I just finished reading a great book about how our cranial physiology impacts our behavior and ability to think and interact effectively. The book is called “Your Brain at Work” by David Rock. I enjoyed reading it and found a good number of useful references.
One of the things I started to realize was that the framework presented in this book helped provide a great perspective on why I’d seen so much success with Agile SCRUM. Several things came to mind:
1. In SCRUM, there’s heavy emphasis on letting the “pigs” on the team focus on their work, and not take on too much at any one time. Work is managed in a serial, prioritized stream with individual work items brought to completion prior to taking on additional tasks. In the context of the book, there’s considerable discussion about the limitations of the pre-frontal cortex, where people are best able to take on active thinking tasks, one thing at a time. In addition, trying to do too many things at once can have a significant effect on your IQ. And not a good one.
2. People naturally crave and require regular human interaction. With it, positive feelings emerge, which are key drivers of success. In SCRUM, there’s a significant emphasis on continuous interaction. Daily standups, open communications are front and center in SCRUM.
3. People are hard-wired to gain momentum when working towards something (rather than away). With SCRUM, there are always a new set of goals, that are (or should be) well within reach. Teams are encouraged to work towards those goals. Emphasis is on positive accomplishments. Done well, good things become contagious.
4. People crave and require human interaction. As contrasted to waterfall processes, where it’s very easy for someone to go hide in their corner for extended periods of time, there shouldn’t be a day that goes by without some meaningful interaction. Even if its only the daily standup, everyone should have something to say and be collaborating.
5. Good behaviors are learned through modelling and repetition. Everything about agile, and SCRUM revolves around getting into a rhythm and sticking to it. Those repetitions can become ingrained, providing a great environment for acceleration.
SCRUM is certainly not the only place where these things can occur, but I find it interesting the ways in which setting these patterns in the workplace can correspond to the very fundamental characteristics of the human brain. No wonder this stuff works so well! (and even better that people aren’t bashing their heads into one another).