Back

StrategyMar 26, 2014

The Agile March Madness Bracket: Unforeseen Events Have Changed Everything

Austin Walker

I am most certainly not a fantasy sports sage.

The impending doom of my waterfall bracket proves it.  Let’s take a look at how it compared to my agile bracket through the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

Waterfall and Agile Bracket Standings

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

7 / 16

140

10 / 16

200

Sweet 16

40

? / 8

? / 8

Elite 8

80

? / 4

? / 4

Final 4

160

? / 2

? / 2

Championship

320

? / 1

? / 1

Total “Value”

30 / 64

370

33 / 64

430

The Waterfall Bracket Breakdown

I can thank unforeseen spectacular performances from Mercer (especially you Mercer), Connecticut, Harvard, Dayton and Stanford for placing my bracket in it’s current predicament.  Because I didn’t accurately predict these upsets before the tournament even started – which is an absurd possibility – I’ve now lost both of my championship teams as well as half of both my Final Four and Elite Eight teams. It’s not looking good.

Now, if my waterfall bracket was actually a complex software project, I clearly wouldn’t be starting off very well.  In fact, several decisions that I made further down the road are now completely baseless. As the project (bracket) has developed and more information has become available our roadmap is significantly off course (both of my championship teams have been knocked out).

Thankfully with a bracket, the only real casualty is my pride.  But for a software project, I’d be heading for massive budget overages, timeline delays and likely upset stakeholders.  At the very beginning of the project I legitimately thought I could predict and make “informed” decisions for most of the unknown situations or problems that we would encounter.

The Agile Bracket Breakdown

Luckily, I’ve also been competing using an agile bracket along the way.  Instead of planning everything upfront like a waterfall project, agile methodologies encourage us to inspect and adapt based upon what we’ve learned recently.  This plays out in my agile bracket by allowing me to adjust my picks each round based upon who won/lost from the previous round.

Because of this, an unforeseen situation like Mercer upsetting Duke in the first round isn’t necessarily fatal to my plan – even if I did have Duke as my national champion.  With agile, I have the flexibility to adjust my picks for the next round based upon the current situation and in the end make a more informed decision.

No Perfect Solution, Moving Forward

Even with the flexibility of agile, I still missed several picks in the second round. March Madness and complex software projects can be fairly unpredictable.  That’s the single most important reason why not a single remaining eligible bracket can win $1 billion of Warren Buffet’s money.

Still, repicking each round has allowed me to make better informed choices that will lead to a more predictable outcome in the long run.  I’ll check back in later in the tournament with another update.

Other Posts In This Series

If you’re a bit lost by all this, the first post on comparing waterfall and agile methodologies using March Madness brackets might be a good read to bring you up to speed.