Be Reasonable

The title of this post comes from a section of Jeff Sutherland's book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice The Work in Half The Time.  In that section he identifies four kinds of waste, or "Unreasonableness."

Being reasonable sounds ambiguous and subjective.  It's particularly difficult for a CEO, CFO, COO, CTO or CRO to determine what is reasonable and what is not when it comes to expectations of the product and technology teams.

Sutherland discusses these four types of unreasonableness which lead to waste:

  1. Absurdity.  Don't ask the team to work for absurd, impossible goals.
  2. Unreasonable Expectations. When a team has to move from one crisis to the next and its achievements are based on heroic efforts, the team members will experience burnout.
  3. Overburden. Think "Dilbert." Onerous company policies, meaningless meetings, preventing teams from using tools or accessing environments they need to succeed; these all suck up time and energy while delivering no value.
  4. Emotional. This is attributed to the presence of an asshole in the organization--someone who likes spinning up other people and putting them in a tizzy.  This type of person often justifies his or her behavior by claiming they're trying to make people work better, but they're merely indulging the negative aspects of their personality. 
I'm not a fan of using the term "asshole" to describe a colleague.  It's too often used in an ad hominem attack against a political foe.  But Sutherland provides a very good, more objective definition of an asshole in the work environment: "anyone who causes emotional chaos, inspires fear or dread, or demeans or diminishes people."  

The challenge to leaders who want to eliminate the wastes of unreasonableness is to check frequently for signs that their teams are impeded by any of these types of waste.  When they notice symptoms, they should look for root causes in the form of absurd, impossible goals; unreasonable expectations; onerous policies and tasks, and emotional strain created by toxic individuals.  Only an astute leader is capable of identifying and rooting out these impediments to team success.

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