What I call my Leh bike trip in India was an adventure of a lifetime. The challenge can be summed up in one line: You must ride the bike daily for eight to ten hours, during which you will come across the worst roads, fluctuating weather, sunlight reflecting from snow, waterlogged shoes, and altitude sickness.

My four friends and I had been dreaming about this bike trip for the last few years, since we all bought Royal Enfield motorbikes. The dream came true this year, when one of my friends booked the trip and sent us the dates. Things started moving quickly after that.

I suggested implementing Agile during this trip, which in the end helped a lot. As background, every time we get together, my friends ask me about what I do. I always explain Agile to them, but it wasn’t easy for them to digest because they work in different disciplines. When plans for the trip were finalized, I decided to give them a practical perspective on Agile that they could understand through firsthand experiences.

One of the challenges was coordinating five individuals. One friend was in Mumbai, the other in Bangalore, and three of us were in Pune. We scheduled a daily call to share updates. We worked together to gather information about the weather conditions, what to bring, and so on. In essence, we began to work like a distributed Agile team.

I asked them all to come to Pune for a weekend to buy our riding gear. Then we went on a short test ride, wearing this heavy gear. We had a meeting to create a list of all the places on our we would visit and the sequence in which we would cover them. This became our product backlog. The product backlog started from Srinagar to Kargil, Leh to Diskit, Turtuk to Leh, Pangong Tso to Lake Leh, Sarchu to Manali, and finally to Chandigarh. We did not calculate the time and the kilometers between every two spots. Instead, we came up with the size of each product backlog item. And with our riding experience and past data, we calculated the average velocity of our team. We planned this trip to last two weeks, which became our release, with the goal of completing as many of the product backlog items as possible.

I ran a small session to explain the activities we were going to perform: sprint, daily stand-up meeting, and retrospective meeting.

We sent our bikes by a transport carrier, and we took a flight to Srinagar. On preparation day, we had a pre-planning meeting to finalize the plan and commitment. We decided that we would work in daily sprints: a planning meeting in the morning during breakfast, a stand-up meeting during the breaks, and a retrospective meeting in the evening after we reached our destination.

We prepared two checklists: one before we started in the morning, which outlined which activities needed to be performed: checking the petrol levels, tire pressure, water carriers, backup vehicle condition, readiness of riding gear. This was our Definition of Ready. The other checklist was used at the end of the day to ensure that we checked items such as our safe arrival and the condition of the vehicles. This was our Definition of Done.

It was a thrilling experience to ride a bike on a single lane where your heart would stop when you came around to the deep valleys and blind turns. We faced many water passes, some of which were so deep that we needed to stand in the cold water to push the another team member’s bike, then ride the entire day with wet shoes.

We started our journey with this Agile-like approach, and the team soon realized the benefits of these activities. For example, the challenges (impediments) we had faced were discussed during the stand-up meetings, and the team members immediately shared their solutions, helping each other ensure success for our team.

The impediments, or the landslides, were routine; we’d have to wait until the road was cleared. It was risky, as we saw a couple of trucks and cars slide into a deep valley. During the retrospective meeting, we discussed our experience for that day and also what could be improved for the following day. New ideas came to us.

This ride tests your stamina, patience, concentration, decision making, self-motivation, confidence, and flexibility. In the end, however, we completed the ride successfully. And as we say in Agile, it was a team success. In the end, the team understood the Agile way of working and reaped its many exciting benefits.

About the Author
Mahesh Bondre – Agile Practice Head, Zensar Technologies

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