Passion Required

The baseline assumption in Scrum is that everyone involved is willing and keen to do a good job with the work in front of them to the best of their ability.  In the organisations that I’ve worked this is mostly true.  But I don’t think it is enough for an awesome team.  Passion is still required.

Passion is required to be awesome
I’ve worked with several different teams and people doing agile types of things in the last couple of years.  The benefit of moving jobs is increased exposure to the diverse ideas and interpretations of Scrum and agility in general.  With that exposure I’ve seen that many teams are completely happy with what they are doing.  They appear to believe they are good enough for the situation they are in.  Others think they are already doing awesome things.  Or they think that it is impossible to do more awesome things based on their special circumstances.

The significantly better teams are those that contain people who are truly passionate about making a difference in the way they work.  They engage and don’t just shrug things off as the way they are.

Too many teams lack passion.  Too many teams fall short of the awesome they could be.

Sometimes awesome isn’t required
Some teams appear to believe they are good enough for the situation they are in.  Sometimes this could be true.  When mediocre is good enough – for the team members, the PO, the customers paying for the software – then it becomes hard to drive improvement as there is no pressure to change or get better.  They are good enough.

Sometimes passion isn’t desired
When awesome isn’t required – passion can be a disruptive influence.  The passionate ones can be the disrupters, breaking the status quo.  They push for things they believe will make the processes and delivery of software and business value better.  But these aren’t necessarily exposed by the pressures of the environment.  They aren’t being acknowledged by the team jointly.  They are just exposed by the desire to get better at what you do.  And it is possible that in the scenario they are now in – they might not work the same.  In these scenarios group buy in is hard to attain – particularly from those who like the status quo.  You need to pick the battles for the things that that majority will buy in to – where the team will actually acknowledge the pain.  And slowly grow the knowledge that there are other ways to do things.

Perhaps the people who are passionate about being awesome will naturally either change their organisation or change their organisation – hopefully for one that does need passionate people whose drive is to be awesome at what they do.

But what if awesome is desired?
What if there isn’t much passion? How do you enable a team to be passionate?

I expect that an organisation can provide a space for motivation – through things like autonomy, mastery and purpose.  These seem to be things that will drive and unlock passion.  But it will always be an individual action.  The individual has to take the step to want to learn more, want to get better – and can see that there are other ways of doing things that are worth trying.  I do imagine being surrounded by a team of passionate people could help ignite passion in others.  But it still will always be an individual choice to engage.

Passionate about agile?
At the agile coaching retreat ( in November I proposed an open space on developer skills in agile software development.  The end result of that conversation was – go and find the passionate people and harness them to grow a critical mass – at least in the environment you are in.  As without the passion and desire you will often be wasting your time.  Passion is key to trying hard to learn and get better at something.

And me?
What I’d really love to do is start a team where a key hiring / entry requirement for everyone was the passion to do agile software development right.  I think that would be a recipe for true awesomeness.