Mad Scientist Diversity

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Mad Scientist Diversity

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We were having a discussion in my Moose Herd the other day about aspects of diversity in constructing your agile organizations and teams. And there were three key themes that came out of the discussions that I’d like to share.

I mentioned the work of the team as the true value proposition. Leaders need to serve the teams and that includes how they recruit, hire, and onboard folks into the culture.

The true magic of agile teams is NOT in the organizational structure, or the leadership experience level, or in the detail of your project plans, or whether they’re practicing Scrum or Kanban.

Instead, it’s pulling together an empowered, cross-functional team that—

  • Has a focused mission or goal;

  • Have matured their agile mindset;

  • Feels and operates with safety;

  • Have intentionally formed and established itself as a team;

  • Has a diversity of skills & experience to deliver on their mission;

  • Is strongly connected to the customer;

  • Has the organizational trust to meet their commitments.

Then creating the cultural ecosystem where they are supported, trusted, challenged, mentored, and encouraged to succeed. 

If you get the balance right between leadership and team accountability, then magic happens.

I heard James Surowiecki give a keynote speech in ~2006-7 where he explored the work he had done in his 2005 book The Wisdom of the Crowds.

In it, he explored the power and impact of a group over that of the lone genius in solving problems. I would also extend that to creatively and innovatively solving those problems. Following the first theme, I’ve always felt that the true power of agile teams lied in their diversity of experience and thought. But you don’t get that by cobbling together the “same old” demographics in your teams.

Instead, you have to be disruptive.

Intentionally seeking out different sorts of people. Looking to disrupt the status quo when it comes to your typical team mix. Things to focus on include, but not limited to—

And the broader, the better.

In the discussion, I said that I often thought of my leadership role in team-building as a bit of a mad scientist. In that, I would stretch my organization and myself to continuously step out of my/our comfort zones when it came to diversity in recruiting and team composition.

Hiring someone who was wildly different from my current team members. Someone that I might never imagine joining our company. That is way outside of my comfort zone.

But putting on the mind of a Mad Scientist by running diversity experiments. Pushing myself to simply—try it. To see what might happen. To see what the possibilities are. To see what might emerge.

I found that my experiments always resulted in better teams, better collaboration, and better results.

I want to thank the Herd for entertaining my diversity topic and for the depth of the discussions.

A final point that emerged is that hiring for diversity isn’t easy. It isn’t easy to disrupt. But it’s really worth it. So, it’s worth the extra effort to ACT and—

  • Expand your recruiting landscape;

  • Wait for a more diverse candidate to arrive;

  • Network in more diverse communities;

  • See beyond your current limits;

  • Develop people into roles;

  • Challenge your status quo;

  • Pay more, compete for more diverse candidates 😉

And experiment, experiment, experiment…you Mad Scientist.

Stay agile my friends,


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