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Enthralling Einstein

"I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.ΓÇ¥

12/17/2010 by Jan Van den Nieuwenhof

Enthralling Einstein: "I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”

Einstein was a Scrum pioneer; look at his quotes and see how they all included messages from the Agile Manifesto or Scrum process & philosophy

“I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”
This quote relates to self-managed teams and empowered individuals. People tend to learn more when they discover things themselves instead of being dictated on how to do or interpret something.
And a self managed team is one of the cornerstones of the Scrum framework. In more traditional environments there is usually a clear chain of command in which:
  • Top management defines the Why & What (mission, objectives)
  • The middle management then decides Who of their team will do it and by When it will be ready. (projects, tasks)
  • Typically middle management also tells their team How to do it; or corporate rules prescribe How things should be done (guidelines, procedures)
This doesn’t create an innovative & challenging environment for the team members. With Scrum you can turn this situation around and build a healthy & pleasant environment in which team members are happy to work in and are invited to learn and find out their own solutions to issues. In Scrum,
  • The product owner (which can be top management) still defines the What & Why of things to be done
  • It is also the product owner who defines to urgency / importance of a story; via the business priority.
  • Using planning poker or any other estimation technique, the team implicitly determines the timing of when the stories will be delivered. On top of this, the team also decides Who will do it.
  • And it’s also the team who decides How to execute / deliver a story / task.
The table below scores the decision power on the five key topics of getting things done (Why, What, When, Who, How). It’s clear that in more traditional environments teams have, most of the time, no empowerment to decide anything. While in Scrum the distribution of decision power is much more evenly distributed (this actually creates a much healthier working environment)
Empowerment Index
And what about the middle management in Scrum?
Well, they become the “Einstein teachers”.
They will be responsible of creating these conditions for their teams, helping the team finding solutions, coaching them to take up responsibility, removing impediments and guarding the Scrum process. Actually they’ll become the ScrumMaster ‘Plus’ (because the management tasks in big corporations extend the role of ScrumMaster: HR, Corporate governance, team budgeting, …)