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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...

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