Famous Last Words

January 11, 2008 CollabNet VersionOne

One of the most common problems I observe in Agile teams is their inability (or perhaps unwillingness) to “swarm” on difficult problems to ensure an adequate solution. When I use the term “swarm,” I’m referring to multiple people working jointly to solve a single problem. Too often teams suffer from fuzzy logic, thinking, “Let’s divide our resources to conquer the stories in this sprint more efficiently.”

What’s interesting is that I see teams fail sprint after sprint by employing this strategy. Yet they can’t bring themselves to take the recommended course of action and swarm on stories until they are completely done. What’s even more baffling is the unwillingness of teams to apply common sense to situations when “efficiency” is at stake.

Remember how in suspense/horror flicks the characters inevitably decide on a course of action that involves splitting up the group to overcome the adversity, whether it’s brain-starved zombies or chainsaw-wielding maniacs? There’s always a pivotal moment in the movie where one of the characters utters these famous last words: “Why don’t we split up, so that… (insert absurd rationale here)?” Of course, everyone watching the movie is thinking, “Bad idea, you idiots! You won’t stand a chance alone!”

It’s common sense that facing big, hairy monsters alone leaves no chance for survival. Yet the draw of being “efficient” seems to win this debate every time, regardless of the empirical evidence against it. I suspect that until we let go of preconceived notions of “efficiencies,” the bloodbath will continue…

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