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I was observing a workshop last week that had been put together to create greater cohesiveness in a large organizational team who needed to create a unified vision about their department.

Initially they were broken up into smaller groups to discuss some of the ideas, issues, and challenges they had encountered.  It was obvious how stressed everyone was.  People were speaking animatedly with louder than usual volume, there was a great deal of tension, and everyone seemed agitated and uneasy.

Then came the LEGO.  Mountains of it.  Not just some mismatched pieces either. The kind of LEGO that would have made any child squeal with joy.

LEGO

Each person was asked to create a model of what they thought their department was like at that moment, using the LEGO.  Then another model of what they each envisioned their department could be.  They were then asked to combine the ones they thought were best into a grand model for the department.

I immediately recognized this approach of play therapy used in child psychology, and I was curious to see how it would translate to adults in the workplace.

The effects were wonderful.  The room that was once filled with heated arguments and loads of stress, had transformed into complete calm.  Everyone was so engaged with building their models, they were quiet and relaxed, and whenever there were bursts of noise it was joyful laughter.

Then came the moment of truth, they had to present the large departmental model that they had all collaborated and contributed to making.

They spoke of their vision clearly without argument or dissent.  They shared the space freely encouraging others to speak on parts of the model they didn’t know in detail.  And when they finished their presentation, there was a long pause of silence where everyone was looking at the model, and in each person’s eyes, I saw pride for what they had accomplished together, and a deep sense of hope for the future where it was absent before.

I guess those colourful blocks really do have some magic in them.

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The Rules of Scrum: I know my product well and can quickly describe its high-level purpose

All Scrum Team Members, including the ScrumMaster and Product Owner, should understand the high-level business aspects of the product that is being built.  As well, that understanding should be solid enough, that it can be communicated to other people.  This understanding helps the team members in many situations dealing with each other and with stakeholders.  Understanding the purpose of the system is an aspect of both Focus and Transparency.  This is essential for maintaining overall quality of the product. Development should always be done in a way that moves the system towards fulfillment of its intended purpose.  If team members do not know their product in this way, it can cause significant problems in communication and in how Product Backlog Items are implemented.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, understanding the overall purpose of work is critical for a team to become a high-performance team.  Without knowledge of this purpose, a high-performance team is impossible.

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The Rules of Scrum: I use Scrum as a tool for product development

Scrum is an Agile process framework that is optimized for product development.  The rules of Scrum are fine-tuned after decades of use to help product development teams become hyper-productive and to maximize business value.  If you use Scrum for product development, then you are applying it to the right problem.  If you use Scrum for some other type of work (e.g. general project management) then you are mis-applying Scrum and it probably won’t give you the ideal results.  Scrum is not simply a collection of best practices.  Therefore, if you are using Scrum by picking and choosing some of its pieces, it is likely that you are using a sub-optimal approach to product development.  In this way, Scrum is like a tool rather than a toolbox with many tools.  When you take a hammer out of a toolbox, you don’t pull the head off and start pounding nails without the handle.  Likewise, if you only use some parts of Scrum, you are missing the benefits of using Scrum as a tool.  As a Scrum Team Member, you should know the purpose of Scrum and be aware of applying it correctly to the right problems.

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