we start a sprint we set a goal and then pick the stories needed to achieve that goal. Even with very thorough task breakdown there will always be unforeseen changes to the work, the implementation changes as we progress and learn more during the sprint. So the plan may change, but the goal stays the same. But in Athletic Development there is an expectation set that the Sprint will change course as feedback is received.


Overall it looks pretty interesting. The one problem I have with it, is that it looks intimidating. I don’t know any teams that would volunteer to do this unless they do something like it already.

If you want to know more about Athletic Development or just have a chat, then jump into their Slack Channel rather than commenting below.