Most of you with a passing interest in football will have heard of Lincoln City FC in recent weeks, we are the media darlings right now, well more specifically two former school teacher’s Danny Cowley and his Brother Nicky our Managers are. I’ll come back to Danny and Nicky in a moment.
It all started for me as a very excited 9 year old boy, the date is etched in my memory, Saturday 18th March 1978, My dad, a life long City fan, decided that it was the day that he would expose me to Sincil bank and a live match. At 10 to 5 that day after a 3 nil victory against Sheffield Wednesday I had new heroes, I was hooked, the ensuing 38 years that have followed have brought the odd season of ok'ness the odd 3rd round FA cup tie (3 to be precise) but mainly dross culminating in relegation from the football league in 2011 and a struggle to stay in the 5th tier of the football pyramid, but still my Passion for Lincoln City has shone brightly in the hope that one day it will be ‘Our year’.
I have a friend who is an ex Professional player and now a coach in League one, he holds all the badges the FA offer in that field, I often speak with him about how insular football is and how closed it is to taking on new ideas and methods from other fields, not only of a sporting nature. For the record he agrees.
Enter Danny Cowley and his Brother Nicky. Danny and Nicky both hold sports Science degrees and have worked for the past 15 years or so as full time PE teachers in a secondary school in Essex and working part time as football mangers together in the lower echelons of the non league pyramid. In May 2016 Lincoln City offered the pair the opportunity to manage full time, we as fans thought it a risk, Danny and Nicky saw it as a challenge to rebuild the club, what has happened since has been truly remarkable, as I write we sit top of the National league 3 points clear, we are in the semi Finals of the FA Trophy, in sight of a Wembley final (as a club we have never played there) and next Saturday we go to the Emirates to face Arsenal in the Quarter finals of the FA Cup (90 minutes from Wembley) the first non league team to reach the Quarter finals for over 100 years.
What has this got to do with Agile, Scrum or DevOps? I hear you ask. Until listening to Danny in a number of press conferences and Interviews and piecing together the things he does, I’d have said the same, however he is practicing all of these methodologies, whether or not he knows it’s Agile, Scrum or DevOps I don’t know.
He was asked after the 5th round win at Burnley “how did you achieve that against a team 81 places above you who had only lost one game at home all season” he replied “looking at beating a premier league team over 90 minutes is too monumental a task to contemplate for us, so we chunked the game in to six 15 minute matches and had a plan to keep a clean sheet in each then repeat” Sprints anyone? In another interview he mentioned that the substitutes and backroom staff on the bench were celebrating each passing 15 minutes and encouraging the 11 on the pitch to keep going for the next 15. Celebrating small success is VERY DevOps.
Danny has a press afternoon each Thursday. Last Thursday (2nd March) Danny would only speak about the Aldershot game on Saturday the 4th, that’s his only focus (we drew 0-0, a good point away from home against an in form side incidentally). Towards the end of his session he was asked how he keeps the players focus on Aldershot when in 10 days time we have the Arsenal game, surely the players’ minds must be on that. Danny’s response led me to this blog. “It’s my job to keep the players minds focused on what’s in front of them in the here and now (Product owner and Scrum Master). On a Monday morning we sit them down and give them the structure of the week and what is expected from them and what we will do for them, it’s all planned out for them. Firstly we will watch through the previous game together, the players are encouraged to give feedback on what worked and what didn’t and learn from it, Next we will watch some video analysis of our next opponents and explain to them that the sessions we have planned for the week are specifically designed to give them the best possible opportunity to succeed come game time, each day we re-emphasise the over all plan and give detail about that days plan” Weekly Sprint, planning meeting, Daily stand up, Retrospectives its all in there.
At Ranger4 we believe that DevOps covers more that the relationship between Dev and Ops we look at it from Idea through to Business value or ? to £ and this involves everyone, the idea may come from anywhere Customer, Marketing, Sales, Support, CEO… the list is endless, to get the go ahead to implement an idea a number of others are involved finance for budget, HR for resource, Infrastructure for capacity etc… So for True DevOps we involve as many people as possible in the process, again Danny, whether he knows it or not is practicing DevOps, prior to the Burnley match there was a 30 Minute Documentary about Danny Cowley where he spoke about his past and what got him to Sincil Bank, it was the 10 minutes of him walking around the club and introducing the backroom staff to camera that interested me, Sarah the Chef, Dicky the Kit man, Dawn in the Ticket Office, Karen in the club shop “to me” he said “I don’t care if you’re the Chairman, the Tea Lady, the top goal scorer or a fan stood with the 617 Squadron in the Co-op stand, you are all involved in the process at this football club.”
Football, DevOps, Agile and Scrum.
Can we beat Arsenal on Saturday? Ordinarily being a football fan I’d say no, but this season, with this manager and his Ideology who knows, I’d love to be around Danny 5 minutes after the Braintree game on Tuesday night when he turns his focus to Saturday, to sit through the retrospective on Wednesday morning, to listen in on the Sprint planning meeting, to see how he has broken down the Backlog items (how to beat Arsenal on Saturday) the stand up on Thursday and Friday. Sadly I won’t get to experience any of that, However I’m one of the lucky Imps fans, I have tickets for Saturday and I will get to see the results of the Sprint and I will be doing everything in my power as part of the DevOps piece to vocally encourage the group in executing the code in production (I mean the plan on the pitch).