🏰How is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, first staged in 1597, relevant today? What possible linkage could there possibly be between Romeo and a delivery manager? Romeo’s role requires actors to read lines, move about on stage, and engage with the audience. Leonardo DiCaprio was praised for his 1996 movie version, while Leslie Howard’s portrayal in the 1936 black and white film was panned. Henry Irving’s lead role in 1882 at the Lyceum was well received. In 1960, Franco Zeffirelli exploited his Italian heritage to create lifelike street scenes.
🎭 Each of the actors just mentioned uttered the same words, they were given similar stage cues. But each of these actors also brought their own interpretation of the role. Each was unique. So how do we apply this insight to the present? Let’s look at the use of roles in today’s organizations.
👸 What does a product manager, developer, delivery manager, etc, DO? What is their “role” description? Blog after blog describe the author’s ideas about what tasks and responsibilities accrue to roles as they sort through the myriad of tasks and assign them to, for example—product manager, product owner, product specialist, delivery manager, and so on. These role descriptions are necessary, but merely step one in a 3-step process in which the third step is often ignored.
Assign individuals to roles
Adapt role to the individual
👨👨👦 I want to emphasize the oft neglected step three. Similar to how individual actors bring variety to plays or movies, product team members bring their unique talents and experiences to a team. “Team” being the relevant word in the last sentence. The magic of artistic creativity occurs when actors connect with one another. Similar magic occurs when individuals interact with each other on a development team.
As an example, consider the roles of product owner and developer. Let’s postulate that the developer has significant product experience; furthermore the product owner has significant technical experience. Do we keep them in their predefined role cuby holes? Or, do we take advantage of their unique capabilities? Do we hesitate to extend this adaptation of roles to include decision-making? Are we afraid to include the product owner in technical decisions? The answer to this type of question does not lie in the realm of role definitions, but in the realm of how specific individuals interact on a specific team.
🍣 The Agile Manifesto states, “Humans and interactions over processes and tools.” So we should be as, or more, flexible with individuals and interactions as we are with processes and practices. The phrase “learn and adapt” refers to the idea that everything may change, including processes, tools, people, roles, and the time and substance of meetings. Agile is not static; it is dynamic. We forfeit the benefits of agility when we revert to stasis.
Copyright 2023 by Jim Highsmith