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Going from Average to Awesome


Going from Average to Awesome

Why Finishing Early is the Key to Becoming an ‘Awesome’ Scrum Team

In the vast digital landscape of the modern era, companies worldwide use the Scrum framework to manage projects and achieve efficiency. However, not all Scrum teams are created equal. While some deliver outstanding results, others simply tick the boxes. Amazon, a pioneer in the tech industry, recently revealed that a mere 5% of its Scrum teams could be termed as ‘awesome’. So, what sets these elite teams apart?

The Rock Concert Analogy: Team Cohesion Over Individual Brilliance

Amazon’s innovative approach to team formation is reminiscent of organizing a rock concert. Rather than gathering solo performers and expecting harmony, they prioritize groups that have already fine-tuned their symphony. This philosophy underscores the importance of team cohesion. Like a band that delivers a mesmerizing performance due to its chemistry, high-performing Scrum teams exhibit synergy, ensuring the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Unlocking the Secret to ‘Awesomeness’: Finish Early, Accelerate Faster

Among the many variables that can influence a Scrum team’s success, OpenView Venture Partners found a game-changing pattern: Teams that completed their sprints early were categorically more successful. This isn’t just about speed; it’s about efficiency, predictability, and the psychological advantages of finishing ahead of schedule.

The Neuroscience Behind Acceleration

Diving deeper into the “why” reveals intriguing ties to neuroscience. Frison’s Free Energy model of brain function suggests that the brain has evolved to predict and minimize surprises. In doing so, it conserves energy, which can then be directed towards innovation.

When applied to Scrum teams, this model paints a clear picture. Teams that finish early are better at prediction, encounter fewer surprises, and thus save cognitive energy. This conserved energy then becomes a reservoir for innovation, creative problem-solving, and heightened productivity—attributes of an ‘awesome’ team.

Practical Steps for Scrum Masters

For those leading Scrum teams, this insight is invaluable. Here’s how you can integrate this understanding into your management approach:

  • Prioritize Predictability: Encourage teams to set realistic sprint goals, ensuring that they can consistently finish early and foster a mindset of predictability.
  • Harness Conserved Energy: Recognize the cognitive energy saved from finishing early. Use this ‘bonus’ time for brainstorming, team-building, or exploring innovative solutions.
  • Embrace Neuroscience: Understand the science behind team behaviors and leverage it to create an environment conducive to hyper-productivity.

In a world driven by deadlines and productivity metrics, the idea of finishing early is often sidelined. However, as the Scrum community is discovering, it might just be the secret ingredient to transforming an average team into an extraordinary one. By focusing on early completion, harnessing the power of conserved cognitive energy, and understanding the neuroscience behind these actions, Scrum teams can truly reach for awesomeness.

For those unfamiliar with the nuances of Scrum, it’s advised to read “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time” by Jeff and JJ Sutherland. And for those seeking deeper insights, consider exploring “First Principles in Scrum.”