Learning Agile Principles from “Groundhog Day”

I happened to watch an American comedy film “Groundhog Day” the other day, which was a success on release in 1993 and received many positive reviews. Whilst I was watching the film, something start to resonate and it began to dawn on me that it is the principles of Agile!

The story is about a cynical TV weatherman Phil Connors finds himself reliving the same day over and over again when he goes to a small town of Punxsutawney to film a report about their annual Groundhog Day. His predicament drives him to distraction, until he discovers a way of turning the situation to his advantage.

I have summarised the Agile principles that I can draw on from the film below:

Continuous Improvement

In the movie, the TV weatherman Phil uses his knowledge of the day’s events to better himself and the lives of others. He implements some sorts of improvements the next day and repeats the incremental changes each day until he enthusiastically reports the Groundhog Day festivities and impresses Rita, whom he has feelings for, with his apparent overnight transformation.

Imagine this is a one-day sprint, Phil completes it and conducts a retrospective at the end to understand how he can improve it, he then comes up with actions and implement them incrementally in the next sprint to deliver better results. Continuous improvement and Retrospective are key elements in Agile, driving high customer service standards and reducing waste.

Setting Priority

Phil ensures he handles the day better by implementing few changes each day to make him and the other involved parties happy. He changes the priority of the day as he knows exactly what would happen if he follows the same pattern.

Similarly, Agilists want to ensure their deliverables are of high-quality and high-value, and prioritizing requirement is critical to help them delivering the most valued deliverables as a priority to maximize stakeholder ROI.

Identify Risks and Manage Them by Retrospective

As Phil become more experienced of the events in the same day, he learns to understand the upcoming risks and comes up with mitigation plans to optimize the experience and make the day better.

In Agile environments, the team shares responsibility for identifying risks that might affect a sprint or the project. The Retrospective is a useful forum to enable transparency and trust among team members, discover risks and problems early, and follow up with required actions to manage and mitigate risks.

Follow the Ceremonies

Phil accepts the Groundhog Day repeating itself and follows the daily events such as waking to the same announcement from radio, having breakfast on time and conducting weather report as a fixed schedule without fail.

“Ceremonies” or meetings are an essential demonstration of an iterative, time-boxed approach in implementing Agile. Sprint Planning, Daily Stand-up, Iteration Review, and Retrospective are some of the main meetings that help to empower the team and drive development of Agile practices.

Release Readiness

After Phil implements constant and incremental changes, he escapes the time loop in the end, not only succeeding in his TV reporting for the Groundhog Day festivities but also finding his love of life.

In Agile work environment, a review on Release Readiness provides the final management checkpoint and approval before deploying a release, in which key attributes and operability of the release are assessed. Following the release, further changes will move to the change review process.


If you like this article about Agile Principles, you may be interested in my other blog article on the SAFe Principles. Should you have any queries or want to find out about our Agile Trainings, contact us at info@leadership-tribe.com for more information.

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