Agile, scrum

My thoughts on team leadership

Before I start, I would like to note that this post is about my thoughts on what is a good leader (nothing based on a particular study or article). It is based on my observation of what I considered good leaders and also what I considered bad leaders. In fact, throughout my career, I realized that I could learn from both types of leaders respectively what to do and what I should never do as a team leader.

Following are simple rules and values that I appreciate in the managers I worked with so far and which I try to apply and tie to as much as I can when I manage a team:

  1. Forget about hierarchy. It is an old concept.
  2. Gain the respect of your team not their fear (of eventually loosing their job)
  3. Be available to spend time out of work with your team (lunches are a very efficient way to strengthen your links with your team members)
  4. Bear in mind that you are not smarter or more competent than your team. You just have enough experience to facilitate the work of a team
  5. Convince and do not impose; if you are good enough, convincing your team is the only way to make them take a direction (the one you believe is the best in the circumstances)
  6. Be honest and transparent with your team.
  7. Never try to bullshit your team members. They are not stupid and every time you try to do so, you are losing a share of their respect
  8. Do not try to be a hero. You will be a hero anyway if your team succeeds and delivers
  9. From your standpoint, your team takes all the credit for successes and you are ultimately responsible of your team failures to deliver
  10. You work for your team and not the other way around
  12. Bashing your team members is the same as someone bashing his kids and family; he does not have values
  13. Get the right people on the bus.
  14. Do not hire only people that think like you; hire people that will challenge you. This will help you to grow.
  15. You must learn from your team. If you believe that you cannot or there is nothing to learn from them, then do an introspection – there is something wrong and more likely with you than with your team –
  16. Help your team members to grow and be successful
  17. The best way to make someone do something for you is to give him the desire to do it (Dale C.)

If you think of some other values and/or rules that you believe are essential to be a team leader or team manager. Please share them.

Agile, scrum

How SCRUM helped our team

In 2008, I began work with a client on a new project. The client was a airline and travel agency that needed to rewrite, from scratch, their online travel booking application. The new website had the following primary requirements:

  • Improve end user experience, including performance and security issues;
  • Offer new set of products on the website (Hotel booking, car hiring and insurance purchase); and
  • The new application had to connect to a brand new back-end system.

After learning about their process and project, I suggested that we try a new approach: Scrum. My clients did not know much about Scrum. In fact, the only Scrum-like practice my client had tried was daily meetings. I insisted that using Scrum could help us build software more quickly and build it with higher quality. This was not easy to sell. The client had a number of questions, such as:

  • How can you accurately estimate a project with an iterative process?
  • How can you determine the delivery date of a project if you re-estimate it after every sprint?
  • How can your customer agree on an analysis and “sign it” if you do not have an analysis phase?
  • Isn’t Scrum just a cowboy development process since we do not have a detailed design phase?

I answered their questions or worked with them to find answers. At the same time, I did not pretend that Scrum could solve all of their problems. I did point out what they already knew:  their existing waterfall methodology, with its detailed estimates and phases, only gave the illusion that it could deliver a high quality product with all required features on budget and on time. Scrum, on the other hand, could mitigate some of these risks. After much debate, we decided to give Scrum a try.