Monday, June 10, 2013
Camaron que se dureme…
Shrimp are DELICIOUS! And in the old Spanish saying, a shrimp that falls asleep is taken/swept away by the current. In my imagination, right into my plate! This is a saying that focuses on the importance of direction. And as a coach, I can tell you that to have a direction you need to have a vision. Because if you lack vision, and have work to do – you will float right down the stream of maintenance – and into oblivion. It is hard enough to move when you have no vision, but what if your leaders have no vision. Then you are really in a pickle!
It used to be that when I was a young ScrumMaster, I would write down e-mails to my team when they bumped into issues that were too big for them to understand, or when we had important things to speak through. I have not done this for a while, but in my current role, I had the opportunity to write one such e-mail. It read as follows – with specifics removed to protect the guilty –
Team – howdy
Today we did a very agile thing to do, a few of us went to lunch and had an very interesting, stimulating and challenging conversation. There were several topics of discussion, and one was “What does a ScrumMaster DO – and how does the team hold them accountable”?
This is a great question, because it depends very largely on the SM and the organization. But, at a basic level, you are bringing in someone that can run the ceremonies, who understands their purpose and who can help the team get better.
Right at that last part, usually a lot of eyebrows go up. Because different people hear that differently. Some hear “faster”, others “less cost”. These are the most common mis-interpretations of that. A few may hear “higher quality” or “lightweight process” – I have gotten these, but they depend largely on regional bias. One thing it DOES mean is that we as a team get together, talk, think, assess our goals and then try to meet them.
Within this, I was stuck and confounded on one of the items. One thing I know to be true is that Agile teams must be able to innovate. Indeed, agile is specifically developed to allow for innate, organization driven innovation (usually, the best kind) across a multi-tier discipline approach (organic architecture, development and deployment, and organizational structure including revenue generation mechanisms). Yes, that is a HUGE bite – but it happens with one little thing.
You see, one of the things an Agile Coach (and especially a ScumMaster) needs to aim for is a SUSTAINABLE PACE. Why do we do this?
Well, it is the nice thing to do, certainly, It is ethical, and happy workers = better work. But, there is another more selfish reason.
You see, developers are usually some of the most innovative people in an organization. By definition, they have to construct creative solutions to solving a problem. Usually a complex problem. But in order to do this, even super intelligent people need one thing – they need TIME. Time to think, innovate and “put the brain in neutral”.
When you work is a bundle of stress, and you are always “on the clock” your brain does not have the time it takes to “be creative” for you. This results in stale code and a “patch on patch” architecture that is so common in many American companies. You couple this with budget constraints, stress, and a “carrot reward” mentality, and you get a cost center. NOT an innovation engine!!
Agile recognizes that every IT organization SHOULD BE an innovation engine, but the way we structure things does not lend itself to the realization of that potential. So, as a Scrum Master, it is contingent upon me to INSIST on that “work life balance” thingy – so that the team GETS BETTER…
I hope everyone has a happy week end, and I am sorry to drop this pamphlet on you all. Just figured we are missing some things, and I am completely disconnected – but I gotta make myself vulnerable to start some of these conversations.
What I did not recognize yet is that this team had a problem with VISION. They have none – in fact, the little forward view they have is limited by current functionality.
This is not uncommon. We get used to our day to day, and get “better” at optimizing our code. But sometimes, when there is no one to challenge you technically or in business value direction, things get stale. There is no reason to change. A few items I have picked up on are “there is a workaround for that” or “what you really mean is” or “clearly the rule was placed there a few years ago because… you don’t want me to bring that problem back, do you?” All these seem to be forces of inertia – lack of desire to change. And I could not place them where I was.
With this team, I have experienced a lack of Management vision or direction. Interestingly, with three managers you see three different styles, but this team by and large is left alone. Additionally, there is no business value direction – the business teams are satisfied with code as is, and they are too busy to get engaged on a consistent basis. And the technical vision? Amazingly, this is there – but it is limited to the team’s past experience.