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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

I met a friend on the train recently. We used work together in a team. He was the Scrum Master and I was the Agile coach. During that time, in order to help everyone to have better visibilities about the team’s work, I created a spreadsheet to generate a release burnup chart what was according to the team’s actual velocity and the total estimated work in the backlog. The chart would also generate two trend lines based on the overall average velocity and the latest 3 Sprints’ average velocity. With these two trends, everyone can predict the possible range of the release end Sprint, as shown in Figure 1.

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Figure 1: Release burnup chart sample

This tool was trying to help the stakeholders and the team to identify the potential risks according to the team’s actual data, and, it was NOT a measurement of the team’s performance. But, unfortunately, my friend told me that the management team is using it in an opposite way now. They started to put the pressure on the team to increase the velocity if the trends are behind the expected schedule. And the team started to game the data and try to make the chat looks good. I felt so bad when I heard about it. It is another example of how a tool can be used in a wrong way to kill the team’s energy.

Any tool like this one can have different impacts on the team. It depends on how it is used. When the organization uses it to discuss with the team about the impediments, it will enable and empower the team to improve continuously. But if the organization uses it to force the team to work faster and more, it will constrain and weaken the team. For example, instead of asking the team “how can we deliver faster and more?”, the leadership team can ask “what are slowing us down and how can we help you?”. These two different questions will show the different images to the team, one is a commander, and another one is a helper.

When I think about this story more, I start wondering that, maybe the way of how an organization uses a tool could be a good indicator of the organization’s real culture, e.g, are they truly believing in trust and autonomy? Like we always said, actions speak louder than words!


Note:

The feature image of this blog is from Picture Quotes.

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