Arrogance, and getting to Done…

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“Matt, that is the most arrogant thing I’ve ever heard,” said the Executive leader.

And with that, the room turned red. My fists clenched. My heart rate spiked. I could feel the temperature in my gut rise. “I’m done with this crap,” I said to myself, silently.

You see, I was just beginning to learn about all this “agile” stuff. I was trying to bring some of what I had learned to the company where I was working. We started doing “Daily Stand-ups”.

Teams were “sprinting.”

At one point, a “burn down chart” emerged.

People seemed a bit happier to come in to work. We still faced an impossible task – survival as a start-up in the B2B world is far from guaranteed. But still. Things were better.

One of our big projects was in big trouble, though. QA was finding bugs about 4 times as fast as the developers could close them. Some of these bugs were, well, mortal. The kind of bugs that, if they got out, would negate the entire point of the existence of the company building the product. So, yeah… it was bad.

“The teams are starting to buy in to this agile stuff! They’re seeing real benefits! …At least they are getting things done now. We are WAY better than we were 6 or even 3 months ago!”

I was trying to explain to the Executive that I was making progress on the mandate that was given to me – to help our company “use agile.”

And that’s when the “you’re being arrogant” bomb was dropped.

I was absolutely furious. I had been busting my ass. My teams had been busting their asses. In the moment, I could not believe what I was hearing. Red.

Eventually, I did quit.

Fast forward a whole bunch, and I’ve now had more than a few years to reflect on this experience. As hard of a message as that was to receive, I now kind of agree with it. It was arrogant of me to believe that ‘better’ was actually good enough. There were a million different ways we could have improved – NEEDED to improve. We were building a bad product. It didn’t work. We were sprinting, but we weren’t actually getting anything to DONE.

I try to relay this story to students who attend my classes because it’s a great example of Scrum being easy to learn but hard to master. The mechanics of Scrum are quite simple and clearly written in the Scrum Guide. It’s easy to put a bunch of Roles, Events and Artifacts into place.

But it’s hard to deal with the problems that Scrum will uncover. And that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? The whole point of Scrum is to get to “Done.” And if you aren’t focusing on removing what stands in the way of that, well, what’s the point?

Maybe I was being a little arrogant…

By the way… the company in this story no longer exists. They never did really get to Done.

Join me at an upcoming public Professional Scrum Master workshop, and explore what it means to get to Done!