Great Agile Analogies and or Metaphors


The art of good conversation… When either leading and or participating in a transformation and or agile take over (wink). I love the creative Analogies/Metephors people have when trying to explain Agile/Scrum/Fragile/Scrumfall … in a bite sized way. Would love to hear what others have used to frame things up. Can also pertain to project work in general. I will throw out some that I use on a daily basis…

“Hope” is not a strategy
Bad news doesn’t get better with age.
Grass is always greenest where you water it
Scrum is like riding a bike… You need to understand balance, even with the best bike in the world, if your balance is not 100%, you will fall.

Just a quick few. Would love to hear what others have used…


User stories are like conception… You can’t get a little pregnant, just like you can’t finish half a story in a sprint.



One of my favorite metaphors. I bleed Eagles green but appreciate successes from any team in any sport. Quite simply its teamwork at its finest.


Attn Mgmt: Ask not what your agile team can do for you, ask what you can do for your agile team.


I have always looked at it like this…

Waterfall is like Religion. It’s old, people follow the “Rules” which there are a lot and there is a belief that if you follow those rules you will succeed. The problem with that is, it’s based on faith and not empirical evidence. While that works for a religion, it’s not conducive to software development.

Agile is like the scientific method, a constant focus on continuous improvement based on empiricism. Welcome new ideas and should always be challenging the status quo.


I’ve got a few real world examples I try to use to illustrate points. Would appreciate feedback if you love them, or think they are ridiculous:

Limiting Work in Progress

  • When teams do not resist the temptation to limit WIP, and try to make the case that they are mature enough (or should be empowered enough to make their own decisions) to “multi task” - I use my ‘Dinner Out’ Analogy:

  • While we might place our entire order (drinks, appetizers, soups, salads, and entrees) upfront - not Limiting WIP would be like having everything come out at the same exact time - for the entire table. Not only is there a space constraint, it likely takes longer to get your meal - as well as finish it. Savor phases of your meal, just like you should appreciate the opportunity to be focused on small batches of work

The case for finishing DEV/Test in the same sprint

  • I have heard the argument from waterfall proponents that there is benefit to being focused on specific aspects of Development and Testing - separately. These folks have even tried to contort the idea of limiting WIP and say waterfall is just a different way to keep team members focused on specific phases of delivery </ smiles />

  • I have played the following game at least 100 times. I’ll ask the person making this argument “what did you have for dinner 8 Tuesdays ago?”. After a quizzical pause - they will say, ‘I dont know’. Then I’ll ask, “what did you have for dinner last night?”. I always get an answer. I explain how easy it is to recreate recent history, and quickly recall something you just did, versus trying to rebuild the last 2 months, to answer a simple question. That’s how developers feel in waterfall. Instead of inspecting code they just wrote, they have to completely switch their frame of mind, and hope to recall certain events they did 2 months ago just to be effective. And yes, for this argument - I am 100-0.

Last one for tonight…

Defining Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

  • I have seen leadership abuse this term, and define it to be “the minimum scope I’m willing to take to production”.

  • Which really means, “this is how I will justify cramming every conceivable requirement into the solution without being asked any questions that make me think about what I really need”.

  • For this, I will usually say something like “You have us building heated windshield wipers, when you dont know if the bulk of our customers live in Death Valley (when its neither cold nor rains), Miami (where its not cold), or the North Pole (where it doesnt rain). Perhaps a better experiment would be whether windshield wipers protect the car from being stolen.” Assuming you know the solution to a problem space is not what having a MVP is. Its validating you are solving the right problem, or providing the most useful feature to satisfy a particular challenge. In many cases, people do neither - but tout MVP as the reason for why a given team or program exists. Just because we are building a feature that could be useful, market conditions and even just trying to figure out what problem you are solving - is often far more practical and effective.

Are these crazy? Or can these work to illustrate points??

No ego here. Beat on these, and please share anything else you’ve used so I can steal them :wink:


The perfect is the enemy of the good.


If you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.


It’s early in the morning - I couldn’t sleep so I beg the community’s strict adherence to the rule about being kind. Here are a few completely originals I just came up with:

  1. Expecting agile to produce better results without learned application is like expecting to become a master chef without getting cut and burnt along the way.
  2. Applying the values of scrum is to software development as teaching our kids life lessons is to growing accountable adults.
  3. I know this is a stretch but I was having fun and wanted to make a play on the old saw about the definition of insanity (there are no typos or misspellings – intended as written) - When developing agile: The definition of inanity is doing the sane things over and over and expecting dissident gestalts.


I know #1 and #2 are similes and not analogies or metaphors, but don’t we always include them in this category??? :sweat_smile:


I contend the “judge” will live it’s whole life with some sort of impediment, and the fish will only be stronger, if it is confident in it’s “fishness” and can filter out the hate.:wink:


In response to adding bodies to increase velocity in time for a date…

9 women can not make a baby in 1 month.

In response to when to refactor, and when it’s too academic to pursue…

If there’s shit that stinks in the closet and you come across it once… let it go. The 2nd or 3rd time, you can assume there will be more times. Clean up the shit now. - “Uncle Bob” (or close to what he said)