You’re Making Something Cool

You’re making something cool.

Congrats – now let’s make some assumptions.

You’re a crew of lads and lasses who code for a relatively small start-up. You’re recently out of college, so you haven’t worked in a larger organization. This means you have not had to code under the auspices of a large process – quite the opposite: because there are so few of you, y’all are frontierfolk, coding in the wild wild west, gangnam-style garage-style.

You’re successful. Sales are up. So are profits. You’re making something cool, and you want to make more cool things, so you grow by hiring more coders. Your one team has grown to a handful. Because there are now more of you than the good ol’ garage days, general complexity has increased, so the founders of your start-up want to reduce some of the chaos by adding a little process.


You don’t like this.

We’ve been working fine without process. Now you want us to follow what? Scrum? What is this, rugby? Sales are up year over year. So are profits. What’s the problem? Don’t tell me what I can’t do!

You don’t like this one bit.

When folks in the software industry move from a big, rigid process to a small, Agile process, there are obviously increased freedoms. Heck, when folks talk about Scrum, they usually end up comparing it to the (more burdensome) status quo for software development. But you’ve been blessed.

Not blessed in a sense that you had an enviable upbringing – the software equivalent of parkour camp and paintballing and go kart racing and fueling all those adventures with home-made ice cream.

More blessed in a sense that you didn’t have a wretched upbringing – the software equivalent of… the beginning of most Roald Dahl stories.

Why do I have to use Scrum?

I was asked this not too long ago. And thusly I commenced my reply…

Hear ye, hear ye, oh ye crew-of-lads-and-lasses-who-code-for-a-relatively-small-start-up. I come bearing procedural gifts of enhanced freedoms and daily salvation.

…this was all I had in my Ye Olde Towne Crier pocket scroll. The ‘enhanced freedoms and daily salvation’ bit comes off as hyperbole, but now that my Sprints are 1 week instead of 2, I plan for less and actually get stuff accomplished, progress towards my life goals is measureable and tangible, and I feel I have a better handle on my path each day, where I’m better able to enjoy the journey, in the mirror I see a relaxed and happier face. And I’m a believer.

I told the crew that, off the bat, nobody has to do anything. There’s gotta be buy-in from the team, and that’s because the benefits and costs are explained and understood. Now, the costs are a lot easier to see – the regular meetings, breaking down tasks to a smaller-than-comfortable level, the brighter spotlight – and if this is all you see, and all you experience, then of course it’s gonna suck.

Those regular meetings are… constant, sure, but they’re tiny – 15 minutes a day – and they’re meant to be the only meetings, so no distractions from outside the team. Those smaller tasks are… smaller, sure, and that’s so you get feedback more often and you know the stuff you’re working on is going in the right direction – you’re not wasting your time. The spotlight is… brighter, sure, and that’s so stuff stopping or slowing you down can be found and addressed sooner – it’s not to micro-manage.

And that’s a decent point – it can seem micro-manage-y, but only if there isn’t an accompanying attitude of self-management.

Along with the processes that are so well advertised should be an ability for folks outside the team to truely trust the team to do what they do best. This is the part of Scrum that isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. After all…

You’re making something cool.