Apr 05

The Agile Concerto

Earlier this week I was at the Effenaar in Eindhoven for the first show of The Jam Sessions by The Kyteman Orchestra. It caused a severe case of professional deformation in my head: for me this show is the ultimate agile concert. And it was great!kyteman

Let me first explain the concept of this new project of former control freak Colin Benders (aka Kyteman): a team of 20 good musicians comes on stage with a mission to entertain the audience (in this case 1200 people). They have not rehearsed any songs, they have only built and rehearsed their framework of cooperation. By pure improvisation they create new songs live on stage.

What I specifically like about the framework, is that the string section has a completely different way of working than the horn section. They are both doing what works best for them.

Kyteman himself plays the role of conductor, mostly by giving some general signs, thereby both facilitating and channeling the creativity of the orchestra. For me, witnessing the creative process turned out to be a huge part of the entertainment. The music was mostly good, sometimes great, but also with a few boring minutes.

On 3voor12 Kyteman referred to The Jam Sessions as the complete anti-ego-project. Much like in agile software teams, ego stands in the way of team creativity. I’ve seen it happening in Scrum teams, and I saw it happening at the concert: the boring moments happened when the ego of one individual musician took over (first one of the keyboard players, later one of the drummers and in the encore when Kyteman himself pleased part of the audience by blowing his own trumpet). In all three cases, you could literally see the rest of the team lean back rather than participate.
And the great music sprang when there was no ego whatsoever, just a well-oiled musical team enjoying itself and the entire audience. During those moments I felt very much aware that these awesome songs were not designed upfront, they were invented right there, and will never be played again. It doesn’t get more agile than that.

Let me conclude with a shameless job application. This show in Eindhoven was just the first sprint, there are at least nine more to come. Kyteman, if you read this: I would love to facilitate your team’s retrospectives to enhance your continuous improvement. Please contact me at rudi.v@nderma.de ๐Ÿ™‚

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