Ilan Goldstein is an agile practitioner and thought leader based out of Australia, perhaps best known for his tips on "Scrum shortcuts," a compilation of ideas that became the basis for his published book: "Scrum Shortcuts Without Cutting Corners." Ilan talks a lot about the Scrum startup, and the elements that go into making Scrum adoption successful. At the foundation of this is team morale, and he believes that team dynamics and workspaces are the cornerstone for productivity in agile development.
In a field that often casts its professionals into lightless caves in order to toil away in solitude (often by the request of the developers themselves), Ilan argues this isn't always best for the Scrum team. We caught up with Ilan in this interview to hear more on his thoughts around creating a work environment that makes Scrum work better.
With new Scrum teams, how do you help shift the mindset from individual accomplishments or goals to doing what's best for the team?
Ilan: It really is incumbent on the business to communicate and reinforce what is truly important - the creation of quality, working products that delight customers.
Simply put, a product is not built by an individual, it is built by a team. As such, it needs to be appreciated that individual accomplishments are the building blocks that make up the overall team accomplishment; they are a means to an end.
No doubt, the individual building blocks are still important but it is critical that they are all aligned and supporting one another to create something much bigger and more important then the blocks themselves.
You talk about the physical workspace impacting the Scrum team. Can you expand on that a little here?
Ilan: First, let me say that I couldn't agree more with the truism, "It's the small things that matter." You'd be surprised by how many retrospectives I've witnessed that have been dominated by concerns and complaints about the physical environment.
Whether it's a lack of meeting rooms, limited wall space or microwaves that were bought when Reagan was in office, these day-to-day annoyances can really drag on morale and lead to direct and indirect productivity loss.
Some of the best environments I've seen haven't necessarily been slick, extravagant settings decked-out with multi-million dollar fittings complete with slippery slides and lava lamps. No, in fact, they've actually been rather economical and grungy; however, they got the basics right and in turn became super-productive yet really comfortable spaces.
Now if I was to choose one key consistent element of the worst environments I've seen, I would say the least optimal environments are those that impose email as the primary method of communication. This imposition may be due to physical or cultural boundaries but irrespective, relying on an asynchronous and easily misinterpreted communication channel is not conducive to effective teamwork.
What are your tips for changing the way Scrum team members interact with one another if it's a less than friendly environment?
Ilan: My solution to this problem is to avoid it in the first place. So how do you do this? Well, you hire the right people with the right attitude and you model the behavior that is expected.
I worry about trends in our industry where the focus is on hiring "rock stars" with a total focus and emphasis on technical brilliance as opposed to interpersonal brilliance. The latter brings out the best in others and will ultimately lead to happier and more productive teams.
For more from Ilan, check out his course on Front Row Agile: Scrum Shortcuts