Scrum: It’s all about trust stupid

The more I work with Scrum teams the more I’m convinced that trust is one of the most important factors in the growth of the team, effective delivery of working software and general team happiness.

The basics of Scrum will only get you so far, if we want our teams to grow, develop and potentially become ‘great’ then we need to produce an environment that will allow them to use their skills and attain this. Not every team can be great, and it very much depends on your definition of great, but every team can be better.

Every software development process in the world is meaningless unless we trust in our teams to deliver, trust them to make decisions and don’t punish them for making mistakes. I am yet to meet a development team that wants to deliver poor software.

Dogmatically following and dictating process will only get you perfunctory. After all why employ experts if you’re not going to trust their reasoning and decision making?

In Jeff Sutherland’s latest book (Scrum) he states that the best teams have three vital qualities:

Transcendent – they have a sense of purpose beyond the ordinary and they have made a decision to not be average.

Autonomous – Self-organising and have the ability to make decisions that matter.

Cross-functional – Contain all the skills needed to complete the tasks at hand.

I believe transcendence grows from autonomy, belief in purpose and the feeling that the teams’ input is valued. You must strive to create a working environment that supports this. It isn’t easy, but don’t be tempted to fall back on process, that’s the lazy way and just does not work. Trust, and this works in both directions, is absolutely critical to the creation of such an environment.

Merely voicing that you trust the team is not enough, as always, it comes down to actions. The key to this is to listen, it’s easy to convince yourself that you know better, and maybe you do, but suggest rather than dictate, trust is something that needs nurturing.

Note to PM’s – you can certainly organise teams to be Cross-functional and try to create an environment that’s fosters trust and allows the teams to make their decisions, but you cannot enforce this. You cannot force teams to believe, stop trying! Let the team breathe.

There isn’t a tick list to follow or a set procedure to achieve any of this. Listen to the team – they will tell you, trust in the team and they may surprise you.

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