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What Agile Teams Can Learn From World of Warcraft

This session was presented at EuroSTAR Conference 2012 – use the left hand menu to view this year’s Programme.
How is killing monsters in a fantasy world like working on an agile team? You may be surprised!

World of Warcraft is a highly successful MMORPG. Players create characters who gain abilities from their race (dwarf, elf) their class (mage, priest), activities (herbalism, enchantment), equipment and level. The game is structured around quests and goals with rewards for their completion. Individual questing is possible in many cases, but more complex or interesting activities require self-organizing groups to complete them. Based on various factors, players receive roles (healer, tank, damage dealer) to achieve their goal. Often, achieving the goal may require a certain flexibility in the roles.

Agile, on the other hand, is a highly successful real-life way of managing production. Team members have different abilities based on background (computer scientist, software user), other activities (music, sport) as well as their experience. Work is structured around stories and tasks with goals to be completed. Some activities can be done individually, but more often than not a whole-team approach is required. Team members are assigned roles (developer, tester, product owner) to achieve their goal. Often, achieving the goal may require a certain flexibility in the roles.

In short, WoW and agile teams have parallels in role distribution, task management and communication. First, we look at concepts from WoW with direct parallels for agile teams: Duality of Roles, Team Building, Sustainability, “Questing” and Tools. Following this, the differences are noted: Lack of Dungeon Guides, Reliance on Specific Members, No Flying Dragons.

In conclusion, we look at why achieving goals in the fantasy world works so well, why it doesn’t always work so well in real life, and what we could do to change that. We consider whether roles on an agile team can be compared to roles in WoW (testers: healers or damage dealers?), and what conclusions can be drawn from such comparisons.

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