Nothing is getting done...

When agile/scrum is introduced into an organization one of the side effects is a perceived or real lack of urgency. I have seen this on a number of occasions, where teams seem to be losing the sense of urgency. Estimates feel too high, not enough "stuff" is getting built.

"enough of this hippy B.S., we need to crack the whip"

I want to share some of my observations regarding why this happens and some suggestions.

The traditional model of getting things done is referred to as the authoritarian model by Peter Senge (the 5th discipline). In this model, one person understands the problem and shoulders the sense of urgency and tells his “team” what to do. That person is the information bottleneck. He/she cracks the whip when he needs to be but many also reward a person for a job well done. The sense of urgency comes from the fear of this person and not from the “real problem. Let’s call this model, the Lewis model.

To a certain extent the Lewis model actually works and “stuff” will get delivered. Lewis will get rewarded. He works hard and shoulders most of the stress.  As a side effect of the stress and the whip cracking, few people want to work for Lewis.

Another model is one where the team feels and understands the problem. Rather than the sense of urgency stemming from the fear of a “person” it stems from understanding the real underlying problem or business opportunity. This will result far more creative solutions to the problem.  Teams working under this model will usually work harder/smarter than under the Lewis model. Let’s call this model the Harvey model. Everyone wants to work in this model.

A big part of the product team’s role is to translate the opportunity/problem to the team and protect the team from Lewis. The team in turn must seek to understand the problem/opportunity and deliver results.