Ideal teamwork and the concepts of SCRUM

I’ve talked to a number of companies about changing corporate habits. In the midst of one discussion, a friend and former colleague at L.L.Bean recommended a book about SCRUM. SCRUM business concepts started in silicon valley and are now crossing over into all sorts of new thinking.

Picture your next group project and…

Imagine redefining the concept of “team”

  • Each team is cross-functional, autonomous, empowered, and has a transcendent purpose.
  • Team members know their work is important to the company and is personally meaningful.
  • Each team has the necessary skills and mix of experience and thinking they need to solve issues they’re tasked with solving.
  • Hand-offs are limited or eliminated; keep the work with this one group rather than have separate teams develop individual parts and pass their work along, group to group.
  • Teams work without titles and no one is limited to one type of work on a team; you contribute anywhere you have strengths.
  • Each team has the direction, freedom, respect and authority to do things without asking permission.

Imagine everyone working with clear goals

  • Everyone knows what the top priorities are and how the most value can be delivered for the least amount of effort.
  • Everyone knows they are working toward a common goal.
  • Team action is focused on the top priorities.
  • Teams work to do the right thing rather than completing tasks just to get them done.
  • Goals are big – but achievable.
  • Everyone’s focus is on process and results.

Imagine shifting from busy to productive

  • Teams tackle the most valuable work with the least amount of wasted effort
  • Anything that impedes workflow is eliminated.
  • Production cycles include real-time feedback from internal and external customers.
  • Teams have the power to observe, orient, decide, and act.
  • Hand-offs that slow down momentum and are prone to error are eliminated.
  • Each team knows what needs to be done and gets it done.
  • Teams know that hesitation is death.

Imagine creating a truly safe work environment

  • Teams have open discussions with honest feedback – including discussing mistakes – even if finding and reporting errors messes with stats you’re tracking.
  • Everyone voices their opinion and takes risks.
  • Individuals trust and are trusted by their team members and know they can depend each other.
  • People speak up without fear of retribution.
  • People are comfortable being themselves.
  • People can admit what they don’t know.
  • There are no harsh judgments.
  • Mistakes are discovered early in the process, are flagged, and are fixed.
  • There is no individual blame for issues; failures are recognized as a system failure for the team to fix.
  • Everyone sees everything – goals, progress, issues, resolutions, re-works.

Imagine efficient and effective meetings

  • Only the people who really, really need to be there attend.
  • Everyone who is invited attends and is prepared to talk about what they did since the last meeting, what they plan on doing before the next meeting, what obstacles are in their way, and what they need help resolving.
  • Everyone has a voice and knows they are part of this team for a reason.
  • Everyone listens and has your back.
  • Intergroup conflicts are resolved through open discussion.
  • Subjects that need a deep discussion are taken outside of the team meeting.

Imagine managing a happy workforce

  • People have autonomy, a mastery of what they are doing, the ability to control their own destiny, and they know their work is making them better at what they do.
  • The office feels positive and full of energy, with good food available, laughter in the hallways – and an insistence that associates go home at night to spend time with friends and family and to get enough sleep.
  • People feel accepted and feel like they belong.
  • Staff supports and respects each other.
  • Everyone has the ability to achieve their full potential.
  • People are so happy at their jobs, they don’t dread Monday mornings.
  • People make long-term plans to stay with this company because they’re learning, they’re producing good work, and they’re recognized for what they do and how they contribute.
  • Management asks at the end of each production cycle.
    • “What helps you do your best work?”
    • “What’s one thing that would make you happier during our next production cycle?”

Imagine valuing people over process

  • Management has no titles and no corner office.
  • Managers have the vision, know where the value lies, and help teams figure out the 20% of tasks that will generate 80% of the value.
  • Management’s role is to set the right frame, to figure out strategic direction and then allow teams autonomy to figure out how to get there.
  • Management’s primary function is service to their teams, to clear obstacles, to set priorities, and to give teams the room they need to get their work done.
  • There is genuine transparency with no secret cabals. No hidden agendas. And nothing behind the curtain.
  • Management trusts employees and employees trust management.
  • Measurements of progress are open and are used by everyone to improve the process, not to punish; suggestions for improvement are targeted at the team, not at individuals.
  • Teams are rewarded for togetherness and team progress rather than rewarding individuals for aggressive, unkind, or negative behavior.
  • Management doesn’t rule by authority but by persuasiveness because they know their stuff.
  • Plans for the next week are based on progress and issues from the current week. And once a goal for the week is set, nothing new is added.
  • Management helps teams assess not so much what they did but how they did it to help get the bumps, inefficiencies, and waste out of the process.
    • “What did you work on since the last time we met?”
    • “What are you going to do before we meet again?”
    • “What’s getting in your way?”

Imagine producing a better end product

  • A minimum viable product is produced on a regular basis as the team works through the process rather than working for long periods of time without producing anything.
  • Product is developed with a plan in place with the understanding that the plan will change as discoveries and new ideas come up – “the map is not the territory.”
  • No one falls in the love and sticks blindly to a plan because that’s the way it’s always been done.
  • Changes and adaptations are made by looking out to the environment for answers.
  • A collaborative development process includes customers as well as team members.
  • The team fixes issues as they go rather than pushing to beat a deadline and delivering a solution that’s filled with little errors.
  • No one guesses product questions; they plan, act, check, change, and repeat in regular cycles of continuous improvement.

What are you working on at home, at school, or at work where you can apply this thinking?

Here’s a short video clip that explains the basics of how SCRUM works. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend the book – SCRUM; The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

Check out this “team” of glass art pieces at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Whimsy and color lift my creative energy 🙂


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