A few years ago there was a very funny movie on the Internet. A group of World of Warcraft gamers came together online for a challenge. Together they plan to battle with dragons. Lots of dragons. A difficult challenge that they serve well to prepare. Spells are cast to each other for more power. Weapons are prepared and there is a tactic devised and if everyone sticks to the plan, it will succeed. Then there will be fame and fortune for all. But the group did not take into account one team member. Leeroy Jenkins. While everyone is preparing, and all members of the team know that they cannot just walk in the big room, Leeroy has something else in mind. He’s not really focused. Maybe he went to the bathroom. Whether he had not read the memo or a lack of interest, as the group prepares for the fight, Leeroy jumps up. Shouting lustily his name and rushes into the room and his certain doom.
The funny thing is that the whole team at that moment abandons everything and follows blindly. And because they forget everything they have agreed upon they also run towards a certain doom. Communication is a mess and everyone is for himself in the hope to save something from the situation. It is also peculiar that they blame Leeroy for everything. His action is not convenient but certainly not what is making the team go down.
I know this is just a game and not the real world. But it does show something that often happens in the real world. At companies and in project teams we see the planning of very interesting and worthwile projects. There is a lot of thinking and planning involved. Risk-management and so on. People know how what the risks are and the intention to work together is on a high priority at the start of every project. But often it goes wrong and thing don’t go according to plans. Maybe not so much because of a single person but as soon as things go blurry, people run blindly into the mouth of madness. Instead of stopping, inspecting and adapting, project sometimes just keep on running like a runaway train. Everybody is involved and risk plans and rules are forgotten. And this is strange because those where thought up just to prevent these sort of things. We have learned that looking to far ahead does not work, but you can prepare a little bit. But when things go wrong we often wait to long before we act.
In scrum there are many ways to intervene. A dedicated scrummaster knows when to grab hold of things and guide towards a better end. One of the most powerful is just to simply stop. Drop everything and have a good look at what is going on. Sometimes scrummasters don’t and they just let things run their course. Because it is also good just to let things explode and see what let to this. But even then a new battle plan is serviced to get things back on track. For Leeroy and his team it was to late, but for a lot of projects it is never to late. No matter what goes wrong or on what level. It is always good to just stop, inspect and adept. And the nice thing about this is that it even demanded when dealing with an agile mindset. You get a second change with every sprint.