The Elephant In The Room – Part 1

Do you remember back in school, when you reached the level of classes where you had lab teams that were intended to work together on an assignment? Remember how that the group shared in the grade given for the deliverable? 

I remember a team I was on in a biology class that had four people on it who had fairly different motivations. Their levels of contribution to the project ranged from huge to virtually nothing. The team member types ranged from Achievers, those who were committed and motivated to get the ‘A’ to the “Tom Sawyer” type, the person looking to get others to do their work. The Tom Sawyer type knew that the Achiever would not let the team fail and if necessary would do all the work to get the ‘A’ and the “Tom Sawyer” type took advantage of this fact. As you’d expect, there was virtually no trust on this team and its communication was dysfunctional.

Unfortunately, in this academic environment, you had to deal with the situation you were dealt and it often taught a very poor lesson; to be individually competitive and to forget the team. Too often you see this same behavior on teams in the business world today. This behavior is what prevents many teams from ever becoming even functional, let alone high performing. This is especially true for agile development teams. This is the Elephant Impediment that many don’t want to address.

In my next series of posts, I will explore this situation further and provide some insights into how organizations and servant leaders can work to enable agile teams to herd this pesky pachyderm out of their way.

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About Mike DePaoli

Mike DePaoli has been contributing to the IT community for over two decades and practicing agile and lean approaches to software development since 1996 in roles from programmer to CTO. His evolved approach to crafting successful lean-agile software development organizations was forged by the meaningful challenges he undertook at prior employers and as an Agile Coach at companies such as eBay, Adobe Systems, AOL, NetApp, Disney, Boeing, EMC, and Trizetto. Mike’s area of expertise is helping organizations craft strategic change initiatives that educate on and establish agile and lean values, principles and practices at every tier of the organization. Mike applies systematic thinking with a multi-discipline approach to his work. Mike is a Certified SAFe Agilist, Certified Scrum Professional, Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). He is a highly-regarded speaker in the Agile community having spoken at Agile conferences in North America, South America and Europe. He is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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