It is often heard in organizations phrases like “we lack resources on this project, give us two more people to handle the workload” or “resources require training to improve their performance”, but my favorite (obvious sarcasm) is “make resources work overtime to meet the deadline” For me, resources sounds like a USB device, you plug into a project or take out based on need. However, people are not USB devices, you cannot expect a person to join a project team and start giving at “expected” level of performance, and you cannot expect that moving them around will not affect their moral. Scrum is one of the solutions that I saw in practice address this dehumanization of people at the work place, and gets fantastic results as well.
USBs require specific programs to integrate together, if that is ready in advance, and all USBs behavior are similar, it works. However, a USB will not have the time to install its software and is asked to immediately do it task. This, at best, will allow the USBs performance to be equal to the sum of each individual USBs.
In his work “What motivates people at work” Dan Pink argues that what motivates people at work are three fundamental ideas: Autonomy, mastery, and purpose. A USB moved around from one project to the next is by default not achieving autonomy. Mastery requires time working on something to become better at it. If USBs are there for a brief period of time, they will hardly gain anything from the experience. And purpose is out of the window for a USB, since the purpose would be to complete the task pushed on it, and that’s it.
SCRUM treats people like people, not USBs. The small number of practices and roles addresses the most fundamental challenge with people working together… team work. One person is dedicated to the interactions of the team members, and not the product (Scrum master). This is not to belittle managers who treat people as people, but having someone single focus on people is different. The complex problem of team work needs to be addressed by each team separately and scrum creates the environment where that can happen.
The team in scrum is self-organizing (Autonomy), continuously puts effort to improve (Mastery), and they aim to reach the sprint goal and product goal collectively as they shape it (Purpose).
It allows the time and space, with respect, for people to achieve all this. Externally with the scrum review and internally with retrospective. I describe the review as the small steps towards value, however, the magic I always see is in the retrospective. It is with scrum that for the first time I personally have changed from being a results oriented person to a process oriented one. If the process and the people were respected, results will absolutely, most definitely and without a shred of doubt (hopefully)… will follow.
How come? Well, “it is simple, but not easy” (My new favorite phrase). This might sound paradoxical, but to innovate and excel you need to stabilize the work environment, or as Mason Curry phrased it “A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.” Scrum does this through creating – an almost set in stone -rituals. You cannot have a state of constant chaos or complete bureaucracy and expect innovation, scrum strikes the balance with minimal routine, which allows teams to create their own rules and deliver substantial results.
Even if the work doesn’t require high level of innovation but still heavily involves a group of people heavily interacting together over a relatively long period of time, the team must be allowed to seek their style of work together. And that is what scrum is about, interactions and team work to achieve much more than the sum of the individuals where they perform “At least 400% better than the average waterfall Team.”
Scrum treats people like people, not USBs. It provides them with the framework to develop themselves individually, collectively, and their work. This respect is what works with people and enables them to reach greater heights than they could’ve imagined.