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The Heart of the Team

by Shelly Warmuth on 10/11/09 04:26:00 pm   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


I've had the opportunity to be a part of some really great teams.  Most of my former teammates are still my friends. In almost every case, the managers have been members of the teams instead of setting themselves apart from us.

They have recognized and played upon the strengths and skills of each member of the team, building us up and accomplishing projects efficiently.  Going to work was fun.  The work itself may not have been, but the camaraderie of the team made the effort worthwhile and exciting.

Recently, I've had the unique opportunity to see this kind of leadership in a new light.  I was priveleged to attend Clinton Keith's IGDA Agile Game Development Webinar.  At the same time, my place of work was going through a dramatic upheaval.  We moved the center I worked at and, along with that, a dramatic and militant management style was introduced.

Apparently, without rules, we have chaos and everything must be repeated three times en masse in order to be understood.  Teamwork is given lip service, as in "The only way we work is as a team", but management is set apart from the rest of the team.  Smoking and creative self-expression are off-limits, but rote learning of corporate mission and quality statements are encouraged.

In required daily huddles, we are told that we will be working under certain impediments and requirements.  Instead of interaction, a "shut up and deal" attitude is expected.  This corporate militant style favors a divide and conquer mentality over creative and collaborative problem-solving.  Seeing these 2 styles side-by-side has given me a unique perspective on the true heart of teamwork and what makes that heart beat.

At the heart of the scrum team is the interaction of the team.  A daily meeting around the task board is interactive, vibrant, collaborative, visual, and tactile.  It is a visual way of showing the goal the team is striving toward and the progress they are making.  They, each and every member of the team, are peers. 

They own the goal.  It's a team effort.  They gather around the board to align themselves with each other, to honor each others' contribution to the effort, and to course-correct when they are missing the mark.  They argue, discuss, share, learn, continually improve, celebrate, boost each other up, and create solutions. 

There is another thing that scrum does for the team:  it creates transparency.  Since scrum depends on collaboration and continual forward progress, problems are addressed by the team as they crop up instead of dealing with them later or covering the problem under a layer of "spin".  

A structured, militant environment will never create a team.  A team works together toward a shared goal.  A group works together toward a goal given to them.  Scrum is messy, and noisy.  It lives, it breathes, it stretches, it morphs and it expands.  Interaction is the heart of the team.  The heart of scrum, is the team.   

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