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StrategyMar 26, 2015

The 2015 Agile Bracket

Austin Walker

Last year, it was confirmed that I can’t predict the future.  Out of all the brackets on ESPN, mine finished in the bottom 4%.  Usually that takes effort.  Thankfully last year, and again this year, I’ll be doing an agile bracket.

The Waterfall Methodology

Typically, we would make our bracket picks similar to how you would plan a waterfall style software project.  We do exhaustive research, create detailed requirements, and make all our decisions up front, hoping against all odds that we don’t screw it up (like I did last year).

However, this project management approach doesn’t take into account one thing: as humans, we’re really bad at predicting specific events in the future.  The chances we get all our “well informed” decisions correct up front is virtually nil, especially with the complexity of a large software project (or bracket).

The Agile Methodology

This is where agile and lean methodologies excel.  Instead of making all our decisions up front, agile stresses only planning what you need and iterating over quick, two- to four-week “inspect and adapt” cycles.  This helps the team quickly learn what will actually work in the real world and adapt to changing business requirements as the project moves forward.

How It Works

During initial training at Credera, one of our partners, Justin Bell, uses a March Madness bracket to help illustrate the difference between waterfall (sticking to the initial plan) and agile (inspecting and adapting) methodologies.  So for a second year, we’ll be putting his analogy to the test.

My waterfall bracket is represented by my standard online ESPN bracket.  My agile bracket will be on paper and I’ll be filling it out one round at a time, adjusting my picks based on the teams that advanced from the last round.  I’ll be keeping track of scoring using ESPN’s point structure, but I’ll also be keeping track of the number of correct picks overall, as the ESPN structure is weighted to favor correct picks in the later rounds.

Agile Starts To Pull Ahead

So far, my agile bracket is only marginally better than my waterfall bracket (see the table below), but I expect as the tournament goes on, and we get further into the future, that my agile bracket will beat my waterfall bracket handily.

2015 Scores

Waterfall Bracket

Agile Bracket

Round

Points / Pick

Picks

Points

Picks

Points

Round of 64

10

23 / 32

230

23 / 32

230

Round of 32

20

8 / 16

160

11 / 16

220

Sweet 16

40

? / 8

? / 8

Elite 8

80

? / 4

? / 4

Final 4

160

? / 2

? / 2

Championship

320

? / 1

? / 1

Total “Value”

31 / 64

390

34 / 64

450

The Past and The Future

I’ll be posting another update after the tournament ends.  If you’re interested, you can read about last year’s agile bracket on our blog.

Photo Credit: Chad Cooper