Gold Rush or Gold Trap?

Gold mining or Metrics trap?

For those of you who are fans of Discovery, you may have stumbled upon Gold Rush. The TV show follows miners in the Yukon mining for gold. During the first season, Todd Hoffman, pictured, brings a crew from Oregon up north to Alaska to mine.

Todd Hoffman and his crew learn how to mine for gold in the tundra, eventually mining almost 1000 ozs of gold. Going into the fourth season, Todd, confident in the crew that he put together, takes them down to Guyana in search of gold. He’s confident in the data they have acquired and what potential drill holes have shown. However, he was lead into a trap! He comes home with a lofty 2 ozs of gold and almost gives up on mining entirely.

Based on the crew’s experiences in Guyana, one would think that the same mistakes would have been prevented in the future. Todd did over the course of two seasons go back and mine in the north where he found success on proven ground with over 3,000 ozs mined. With all the data before him, he again gained confidence with the crew he built. He took the information going into the next season to move the team to Oregon to for gold in the lower 48. Much to his dismay, every drill site supposedly having gold was almost barren. The crew left him and he was left wondering if he would ever mine again. Luckily for him, Freddy, a member of the team, found a site in Colorado to go mine. Going into the next season, Todd once again decided to roll the dice and mine in an area he was uncertain about. This season once again was a disappointment even though they mined over 1,500 ozs of gold. Todd had to pay up on a bet with Parker, who himself mined far more than Todd would have hoped.

What does this all tell us about Scrum Traps? When you focus on the delivery of the team, you will lose focus on what you are delivering. Todd’s crew may have run a lot of dirt through the wash plant, but in the end it didn’t yield the result they had hoped for when they moved to less proven ground. Come listen to our take on metrics and the traps that you can fall into.

For those of you wondering where Todd Hoffman is now after quitting Gold Rush, he is now pursing a singing career.

Team Identity – Need a Leader

Podcast about agile team leaders.
Football quarterback is a great example of a team leader.
Scrum Leader

Great football teams have great quarterbacks. There are a few teams that don’t go along with that statement but for the most part, history proves this statement true. On the flip side, bad football teams have subpar quarterbacks. big aspect to being a great quarterback is Leadership. When the team is in the huddle and the quarterback has everyone on the same page and believes that the quarterback will lead the to victory is a thing of beauty.

We believe one of the big stepping stones toward an agile team being self organized is to have a team leader on the team. What makes someone an agile team leader? What qualities does this person possess? Can anyone be a team leader?

Team Life Cycle – Self Org possible?

Initial Scrum Under Siege podcast talks about trying to get a team to self organization.

Oh the life of a pirate. Open seas. Plenty of sunshine. Late nights and late mornings. Sure you got to swab the poop deck from time to time, or you might a bad case of scurvy but no one is asking you to explain “What did you do yesterday? What are you doing today? What are you planning to do tomorrow?”. Taxes? We don’t pay no stinking taxes.

Pirates were to a certain degree self organized. I’m not saying they delivered value. In fact they generally delivered death and many other forms of badness. One thing they didn’t stand for was anyone telling them what to do (besides their captains). Yes Sir Francis Drake was loyal to his queen, but she didn’t micromanage him. He plundered the Spanish the way he wanted to plunder the Spanish.

Statute of Sir Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake got a lot of his stories to Done but people didn’t like his retros.

Yet in the end, I wouldn’t say they ever truly self organized. They were a just a bunch of lunatics sailing around doing their own thing. And in the end they were always caught, tried and executed.

Self organized teams is a popular concept in agile. It’s a great goal for a Scrum Master to coach a team towards self organization. It’s not as easy as the textbooks say. Lots of things need to be in place or happen in order for a team to truly be self organized. What should you do if the agile team is not trending towards self organization?

Watership Scrum

Watership Down is a novel written by Richard Adams about a group of rabbits. Their home is in danger and a few rabbits self organize and leave. The ring leaders of this daring group are not significant members of the warren (rabbit home). Takes a courageous rabbit to self organize and run away from a nice comfortable home.

Team needs a leader.

Hazel is the courageous rabbit that leads this group. He does not consider himself a leader. He is not the leader of the warren nor runs in those circles. He is not the smartest, strongest, nor the funniest rabbit, but when someone is needed to rally the troops and escape danger, Hazel becomes the ad hoc leader. The majority of the book is about Hazel leading his group of rabbits out in the world to find a new home. Spoiler alert – nothing easy about finding a new home.

Yes I am going to compare a book about rabbits to an Agile team. Sure Agile 101 says the team should be fully democratic and everyone needs to have a voice. I agree with that. My point is every team needs a Hazel of some kind to build consensus and be that driving force in a self organized team. 

Check out our podcast that highlights each teams Team Identity and the importance a leader on a Agile team.

I also found a very interesting video from Jack Welch talking about leadership. I thought it was a great tie in to our podcast and Watership Down. Hope you enjoy his video as much as I did.

Jack Rabbit

Don’t be a Prisoner

  I am not a number! I am a participating team member!   

     I was listening to 99% Invisible podcast the other day and the episode had a segment on The Prisoner. A 60’s TV show, The Prisoner was about a spy who was being held on a secret island. It was fun, crazy and hip. One of the things I remember and love to quote is part of the opening dialog where the Prisoner declares “I am not a number, I am a free man!” That always makes me chuckle.

     I do believe there is a decent amount of truth in this statement. Not the part about being a number, the part about being free. I just don’t think people truly understand this. Made me think about Can’t stop the storming. In this podcast, Doug and I talk about sometimes when things are not working out in your agile group, it’s time to move on. It’s about realizing that working at a company is your choice. You have the freedom to leave the island. Leaving isn’t easy but, unlike staying in a bad situation, going to a different island (job) has the potential to be rewarding and a good fit. This is especially true if you are part of an Agile team (scrum or kanban) where an emphasis is placed on teamwork and good communication skills.

Need to give a shout out to Iron Maiden who made a hard rocking, head banging song, The Prisoner based on the show.

Jack #22