Helicopter Scrumming

helicopter-scrumming For members of the build team, an overly-involved SM can look like this...

How a major, high-risk blocker put a huge grin on my face.


I’ve known SM’s who obsess over every little detail of what their teams are doing and, dare I say it, almost micro manage their teams. I refer to this as helicopter scrumming and folks, its bad. Really bad. Trust is the single best thing you can implement for your team and trusting them REQUIRES that you let them handle issues and make decisions.

Oh, the high-risk blocker I mentioned? Well, my current team is focused on delivering a major web-based product by March. This product is going to hook into a back-end database of over 500 million records. Yes, million. Obviously development of this database is integral to our success, but that work is being done by the company's platform team. Can you say dependency? Big-time.

My team’s tech lead came up to me yesterday at work, “So, Lee, about that monster data set…”

“Yes?” I knew we were at the limits of how much time the platform team could spend trying to load this data set. This thing was about to become a major issue.

He continued, “I talked with the lead for the platform team and we both decided that our team is going to jump on this and clear up the blocker. We can’t afford any more time on this.”

And I broke out into a major grin.

Why? Well, when we had our kickoff meeting for this project back in December the team quickly identified dependencies on other teams as our #1 risk. In front of the CEO, CTO and every other capitalized TLA we had on staff I said that we would work very closely with the dependent teams to ensure they had good requirements to work towards, BUT the second any one of them started to slow us up we would take over the work and implement it ourselves. Their corporate culture encourages self-sufficiency so everyone nodded in agreement to the statement.

You see, my tech lead didn’t wait to get anyone’s approval. He didn’t run anything up the flagpole, he just took the matter into his own hands and operated the way we all agreed. And more importantly he’s solving the problem. I was recently asked how this team would fare if I were to leave tomorrow. Would the team, who are being wildly successful by any measure, continue their success without me? Absolutely they would. Does that mean I’m not contributing anything? Of course not, but most of my heavy lifting was done when the team was formed. At that time I implemented a whole bevy of practices, expectations, work patterns and such that all have led this team to be strongly independent and in control of their own destinies.

And THAT right there is the exact opposite of what you get if you build a team to be dependent on you. They come running to you with every single little decision and you become irreplaceable. No thanks. I prefer a team that can take care of themselves and not be reliant. On anyone, especially me.

Product vs Process
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Monday, 25 October 2021
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