Agile Basketball Framework
The Agile Basketball Framework uncovers better ways of creating team synergy, improving team dynamics and applying real-time and historical analytics in order to reach team goals. The rules of the Agile Basketball Framework integrates the pillars, roles, events, and artifacts guiding the relationships and interactions between them. Agile Basketball blueprint employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize performance and adapt quickly to change. The concepts of Agile Basketball are described throughout this guide. Complete buy-in to philosophy, team strategy and game plan coupled with commitment to continuously gain a deeper understanding of how to measure team and player value through analytics are key fundamentals to this process.
Through the Agile Basketball Framework teams will come to value:
- Team goals and accountability over personal achievements
- Intuitiveness and basketball IQ over set plays and coaching
- Continuous improvement over quick fixes through trades
- Incremental adaptation over long term plans
- Analytics and empiricism over expert judgement
- Discovering new metrics over traditional statistics
In Agile Basketball value is placed on the fundamentals, focus is placed on team synergy, and no player is more important than the team. Each player maximizes their value based on the needs of the team for any particular game or matchup (See Estimating Player “Value” toward Team Goals).
Benefits of Adopting the Agile NBA Philosophy
Programs following the Agile Basketball framework can expect to:
- Adapt a higher quality style of play: High performance is achieved through techniques such as real time analytics, continuous improvement, iterative adaptation, team synergy. Players will be more prepared to play at the next level.
- Gain knowledge through empiricism: Increased knowledge comes from focusing more on high-value performance measurement, aligning player goals to team needs, improved decision making, self-organization, and knowledge and improvement through empiricism
- Provide greater fan satisfaction: Greater fan satisfaction is achieved by exciting game play and continuous improvement.
- Deliver results quicker: Goals are reached faster through data, transparency, inspection, adaptation, self-organization and synergy.
- Increase team basketball IQ: Increased basketball IQ and player value through player value cards, performance dashboards and self-organization.
- Maximize value: Forces players to find ways they can add value and forces teams to increase value on a Sprint to Sprint basis.
- Decision-based analytics: Forces teams to make decisions based on analytics and continuous improvement through expert judgment.
- Achieve synergy: Promotes team play, value creation, and self-organization, and increased opportunities through team work.
10 Principles That Drive Agile NBA Framework
- The highest priority is to reach program goals through team synergy and collective basketball IQ.
- Every member of the program must know exactly how their role contributes to the Sprint Goals.
- Foster openness, honesty and transparency in player feedback and team analysis.
- All team members have buy in and accountability toward reaching team goals.
- Players work together to determine how they will reach team goals and ensure each player understands how their value contributes to the team’s goals.
- Iterative processes control promotes continuous improvement and added value.
- Synergy and continuous improvement enhanced through analytics.
- The best results and team performance comes from self-organizing teams.
- After each 5 game Sprint the team reflects on how to become more effective, from the players to the assistant coaches to the analysts.
- Empiricism is achieved through a balance of veteran coaches, known outcomes and lessons learned from the previous Sprints. Knowledge is fed back into the algorithms for metric value readjustment.
Purpose of the Agile Basketball Framework
There’s a saying, “what gets measured gets done”. This concept can be validated by simply asking anybody who has held a job and goes through an annual review process. Without going into a psychology lesson the human brain is wired to achieve, once we are able to create clear, measurable goals and a plan for reaching them. If teams can successfully identify metrics that capture the intangible attributes that drive team success, and present it in a format where players can clearly understand and decide what they can do to create value, then a shift from the individual mentality to the team first mentality will occur, and teams will achieve synergy. Synergy is the interaction or cooperation of the players to deliver a combined value greater than the sum of their separate value. Synergy is the state that every team should strive to reach and maintain. Agile Basketball helps teams identify these strategies and achieve synergy faster.
This guide provides a framework that every team at every level can apply to their existing analytic and reporting system or statistics to translate their data into results on the court.
Kevin Pelton wrote in an ESPN article titled Advanced Stats Are Changing the Game and Leaving Some Big Markets Behind:
“Organizations risk realizing no advantage from investment in an analytics program if they do not also invest in understanding and planning how to integrate analytics into the decision-making process.”
This is true. And many teams are capitalizing on data to make informed management decisions. But while team analysts utilize spatial data, neural networks, and advanced algorithms to discover new ways to measure value and make decisions, they fail to truly yield the benefits of analytics by not translating these tools used for decision-making into tools that players can understand, create value and translate to actions on the court. Success in analytics cannot be achieved until they are translated into a common language where players can fully understand them, and discover on their own, how they can add more value to help their team achieve its goals.
Access to real time analytics necessary to accurately evaluate team and player performance without the need of a coach’s “expert judgement” is changing the way we approach the game. With the data available today every athlete should be a student of the game and an analyst. Teams that find success in today’s competitive sports landscape will be the ones that have a deep understanding of analytics, clearly defined goals, a plan to execute them, total buy-in to the plan, and the ability to self-organize, create synergy and continuously improve.
The Agile Basketball Framework is based on the Scrum principle of collective empiricism, or the concept that teams with basketball IQ gained through deliberate and repeated inspection and adaptation achieve synergy and reach their goals the fastest. Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland developed Scrum for application development and project execution, and this guide applies Scrum framework principles, Agile methodologies and performance management processes to provide a roadmap for building an analytically driven, continuously improving basketball program. This guide contains the definition of Agile Basketball, the roles of an agile basketball team, the method for managing and delivering a team built on the principles which guide the Agile Basketball Framework, the tools that drive value creation, and the processes that bind them together.
Why Is It Time For Change?
Technology is advancing at a lightning pace. Data is available on a scale never before seen. The popularity of basketball continues to rise and the need to leverage data as a competitive advantage is at an all-time high. With change being a constant, teams that surface to the top are the teams that are able to absorb the information coming in, translate it to meaningful information, make quick, informed decisions and yield constant, quantifiable improvements. Over the next few years, the basketball programs that are able to build rosters with players who can learn how to add quantifiable value and contribute to the team’s overall goals will reap the greatest returns. And the basketball programs that do not adapt their data and player development models to reflect the speed of new information and change will find themselves on the bottom.
The main challenge that is keeping teams from unlocking the full potential of their data is their inability to translate complex data sets into data that players (the ones executing the work) can easily understand and identify ways to add value. Data is useless if it can’t be easily analyzed and acted on by players.
Other challenges that Agile Basketball helps teams resolve include the following:
- The culture to constantly hire new coaches expecting different results⦁
- Lack of player discipline or buy-in to coach’s strategy
- Inability to accurately measure player value based on intangibles
- Lack of clarity/transparency of goals
- Lack of team identity and understanding how each player encompasses that identity
- Adapting to change (trades, injuries, firings, etc)
- Lack of ball movement and court spacing
- Lack of investment to teaching players analytics and basketball IQ
Six Pillars of the Agile Basketball Framework
There are six pillars that form the foundation of Agile Basketball as team data is transformed into action on the court: data, transparency, inspection, adaptation, self-organization and synergy.
The core of Agile Basketball’s adaptation and decision making process is data and analytics. The program must fully commit to discovering new ways of interpreting data and creating value. Value refers to measurable results as they contribute to and/or impact the overall goals of the team. Value is discovered through empiricism and evolutionary analytics performed and inspected incrementally.
All artifacts and events of the Agile Basketball process must be visible to the players and coaching staff, who are responsible for delivering the outcome on the court. Transparency requires that the definition and value of metrics be clear, as well as a definition of their successful execution. All artifacts and events of the Agile Basketball process must be visible to the players and coaching staff, who are responsible for delivering the outcome on the court. Transparency requires that the definition and value of metrics be clear, as well as a definition of their successful execution.
- A common language of what constitutes value must be shared by all participants; and,
- All stakeholders must understand the definition of success.
The team must frequently inspect their performance analytics and progress toward their Sprint Goals and overall goal to detect performance variances. Inspections should be frequent and performed by the analyst. Inspections are most beneficial when performed regularly and decisions are based on a combination of analytics and expert judgment. The body of work for inspection should be at least one Sprint (or 5 game stretch).
If the analyst identifies one or more areas of their goals deviate outside acceptable limits (defined at the beginning of the process), and the resulting performance is unacceptable, the strategy must be adjusted. An adjustment must be made immediately to minimize goal deviation.
Agile Basketball consists of four key events which drive inspection, adaptation, self-organization and synergy. These events are described in Agile Basketball Events section of this document:
⦁ Sprint Planning Session
⦁ Post-Game Meeting
⦁ Sprint Review Session
⦁ Sprint Retrospective
Self-organization is a fundamental concept in Agile Basketball. Self-organization does not mean that players instead of managers control the team strategy and execution. Nor does it mean letting players do whatever they want to do. It means that management commits to guiding the evolution towards synergy, which emerges from the interaction of players, committed to team goals and learning through inspection, adaptation, self-organization and empiricism.
The analyst clarifies to player what the team objectives are for each five game Sprint, and players (along with the analyst and assistant coach guidance) determine how they will add value. But they are nonetheless self-organizing, with influence from those who can assist them in achieving the team goal (such as analyst creating ways of measuring value and the team lead adopting new offensive/defensive strategies). The player’s job is to self-organize around team challenges, boundaries, and constraints identified by the analyst or players. The less constraints or controls put on a team the better. If the coach over manages how the team plays, self-organization and team synergy will be constrained and creativity and production will be limited.
Synergy is the state that every team should strive to reach and maintain. Synergy is the collective ability for all team members to be able to interpret in real time the opponents’ game plan and know exactly how each team member will react, based on the team philosophy and game situation. Synergy occurs when a team learns which strategies are most effective for their unique makeup and how to work as a single unit to achieve the team goals. Agile Basketball helps teams identify these strategies and achieve synergy faster.