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 that they can solve a problem. We were looking at using some new technology, something the business wasn’t familiar with at all 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 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?
- What is the plan?
- If it doesn’t work, what are our contingency plans?
All of these questions make for good discussion and, don’t get me wrong, a business team should talk about them. The problem comes in when these questions stifle exploration and creativity. We have a whole team of highly skilled developers just waiting to tackle this cool new problem, and we’re holding them up!
While the business continued talking through their questions, the development team decided to dig in and do some investigation. After a few weeks they had something to show, something to demo, and something to have a real conversation about: concrete 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 about chunk of working software. The team kept exploring this new technology for a few weeks, getting more pieces of the puzzle put together, and learning a ton along the way.
Too often we centralize decision making authority with management. When in fact, the best way to develop a complex product in a complex environment is to distribute decision making down to a core level of responsibility–in the case of product development with Scrum, this is the Scrum team. Trust your team, give them freedom to explore and learn. Trust that the smart people you’ve hired to build your product can do just that.