Culture has a huge impact on everyday business, as this Wall Street Journal article on New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell articulates very well. Hierarchical societies don’t challenge the status quo or find fault with superiors.
However, even in less hierarchical societies we make mistakes in our day-to-day business. As an example, let’s take a look at the daily standups in Scrum. If one of your developers keeps making a commitment to finish certain tasks during the day but never seems close to completing them even after three days, isn’t this something that the team needs to worry about?
Let’s look at another example. We have seen agile teams religiously practicing retrospectives by the book and even identifying the top three action items to fix. How many times do you think these teams follow up on the action items? How many times do you think team members question their colleagues about the open-action items?
The examples I listed show the cultural battle in which the team is engaged. Many times, questioning and following up with actions are tagged as rude behaviors. A person who is questioning the status quo is considered a bad apple and is an outcast on the team. Accountability issues like this (as well as team members wishing to be perceived as “well-behaved”) can negativley affect the team and the business in the long run.
As soon as you see these behaviors I mention, your agile coaches and ScrumMasters must step in and make these behaviors visible to the team. The courage to question should be cultivated in your team. The ScrumMasters should be trained to provide the negative feedback; as this HBR article says, sometimes negative feedback is the best.
Remember the importance of accountability; this issue is considered to be the fourth listed dysfunction in the popular book, Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
I guess it’s safe to say that some of the good old XP practices—courage, accountability, and responsibility—need to be implemented by all development teams, including those using Scrum.
Venkatesh Krishnamurthy is an author, speaker and a coach. In his 15+ years of career in the software industry, he has played different roles as a developer, architect and an Agile coach.