Rules are made up

Do you sometimes observe something awesome at work which makes you realize how much everybody’s mindset has already shifted towards lean and agile thinking? Lately I have a lot of these moments. I always savour them, because in every day routine it’s easy to see only problems and forget all the things that are already working great. It’s uplifting to not always look at the road ahead, but to take the time to turn around and rejoice in all the ground you’ve already covered. I had one such rejoicing moment 2 weeks ago.

How far we’ve come

I took part in an Inhouse Podojo, i.e. all attendants were colleagues of mine. Spoiler Alert: If you’re thinking of joining a Podojo, please don’t read on! I mean it, shush, go away!

Still there? Okay. Part of the Podojo was the inevitable Lego simulation. In the simulation we had 2 Scrum Teams with 8 people each. Each team had its own lanes of stories and its own table to build on, though we were to work on the same product and had to “integrate” on Team A’s table at the end of each sprint. 3 sprints to go.

In the first sprint planning (3 minutes) our PO went to take a first pick of stories from our 2 story lanes and the team decided how many to take. We got all of it built, but at integration time we found that the other team had built some of the exact same stuff, because their 2 lanes had had some of the same stories. At least we had similar priorities in picking these overlapping stories first 😉

Building stuff twice was the obvious problem to fix during the first retrospective. And that’s where it got interesting: Both team’s independently of each other decided that a) the POs should go pick the stories together and b) we should all work on one table. And so we pushed the tables together to make one big workspace.

It worked great. So great in fact, that neither team had any great complaints or improvement ideas during the last two retros.

Why do I think the table-merging thingy is remarkable?

Well, lets look at how this would have turned out 5 years ago: It would not have occured to us, that we could merge the tables. It would not have occured to us, that we are the makers of our own environment. (And indeed, according to the trainers, no groups have ever merged tables before.)

3 years ago it might have occured to us, that merging tables would be good, but we would at least have asked the trainers, whether it was allowed.

In 2015 we don’t even ask anymore, because rules are made up and of course you can change them (if no one else is affected).

Realizing that game rules, just like company rules, are made up is a key enabler for change! If you only try to improve within the (perceived) set of rules, you won’t have major breakthroughs. It’s the rules that need changing, too!

What rules have your teams changed to improve workflow?