The notion of the agile "Scrum" has drawn inspiration from the game of Rugby, where a series of team "sprints" drive the ball forward from one end of the field to the other. This metaphor has been the image most people have of how Agile development works.
For User Experience and User Research professionals, however, the agile "scrum" is a tough construct to work within, always begging the question "where does research and usability testing fit into Agile?". In many ways, user research (and many aspects of user experience design processes/approaches) are difficult to integrate into the Agile development methodology. This is in large part due to the fact that there is the expectation that a complete, validated product will be produced in every sprint.
With this in mind, I submit a contrasting metaphor for how these two wildly different processes can intersect: the track & field relay. The place where user research can have a real positive impact on product design is when it is done as a paralel process to development, gathering insights that will influence the next sprint. The key is finding the equivalent to the track relay transition zone, where runners pass the baton to the next. How these user insights are transitioned into the pre-sprint planning and design activities in a constructive way is key, and requires a multifaceted approach as well as development culture that is receptive to user insights.
This presentation was initially presented as a case study at the Agile Experience Design Meetup in New York City, March 28th 2012: