CHOW #194 – Is experimentation doomed?

Arvind a super Scrum Master has been an ardent proponent of test and experiment. He was the Scrum Master for two teams.

Govinda the manager of the two teams had his regular catch up with the teams. He said the current covid environment has made the market uncertain. So he has told the team to be extra careful and not monkey around with ideas. Given the condition, the team is clear that they want to stay aligned with Govinda.

What would you recommend Arvind to do now?

My recommendations

The first thing I would like Arvind to appreciate is the fact that “being” agile is the key rather than “doing” agile. When there’s or perceived to be a clash between “doing” and “being” the first dharma of scrum master will be to uphold “being”.

To me truly internalizing this would solve all the dilemma that anyone faces, and specifically for a scrum master.

So now that we have the basic value established, let’s see how it would play out.

I would recognize that any practice is function of the belief and the environment. If the current environment is less than suitable for a good practice – I would suggest he acknowledge that. In this a Covid like situation is very unnatural environment, so will have to accept that.

On the other hand, the fact that you are not doing any experiment when situation demands itself is an experiment for this scrum master. (Does this sound like an oxymoron – is it appearing self-contradictory… think over).

The next thing I would recommend that he have a dialog with Govinda to get a better understanding of the situation. He has to be able to meet Govinda where he’s (at his current state of thinking and environment). This will help Arvind be empathetic and help the team discover the right way ahead.

I would ask Arvind to see how the world is looking at stability and experimentation in the current juncture. Learning from the market, from other’s experience is one of the ways to acquire the ability to approach the situation.

An interesting example is the way the world is pursuing vaccine for Covid. In the normal circumstance this would have been a decade long process. Currently the approach is very different to speed-up. So that’s the mother of all experiments today, yet it needs the highest stability.

Look at the approach by some organization to build up the factory line even before the vaccine is accepted/ proved. That’s an even bigger experiment in the way people are handling the situation.

On the other hand, the reality of job loss is very real. The reality of business being slowed down, or projects being shelved is very real. The demand from customers to reduce cost is almost a given. So one has to take that into consideration about whether it’s the right time to stay with what works or take a risk of failure.

I would recommend that Arvind not make this into an “ideological battle” of the practice of experimentation. That would probably ensure in the most sub-optimal solution.

What are your thoughts? Would love to hear them.

What do you think?

One Response

  1. I think, the situation presented here requires re-emphasizing of fundamentals of agility. The team needs to be competent and empowered. Managerial intervention should be an exception and should be carefully executed. Manager needs to adopt a coaching behavior and help the team understand the problem better and let them evolve the solution themselves. S/he should refrain from dictating the solution, as in command and control mode. In such an intervention, manager should work with the entire team including Product Owner and Scrum Master and not only with the Developers. So, in the situation mentioned above, I would first work with Govinda to push the change for agile transformation. His concerns would definitely be valid but the way he gets the team to address them should in alignment with agile principles.

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