Lessons Learned From a Hurricane, Part I

I recently stumbled across an article that made me really contemplate how Agile methods and teams can be successful, as a corollary to the topic that it was written about.  One of the foundational ideals of the article reads as follows:  Trees that were grown in *ideal* and sheltered conditions fall over in their first big storm.

The context of this is a agricultural experiment.  Trees, bushes, flowers, and crop plants were all grown and nurtured in an ideal dome based environment.  After several years of growth and maturity, the dome was removed.  Several months later, a hurricane force storm came through the area, and blew down all of the trees.  Nearby groups of trees that grew in the wild, or were planted intentionally did not share that same fate.  Why?

It was determined by tree specialists that  trees need wind and weathering throughout their life to cause the roots to grow deep AND broad.  This combination of breadth and depth is what allows the tree to thrive and survive.  Root depth  is what typically allows the trees to find more water to be absorbed by the tree.  Root breadth is what gives the tree stability. Clearly, they need both to survive a variety of situations.

How does this relate to agile teams?  One such consideration: being shielded or sheltered by a manager or Scrum Master.  Often times, under the best of intentions, we want to give the answer to our teams.  This does not promote team learning, or team failing, which is a must in order for a team to mature.  Another form that this takes, is when a manager ‘coddles’ or shields a team from the realities that surround them, like visibility of work being an impediment to the organization buying into agile, or not being honest with them on performance, or not driving towards the minimum viable product.  These are all crutches that we need to rid ourselves of so we can grow, face the occasional conflicts, and rise above in order to put ourselves on an upward trajectory.

Stop, drop, and roll Dick, roll!

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