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August 26, 2011 / KaTe

Tales of the Best Scrum Team in the World; Lesson One: The Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition

The Best Scrum Team in the World is not a fictional character. I helped create it! And though I don’t work with it anymore, it still inspires me. And I’m also haunting it from the grave – I’m still in contact with some of the team members, so I’m still pulling case studies 🙂
I just talked to their Product Owner – Kamil. He described an interesting situation. They were doing a SWOT analysis of the product and a project they are working on. One interesting thing showed up in the “Threats” of the project: Scrum.

Few words of introduction. This team was born in 2009, when they started taking a project over from Finland. They were immersed in Scrum from the very beginning, starting off with two exceptional engineers, adding another amazing people over time. When I was leaving them, looking for new challenges, they were three teams of total 17 people including a Scrum Master and a visionary Product Owner. They are Scrum to the core – they get it, they do it, they feel it – almost transcendentally. So why would someone post Scrum as a threat? One might think that this sticky was put up by a newbie or someone fed up with life lately. Not necessarily.

Let’s look through the Dreyfus model here.

First stage is a Novice, who clings to the rules for dear life, no judgment, just pure compliance.

Second stage is an Advanced Beginner – his perception of situation is still limited, but rules are as important as everything else, not more.

Third stage means someone is Competent – can cope with most cases, plans actions and creates routines.

Fourth is Proficient – has a holistic view, can prioritize and adapt to a situation immediately.

Fifth is an Expert. Experts work with rules transcendentally – they have only guidelines in mind (rules don’t really exist), treat everything intuitively and adapt to new situations.

Observing this team through the time I spent with it I have seen them progress through these stages. They failed few times, learned from it, and sometime later started inventing their own rules. I left them when they were experts already.
When you are an expert in something, you hate being told what the rules are – imagine a backseat driver telling you to change your gear, go slower, or turn less vigorously. Isn’t that annoying? I believe this is exactly why someone treats Scrum as a threat. What is Scrum? It’s a set of rules. Puzzle pieces start fitting together.
Someone felt threatened by rules of Scrum, because he or she is an expert already, and does not need to be reminded of rules. They are too good for it. If this team decided that they don’t need a Product Owner or a Scrum Master, I would not question that.
So, if you are working with an expert team, forget about the rules and stop being their backseat driver. They will surely appreciate it!

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