Viruses, Deadlines, and Emergencies
Imagine. You are in a team doing Scrum for more than a year, having a skillful Scrum Master, who preaches all the values and principles from the Manifesto. The company claims how important “the Agile” is… a true Agile paradise. And one day, something happens – the Coronavirus makes the whole world stop and all the employees have to work remotely, a key deadline cannot be met, or the new big and important release is full of bugs!
The Sinking Ship
There’s this belief: If you are on a sinking ship or in a burning house, there’s no place for self-organization, and the best approach is to get the most experienced person – the Captain or the Fireman and let him get in charge. As a trained professional for such emergency cases, he is supposed to give orders and concrete actions. Everyone must follow. So, we make the analogy…
Afterward, a war group (a bunch of managers) comes. They give heavy speeches about the importance of the situation, proclaiming that now is the time for everyone to push hard!
Yes, we are Agile, we have Scrum, but now we have an emergency, let’s leave this Agile stuff for calmer times, they say.
Finally, let the Micromanagement Hell begin! Huge push for delivery. People are asked to work overtime. “War group meetings” every 3 hours are held.
Who’s the Captain here?!
The result – the deadlines are still not met and many compromises are made. Nothing different from initially obvious was delivered but with lots of bugs on top. A huge pile of new technical dept is generated. Finally, now we have a lot of unhappy, disappointed, leaving the company people. No one believes anymore in empty words about values and principles.
So, what do we do wrong?
Destroying Agility in extreme situations is the biggest non-sense you can do, even if your common sense does not see it.
Certainly, in extreme situations, you need to be extremely Agile, as you depend on your team. You need flexibility, adaptiveness, and innovation. Don’t make foolish comparisons with the sinking ship, it only works for simple cases. Leaving the ship does not require thinking. In business situations, we don’t have simple linear steps. The problems are much more complex and even not so fatal. Rather, we need creative solutions and thinking people to come up with ideas and approaches we don’t have. Giving orders is the worst thing you can do.
Yes, you still have a very difficult task. To ensure your people not panic, to act united, and to be extremely efficient. Most noteworthy, the way you can achieve it is to give them Extreme Trust, Extreme Transparency, Extreme Vision, and Extreme Servant Leadership.
So, what’s the solution?
First of all, we need creative and thinking people, who can find better ways of working, create innovative solutions, and achieve more with less. Our teams and people should operate with high synergy – talking, sharing, helping each other. All this is possible. The solution is simple and not so hard. We have four ingredients, which we must ensure:
1. Extreme Trust
Above all, don’t even ask for any form of justification for the work. Forget about the timesheets. You depend on your people. If they want to trick you, no timesheet can stop them. But being human, showing trust and vulnerability can! Give the team the freedom to experiment, to do crazy stuff, to try whatever is needed. Tell them you don’t have solutions but you can provide support, space, resources, and safety… Show them you trust and believe what they do is the best to be done.
2. Extreme Transparency
Share with the team everything you know. Tell them everything new you have heard or understood in the first possible moment. Share what you plan to do, what your concerns and fears are, which failures you have made.
3. Extreme Vision
Additionally, you must be explicitly clear about everything which will might or might not happen. You must describe all the needed results and what will happen if we don’t achieve them. Draw the full picture, do even more than needed, so they can visualize it, feel it, understand it.
4. Extreme servant Leadership
Finally, make them the boss and you become the servant. Ask for everything they need you to do, so they can focus on the problem. Then serve and do everything they ask for. Immediately.
Never sacrifice your team’s Agility, it can save you! Dealing with extreme difficulties needs extreme creativity. Focus on boosting the Agility and creating the perfect environment for thinking and innovation. This is an environment full of extreme safety, clear visibility and transparency, empowerment, and all the support in the world!