Sunday, February 21, 2016

Scrum makes work a game.

You know, of course, that Scrum is named for the Scrum formation in rugby.

More generally, Takeuchi and Nonaka were inspired by the 'rugby' they saw in several great companies and how they did new product innovation.  And Sutherland and Schwaber read that article in HBR: The New New Product Development Game. And that was a key input to creating Scrum.

Here's where we are I think: "Life is hard, life is confusing, and I can never tell if I am making progress. It starts to be no fun, no real people to talk to usefully, no way to see if we are making progress. I am always late and it seem never-ending!"

If some of your colleagues feel that way sometimes, you can imagine that that is: Not Good.

So, Scrum changes it to a 'game.'  It is still real, so not a game in a sense that it is divorced from real life.  But it is, as they say, gamified.

We have a 2 week sprint. We have some defined roles. We put a person on a Team.  We ask the Team (not one person) to be successful.  We suggest that they self-organize and work together (collaborate).

And we allow they to make first downs (as in America football). They get feedback quickly (as in any game)...are they making progress.

Are the measures of progress that we have in Scrum perfect?  Well, actually I think they are very good, but they are not perfect.  But something that is fairly frequent feedback and fairly accurate is far far better than 'nothing.'  Or a couple of 'at-a-boys' that were said half-heartedly.

The key thing is that we have made things 'fun' in a way.  And that feedback is useful for course correction, but perhaps more useful as motivation.

  • we get positive feedback
  • we see that other people care
  • we can feel proud of ourselves with small wins
  • we work together, and it no longer feels lonely
  • usually they team starts laughing during the day.  It is fun in that way too.
Let me remind you how games are seductive.  As any behaviorist psychology major can tell you, they give intermittent (positive) feedback.  To be honest, not always positive feedback.  But the positive feedback in intermittent.

And this, according to the research, is key to making the game 'fun.' Now, when they are playing the game, they do not always have a smile on their faces, but still they are engaged, and typically more focused, more 'giving their all' than they usually do working 'in their cube' (as we often see in waterfall).

As with any good game, we need to be able to see frequently, transparently, easily if we are making progress or not.

The managers need to talk about work as a game.  A game we wish to win.

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