Do you want you team to think about it, or build it?

One of the Agile Manifesto principles says we should “build projects around motivated individuals – give them the environment and support they need – and trust them to get the job done.”

Recently I was reminded of how powerful a Scrum team can be when we simply trust they can solve a problem.  We were looking at using some new technology - something the business wasn’t familiar with and the team had only limited training on.  As is common in large companies we got stuck in an analysis loop for quite a while.  The business wasn’t really comfortable moving ahead with this new technology until a swath of questions were answered.  How will it work when it’s done?  How long will it take?  Are you sure the team can handle it?  We need to know what the plan is!  What if it doesn’t work, what are our contingency plans?

All of these types of questions make for good discussion, and team and business should talk about them, don’t get me wrong.  The problem comes in when these types of questions stifle exploration and creativity.  We have a whole team of highly skilled developers just waiting to tackle this problem, and we’re holding them up by only talking about it!

The team decided to dig in and do some investigation while the business was still talking through their questions.   Soon we had something to show, something to demo, and something to have a real conversation about: working software.  This is the game changer.  It’s much easier to have a conversation about all the risks and concerns of the business when talking over working software. 

Too often we try to centralize decisions and get buy-in up front.  When in fact, the best way to develop a complex product in a complex environment is to distribute decision making authority to the lower responsible level – in the case of product development with Scrum, this is the Scrum team.  Trust your team, give them freedom to explore and learn.  Always trust that the smart people you’ve hired to build your product can do just that – build a product.

 ”Intelligent control appears as uncontrol or freedom and for that reason it is genuinely intelligent control”
~Loazi, 600BC.