The First Rule of Holes
At some point someone made a promise. Now the team is in a bad position and struggling hard to meet the deadlines of the original plan.
I’ve been in that position more than once, and as a Scrum Master I have used the same strategy:
- Working with the customer to lower expectations and make the plan more aligned with reality.
- Find more time for the team to do its work.
The second part would make me cancel everything not immediately helping the team accomplishing its short-term goals. The retrospective meetings were always the first thing that went out the window, and I felt like I was helping the team by doing it.
That was before the first rule of holes was brought to my attention (by Henrik Kniberg).
The first rule of holes: When you’re in one stop digging.
That wonderful quote by Molly Ivins really got me thinking. To bring a derailed train back on track, the solution is not to make the engines run faster. Instead we need to make a careful evaluation of the situation, and find solutions that will help us achieve the end goal of getting the passengers and cargo reach its destination on time.
In software development terms, when the going gets tough, we need our retrospectives the most.
Another way I’ve violated the first rule of holes is the thing I wrote about in my previous post. Although I know that automated tests is one of the best ways to increase productivity, I came up with all sorts of excuses why “it wasn’t for us”. So, I’ve let my teams dig deeper holes and making a bad situation worse.
Yet another common violation is the building up of technical debt. We’re so busy digging for new features that we forget that we have to be able to ascend from the pit. We need to stop digging and clean the small messes before they become drainers of effort.
What holes have you created or ended up in? What did you do about it? I’d love to hear your stories.