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The Case of Workplace Inertia and Scrum

9 April 2014

James Hannon

As we have all seen over the past ten years, the economy has struggled to gain any considerable momentum. Business activity makes small forward movements, then seems to take three steps back. In the modern-day enterprise, workers are left with a sense of insecurity and the constant threat of being cut in the next round of layoffs. However, the workers also seem to have taken on a protective cover of camouflage where they believe that risk taking is not just bad, but very bad. The star employee of yesterday now has become timid and is not the one who speaks up and volunteers to take on that risky project in the work place today. This mentality can be understood to some point, but do we truly understand the fundamental work place changes this mentality makes to projects?

In the project team of today, your team usually consists of three types of personalities. The predominant one is what I like to call "I do what I am told, no more, no less." This person is there to pick up a paycheck, sadly, and will do what is requested of them but usually no more and no less. The second type of personality is the one to say, "Let's talk about what has to get done," but nothing ever really happens. These people usually present a very good front and talk a good game, but there is no real work accomplished. The third personality is the "80/20" person. These are the small amount of people who do the majority of the actual work in the project. I know you, as a reader, are thinking this is very negative, but at times reality can be very negative. According to a recent Gallup employee engagement survey, roughly 70 percent of the U.S. workforce is not fully reaching their potential. These are employees who are not engaged or are fully disengaged! This causes a considerable drag on the economy and the relationships that companies have with their customers.

So how do we even start to address this issue presented in the Gallup survey? The answer always seems to point back to Agile and Scrum. The whole concept of Agile is that it will empower your workers and give them the chance to be accountable. This statement sounds great, but what is the real root cause of the lack of accountability? The economy has driven this lack of accountability and encouraged camouflage to be proudly be worn by employees. The actionable step to make this change is to ask one simple question of senior management: "Why do you want to go Agile?" The senior management team must provide an excruciating examination of the organization and its needs to change. This change cannot be like a line in the sand where the sea can continue to erode it, but rather like a line in cement that all people in the company need to cross. Once this examination is done, the case of workplace inertia will quickly go away, or firms will not survive.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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