Vote ‘Em Off The Island

Does anyone still watch the “reality tv” show Survivor? I can’t say that I ever really did watch Survivor but the concept of voting someone off the island has been burned into my memory for better or worse. In a way, I wish it was burned into the memory of every agile software development team member.Survivor Tribal Council

Agile software development teams are self-managed and one of the words of advice I’ve never hesitated to give to those teams is that you always have the option of voting someone off the team. People often look puzzled when I give this advice. The first question they almost always ask is, “We can do that?!” Yep, you can do that. One important guideline to remember is that the same “rules” used against one person to be voted off the team can and will be used against you if need be, so don’t make that decision lightly. This means that if Frank’s annoying rants about Smurfs being Communist propaganda are enough to get him kicked off the team, then don’t be surprised if you find yourself off the team for telling one too many knock-knock jokes. Or something like that.

The point is that self-managed team members have the power to say who is and isn’t on their team. It’s healthy for teams to get an unproductive member off the team after working with that person to address his or her problem(s). If improvements aren’t being made then it’s likely time to consider voting that team member off the island…errr…team. Management shouldn’t have an issue with this unless they observe the natives are being petty and unfair. Management should have an issue if their self-managed teams don’t feel they have the power to vote someone off their team and act as such. One sign of a healthy team is the ability to handle intra team issues in a professional manner, especially those issues that potentially require removing a member from the team.