The thing with the traffic light – stick to the rules?

by sebsonconferences

Back then I  had some discussions about agreed upon rules I wanted the team  to follow (me was coaching) with a manager.  In that situation the manager wanted to do things that were against the rules or simply breaking them. It seemed more easy that way for him, the rules felt to strict in that situation. He told me the following metaphor:

“You know, when you are at a traffic light at night, it’s red, in a small street with no traffic,  and no one is around. Would you stop there for the red light phase?”

Obviously he was pointing out that sticking to the agreed  ruleset in situations where they “obviously” are not making sense is stupid or a waste of time.

I am sorry, especially the red traffic light metaphor is a bad guidance. According to wikipedia (sorry the german one):

one fifth of all fatal accidents (remark: pedestrians) occurs after ignoring a red light or disregarding the primacy order.

That is, according to the same wikipedia page, 108 dead  people (Austrian stats ) and we should take into consideration that these are, to a greater extend as in accidents with only cars involved, kids and old people.

So next time you break/change a rule in your agile team, think about:

  • Does every role involved know it?
    • Team
    • Product Owner
    • Manager
    • Customer
    • Scrum Master
  • Was there time to adopt the rule?
  • Was there time to give some feedback?
  • Did you consider to change the rule at a Sprint End/Start?

This blog post might not be very consistent, but the topic bugs me for some times. So please be patient: I shot this from the hip. And now you can burn me in the comments for being a “dictator” with the “rules” but thinking of 108 (Austrian) kids who could still be alive if everyone involved sticked to the agreed rules would make me halt at night at a traffic light where no one is around and wait for the sprint end to fix the rules when everyone can notice. It’s just 2 weeks (sprint) or 2 minutes (red light) that make the difference …..