The Scrum team spirit

Do you like stories? In the story about the traveller, the stone-cutter, the stonemason and the cathedral builder, I feel the Scrum teams are like the stonemason, fearful to be turned back into stone-cutters, at a glance from the sponsor or the project manager, where we would have them become cathedral-builders.


A Scrum team may say: “Just tell us what you want, share your priorities and we’ll build it for you; don’t tell us how we should work.” It’s not asking very much and it’s a condemnation of much modern management that expectations are so low.

However, we could offer much more. “This is why we need the work, for which we are accountable; if you can help us with our priorities, you decide how the work will be done.” Providing that the Scrum team show interest in why the work must, should and could be done, it’s up to them how they want to ‘scrum’.


Management stories can be fascinating: At the time of the great cathedrals and other constructions, skilled gang leaders throughout the land; the master masons, architects, carpenters (still ‘maître d’oeuvre’ in French) and the ‘master builders’ like on the great ships (still ‘maîtrise d’ouvrage’ ). The members of the team were later called 'compagnons' in the 'compagnonnage' movement.

These artisans and freemen, staunchly resisting the influence of the church and the aristocracy, created a sense of mystery and ritual. Gradually they edged towards cult-like behaviors, that some trace back to the crusades.

At the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries modern scientific management practices, traceable arguably to Henri Fayol, created the idea of the professional manager. Interestingly, Gantt is often described as a ‘disciple’ of FW Taylor. Given that agile methods can get cast by some as a cult and when innovation teams invest in ‘mindfulness’, we need to keep our feet on the ground and our heads in the real world.  

rss : Ian Stokes, Project Leader and Advisor

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