Courage? Easy to say, difficult to do

Courage an easy word when spoken, but difficult to action, was a thought that popped into my head after watching the new movie ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. The band spent months creating a 6-minute record that included an operatic piece within the song and trying to get it to market was the challenge.  At that time, all commercial radio stations would only accept new records that were no longer than 3 minutes. The band knew this but decided to follow their artistic temperament with Courage and Passion (CP). The flow on effect of allowing creativity to develop within the band literally change the status quo of rock music today. As part of a Scrum team, we need to have CP to fail, but what if we fear failure and how does that fear response affect us?

Fear was an essential survival tool century ago when humans were out hunting in the savanna for dinner, as it was very likely you were something else’s dinner too. We know fear kicks in the fight & flight response but what does it do to our brains Quoting ‘SUCCESS Magazine’ “Normally, sensory inputs take a long, leisurely route through your prefrontal cortex, where they are evaluated. Logical, abstract moral, and creative thinking all happen here. Fear gives your sensory inputs a short-cut, straight to your emotional, instinctive center: the amygdala.” Creative ways to catch dinner disappears and our brain starts to prepare for a 000/911 event.

How is this applicable to a development team? Thoughts of ingenious ways to solve an issue may disappear if there is a perceived idea that failure = repercussions. The team that has the backing of the stakeholders to (adding an Australian phrase) “Give things a go”, is the same team, that if something happens to fail they learn from it. Either way, it’s a win for everyone including the stakeholders because the team is growing in knowledge and understanding which will naturally result in a far superior product.

Agile methodology is about being a cross-functional, self-organizing team if a team member suffers from a fearful state will that simply absorb it? Possibly for a very short period but eventually there will be a flow on effect. Communication is a very big factor within an effective team and there have been many studies & articles published on this subject. One I came across was written by a faculty scholar at a Canadian University Colleen Sharen “One bad apple does spoil the whole bunch”. It’s an upfront article essentially about the effects on a team and the potential stages team members go through if the issue is not resolved early.

How does this tie into core scrum values? One of the values is courage I mentioned in the opening paragraph “Easy to say, difficult to do”. As members of a Scrum development team, we need courage to:

  • Recognize we do not know something and ask for assistance to gain an understanding
  • Be transparent about development progress when under pressure to complete a task
  • Voice a contradict opinion with a team member in a healthy, constructive way
  • Hold myself and other team members accountable when not meeting commitments to the team
  • Own our mistakes by owing them I mean ‘Identify, Reflect & Redirect’ (IRR)

Scrum artifacts and formal events can assist us in implementing core values in:

  • Daily Scrum gives team members an opportunity to ask or help
  • Product & Sprint backlog provides transparency around our progress
  • Retrospective for team inspection & identify points of action for improvement

I can attest to the fact IRR can be an incredibly difficult and humbling experience sometimes,  but it’s worth the effort, with the rewards in professional/personal growth outweighing the struggle.

*Kia Kaha fellow testers



*Kia Kaha is from the Maori language which translates to ‘Be Strong’


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