Q&A with University Scrum Students: Reaping Rewards from Joy in Agile

This is part four in a series of blog posts derived from a one-hour Q&A session I had with University of Alabama students who were using my Essential Scrum book as the core of their course curriculum. You can read the prior three blog post here:

In Chapter 1 of Essential Scrum, you list one of the benefits of using Scrum is that as Scrum teams experience more joy, it can lead to real economic benefits. Why?

Scrum provides more joy for all participants—from the inspired team members all the way to the delighted customers!

It starts with a foundational agile principle to leave individual silos and come together as one cross-functional, self-organizing, cohesive team. People who work this way enjoy frequent and meaningful collaboration, leading to improved interpersonal relationships and greater mutual trust among team members.

The joy continues with short-duration sprints, which can help rejuvenate the excitement that is often lost over the course of a long, grueling project. It is human nature for interest and excitement to decline the longer we have to wait for gratification (see image below).

Excitement Over Time

If we work on a very long-duration project, not only are we more likely to fail; we are also more likely to eventually lose enthusiasm for the effort. With no visible progress and no end in sight, people begin to grow disinterested. When I worked at IBM, we used to call these the “boil-the-ocean” projects, because they would take a really long time and a lot of effort to complete, if ever, like trying to boil an ocean. Toward the end of such projects people would be willing to pay someone to get moved to a different project!

Short-duration sprints keep participant excitement high by delivering working, validated assets frequently. The gratification from early and frequent deliverables rejuvenates our interest and our desire to continue working toward the larger goal.

As to how that happiness translates into economic benefits (besides the economic value generated by creating a product that delights customers)—it’s simple really. Unhappy people leave. And it costs a great deal of money to replace them. Happy people tend to stay—and the longer a team is together, the more efficiently they work and the more cohesive they become.

In the end, teams are happy, customers are delighted, so the company should both make more money and spend less money. Bottom line, joy is good business.

Next Up: Building a Career in Agile

The University students were interested in how I progressed in my career to the point where I formed my training and coaching business called Innolution. I cover those questions and answers in the final blog in this series: Building a Career in Agile.