Blog / Appetite for Agile

Tom Dickinson
August 13, 2010

This week I’ve been musing over the most expensive, and delayed record in music history, the (sort of) Guns n’ Roses album Chinese Democracy.

‘Sort of’ because it’s not really Gn’R at all, it’s the band’s last and only member, crazy-ego-maniac singer Axl Rose, and a cast of pretty much every session musician and hard rock guitarist working today… and Brian May.

When Axl started the record, George Bush Snr was in power, mp3’s weren’t devised and the internet hadn’t happened yet! 15 Years in the making, with a price tag of $13,000,000, it was set for release every year since 1997 and still never materialised. Dr pepper even promised a free can of pop to everyone in America on the albums completion; so sure it would never happen…

So what went so wrong, and if Axl had adopted an Agile project management methodology, could he have finished the record any sooner?

After demanding the rights to the band name and either firing or forcing out Slash and all the original members, Axl set about hiring a brand new band. Legend has it, to be sure they had the same magic as the old team he spent years making them record the band’s classic debut album, ‘Appetite for Destruction’ again! This all seems a bit waterfall to me, perhaps Axl should have ditched all this excess planning and just started writing songs and jamming.

In this Agile project, who would the Product Owner be? Surely it must be David Geffen, head of the record company who had to put up an extra $1,000,000 in 1998 just so Axl would keep working. And who would the Scrum Master be… perhaps Tom Zutaut, the Gunners’ A&R man. He should have removed all the teams’ impediments, like KFC obsessed guitarist Buckethead demanding to record from a giant chicken coop filled with dog poo.

And what about Axl’s mad working hours? Some days not at all, some days from 6am till 12pm the next day? Wouldn’t the team have worked better starting at 9.30am every day for a standup: a meeting to discuss their progress the previous day, what the sensible goals for that day were to be, and generally motivate each other to lay down the meanest riffs and tastiest licks they could.

Right Axl, I think I’ve made my point… let me join the band and together we’ll get the next record out by Christmas… What do you say?