Personal Heroics vs. Team Success

December 10, 2009 laszlo szalvay

One of the things that’s been interesting to me over the past year or so is the intersection between Scrum and the role of Human Resources (HR).  I’ve been  speaking about it with customers as well as analysts and reporters at get togethers like Agile 2009 in Chicago earlier this year.  In addition, I wrote an article for the Scrum Alliance website, which you can raed here. Michael James has also been thinking about this topic this year and I’m excited to share an article he recently authored soon (I’ll post the link in the comments section as soon as it’s live).

As I thought, HR ‘best practices’ will continue to be challenged in our discourse as Scrum adoption continues to mature.  In fact, if you are struggling with these issues right now, it may be a signal that your Scrum adoption is maturing.  The latest challenge came from the Agile Alliance LinkedIn forum and was later expanded upon over at InfoQ as Shane Hastie reports on a lively debate. Reeju Srivastava sparked the dialogue by asking,

“Should we have an individual recognition reward on a Scrum team?”

Predictably, Scrum practitioners on both sides weighed in. Virgil Mocanu defended the idea of recognizing an individual’s performance on a Scrum team, summoning the failure of Communism as a proof point. On the other side of the fence, Archit Jauhari succinctly argues against such recognition, writing:

“Scrum teams work because they [are] very closely bound to each other. Individual recognition may break this well knit fabric and create [a] rift between the team members.”

Personally, I have to side with Archit on this topic. One of Scrum’s most important differentiators is its emphasis on not only the team as a unit, but on the supreme value of the product they create. In a sense, Scrum espouses a servant mentality by placing the ultimate importance of development on delivering a product that satisfies the customer’s request. Certainly, from an output standpoint, a customer does not care if a single individual on the team carried the weight; all they care about is receiving a great product that meets the specifications they outline. So if that’s the definition of success in a project managed using Scrum, then it’s clear that individual heroics—and the recognition they draw—should be set aside for the greater good.

I would love others to weigh in as well. What a great topic as we head into the end of the year!

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