Skip to main content

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...


Popular posts from this blog

Sample Definition of Done

Why does Scrum have a Definition of Done? Simple, everyone involved in the project needs to know and understand what Done means. Furthermore, Done should be really done, as in, 'there is nothing stopping us from earning value with this function, except maybe the go-ahead from the Product Owner. Consider the alternative:
Project Manager: Is this function done?
Developer: Yes
Project Manager: So we can ship it?
Developer: Well, No. It needs to be tested, and I need to write some documentation, but the code works, really. I tested it... (pause) ...on my machine. What's wrong with this exchange? To the developer and to the project manager, "done" means something rather different. To the developer in this case, done means: "I don't have to work on this piece of code any more (unless the tester tells me something is wrong)." The project leader is looking for a statement that the code is ready to ship.

At its most basic level, a definition of Done creates a sh…

Explaining Story Points to Management

During the February Scrum Breakfast in Zurich, the question arised, "How do I explain Story Points to Management?" A good question, and in all honesty, developers can be an even more critical audience than managers.

Traditional estimates attempt to answer the question, "how long will it take to develop X?" I could ask you a similar question, "How long does it take to get the nearest train station?

The answer, measured in time, depends on two things, the distance and the speed. Depending on whether I plan to go by car, by foot, by bicycle or (my personal favorite for short distances) trottinette, the answer can vary dramatically. So it is with software development. The productivity of a developer can vary dramatically, both as a function of innate ability and whether the task at hand plays to his strong points, so the time to produce a piece of software can vary dramatically. But the complexity of the problem doesn't depend on the person solving it, just …

Money for Nothing, Changes for Free

“Money for Nothing, Changes for Free” encourages both customers and suppliers to focus on value.

A key advantage of Scrum projects is that at least once per sprint you have something that could be shipped and no work in progress. You can change direction every sprint, and you can reevaluate whether the project is a good investment or if your money could be better spent elsewhere. Abrupt cancellation is risky for the supplier.

While the concept of an early-exit penalty is not new, Jeff Sutherland gave it a unique allure with his allusion to the Dire Straits hit.
Desired Benefit Incentivize both customers and suppliers to focus on functionality that provides genuine value.
Structure This works with Agile software projects because there is little or no work in progress. After each Sprint, functionality is either complete or not started. Work is basically on a Time and Materials basis with a cost target, often with the intention that the project should not use up the entire project budge…