Why the common goal is so important in Scrum

It is true, that the results of a team depends on the work of its members. However, it is not true, that the work of each individual constitutes the results of the entire team. So, how to manage a team and its members in order to achieve the best results?

Working to a common goal may be the answer, in the Scrum management method:

The Product Owner

(sometimes serves as the customer proxy) is responsible for representing the interests of the stakeholders and ensuring that the product backlog remains prioritized.

The Scrum Master

is responsible for implementing the Scrum.
A Scrum Master differs from a traditional project manager in many key ways, including that the Scrum Master does not provide day-to-day direction to the team and does not assign tasks to individuals. A key part of this role is to remove impediments or issues that might slow the team down or stop activity that moves the project forward.

The Team

is made up of a cross-functional group of 3-9 members who are responsible for developing the product. Scrum teams are self-organized will all members collectively responsible for getting the work done.

Why is it that, the sum of work does not always yield the best results?

Each one of us is trying to do our job to the best of our ability. When making decisions in our lives, we consider all the points that we find important. We try to make the best possible decision at the time.

A good example might be when we have to hand in an important report the next day. We’ve already delayed three times, while a promotion and pay increase depends on the clarity of the report. So we sit down, we write the first sentence and…

The phone rings. What do we do? More often, we take the call. The decision is determined by a habit (we always pick up the phone because „we don’t know who it is”, „we’ll see what the call is about”), a situation (a child is sleeping next to you and you don’t want to wake them), lazy (we’re not really feeling like writing the report, and we use every possible excuse to delay the work).

The reason is irrelevant. In our decision-making, we chose the best solution at that moment. It’s the same with every activity or decision. More or less consciously, we make the best decision that we are capable of at the time. That is why each and every one of us, while accomplishing our tasks, is performing them to the best of our ability.

So, if each team member is doing their job to the best of their ability, why is it that the sum of work doesn’t yield the best results? It is because, each of us follows different values, different priorities, has a different role in the team. Each one makes a decision that is best for them.

What can be done, so that the sum of work of all the team may yield the best results?

In the movie ‘Finding Nemo’ there is a scene, where a shoal of fish is caught in a net. Each fish is scared and tries very hard to escape. The movie hero Nemo is trying to encourage other fish to swim in one direction. This is what saves their lives. It turns out that, when acting as a group, they have the force that far exceeds the strength of the fishingnet arm of the boat.

It’s same thing at work.

Everyone must have a common goal. Everyone must have the belief that one can achieve the most while caring and working for the common, not personal goal.

Therefore, it is more important to:

  • define the common goal properly, rather than detailed task allocation;
  • continuous checking whether everyone understands the common goal in the same way, rather than controlling whether they’re doing their assigned work well;
  • introducing corrections, so that the path to the goal becomes as clear as possible, rather than performing huge amounts of work faster and faster.

We will achieve more if we channel our energy in one direction, instead of performing huge amounts of work with everyone pointed in different directions. That is why, every team needs its Nemo.

In Scrum eversy tea need its Nemo

Someone who will point us in the right direction (in Scrum, it is the task of the Product Owner), but also someone who will check whether everyone is swimming in the same direction, and will point out areas that need correcting (in Scrum, it is the task of the Scrum Master).

But how did Nemo know where the ocean floor was? It’s easy. Every scuba diver will know that air bubbles always float up, regardless of how their head is positioned.

How are we to know, whether everyone is swimming in the same direction?

That is what transparency in Scrum is for…… that’s for another story…

Author: Edyta Drojecka – Scrum Master in Eversoft

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