When the average college student goes to college, they suddenly have to fend for food themselves. Most campuses provide some type of food source insuring students don't starve to death, but cafeteria food isn't always up to snuff for the tastes of the average 18 year old so they wander out and make their first true grocery run. How does this typically develop?
Phase One- Wander around and find stuff that seems like a good idea.
Result- Realize very quickly within a few days that you forgot stuff that you needed and what you got wasn't really a wise choice. That 3 tub pack of chocolate Kozy Shack pudding seemed like a good deal until you went home and ate it all within 24 hrs. Now you need to make another trip for food that will actually give you some energy for mid-terms.
Phase Two- Realize over time that you don't like wasting time grocery shopping; make a list of groceries and go get those items.
Result- This helps add efficiency, stay within a budget, insure completeness, and aids in blocking useless (or unhealthy) purchases.
Phase Three- You quickly get bored of canned food, cheese n' mac, and spaghetti; it's time to decide what you want to eat/cook in the coming week, then make the grocery list
Result- You shift from always having stuff in your kitchen, to having what you need to make the right meals from that stuff. By working backwards, you insure you are happy with the outcome.
So, what does this have to do with agile or project management?
Phase One - I can't tell you how many companies have a development team that just wanders around and does what seems will help run the business or quiet the screaming managers. Kind of like the hungry college student's stomach, this is simply an id response to filling the basic needs. Unfortunately like the cozy shack pudding example, this doesn't always turn out best for them either.
Phase Two - There comes a point of time where the team can't keep everyone happy. Work starts falling on the floor and some things don't get done. Organization is suddenly required. The team has to start making lists and prioritizing work. They have to consciously decide which things won't get completed to insure that the right things do get completed. They need to stay focused on the list and not everything else that draws their attention (backlog management anyone?)
Phase Three- To really mature as a team, you have to start focusing on your DONE criteria. What is being accomplished? What is the goal you are trying to reach? What is the business value being achieved? The work isn't DONE until you meet this!
Now, lets assume that college student is growing up... or maybe they are maturing their cooking to impress someone they are dating:
Phase Four- ask the people who ate the food what they liked and didn't like. Adjust selected meals accordingly and then adjust the grocery list.
For the agile team... this is the retrospective.