January 20, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Posted in Blogroll, Real-life experiences, Scrum and agile | Leave a comment

Indore has a tradition of annual festival of Indian classical music, called “Sanghi Sangeet Sammelan”, which features high quality performances. Last night, we had a good fortune to experience violin concert by Dr. N. Rajam. Her daughter Sangeeta Shankar, and grand-daughter Ragini Shankar accompanied her. The three generations of musicians were performing together.

The performance started on dot. They started with raaga “Yaman”. Since the audience was quite familiar with Dr. Rajam having heard her before. But most of us were watching Sangeeta and Ragini for the first time, so Dr. Rajam introduced them and in the initial parts the three took turns so that the audience could have a good feel of each of them individually. Once we were familiar with playing style of all three, they kept reducing the duration between two change-overs from one to the other. Soon before we realized, all three were playing in unison. Sometimes, even one line of the lyric would be divided between the three and we would not notice it. The handover was so smooth and efficient that the the individuals were transcended and it gave a feeling as if a single person is playing. It was a great feeling and the audience just got focused on the music. It was also a pleasure to watch the players’ expression of joy as they were enjoying a perfect team work. It looked a completely self-organizing team; there was no indication of Dr. Rajam giving even silent instructions to the other two.

They were improvising as they went along and the audience loved it. The collective movement through the raaga was so smooth like a bird flying effortlessly, that there was no indication what-so-ever of a great musical discipline in place. In a classical music, even a small variation from the essential structure would be noticed immediately and frowned upon. It was a great combination of perfect self-discipline, engineering excellence and total freedom to try out different variations spontaneously. Can there be a better example of a perfectly agile team at work?

But the agility didn’t stop there. We had till then not noticed Himanshu Mahant who was accompanying them on Tabla so effectively. To bring our attention to him, Dr. Rajam played a short duet demonstrating how a great support person anticipates the needs of the team and responds correctly and appropriately. Both were enjoying the perfect co-ordination, as was quite visible on their faces.

Dr. Rajam was in complete control of the situation, but there was no attempt to command & control. There was no indication of any tension. Each one anticipated and respected others’ needs and responded accordingly; while enjoying being part of a great team. Dr. Rajam was not just a player but also the team leader, a coach and a mentor all rolled-in-one. There were no separate roles and job descriptions. Yet there was no confusion.

After a little over an hour, before we noticed the first raaga was over and there was a deafening applause, which just wouldn’t stop. The team had got their immediate feedback.

After a short Bhajan, it was 9 pm and interval was announced. But the agility didn’t stop even there. In spite of sitting through an intense performance for an hour and half, hardly anybody stirred from their seats. The organizers sensed the expectations of the audience and did a quick check. As the performers were collecting their instruments preparing to leave and the curtain was slowly closing, it stopped mid-way and the well-known well-respected announcer Sanjay Patel came to the stage requesting Dr. Rajam for continuation of another 30 minutes. After a quick exchange with other team members, she agreed. Here was a clear evidence all-around of value placed on “Respond to change over following a plan” of the agile manifesto.

Finally, after another 30 minutes of riveting performance, it was time for the interval. Here was a clear example of not just an agile team, but agile support, and rather of an agile eco-system. It was a great experience rarely seen even, in our domain of software development as it keeps struggling to be agile.

When we were leaving after the program, I remembered what Dr. Rajam had said while introducing her grand-daughter. She said that in their family, it is a common custom to hand-over a violin to a child when he / she reaches the age of three, and before it realizes how difficult it is to play violin, it has started playing with it. I wondered why we also couldn’t do something similar. How nice it would be if the software industry, rather than waiting for them to complete their education, involved students early enough in their school career and helped them create some simple but interesting software.

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