Monday, March 23, 2009

Of Light Bulbs and Lasers

"Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare."

— Patrick M. Lencioni in The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team
Every time I give a talk, people want to know 'Why do Scrum?' and 'How do I convince my boss?' This example is now a standard part of my Scrum talks (and it's easy to demonstrate):

What is the difference between ordinary light and a laser? A bulb produces white light – light at multiple frequencies going in all directions at once. And there is usually more heat than light. Shine a pen light at the wall during the day, and the effects are invisible if the light is more than a foot or so from the wall.

Laser light is special. The light is all on the same frequency going in the exactly the same direction. A laser pen can illuminate a point across the room by daylight. A laser can read bits on a DVD. A laser can measure the distance to the moon (which is increasing by 38mm/year). The inventors of the laser had no idea of its potential, and 50 years later we are still finding new applications.

A group is a light bulb – bright individuals, but individuals going in different directions. A team is a laser. Focused, synchronized, with incredible potential.

Scrum is tool for turning your groups into teams.

Bonus question: If you had to pick just one group in your company and turn it into an laser-team, which one should it be? My answer: Top Management.

P.S. Thanks to Kevin for pulling the text out of my 'pointed haired boss' presentation. I started using the strategies in Beyond Bullet Points to create my presentations. A side effect is that much of the spoken content is included as text in the pdf file for download. Which means it can be quoted...