Scrum Gathering Munich – Social Objects in Agile Teams

Dilbert Considered Harmful? Social objects in Agile Teams

This session by David Harvey was part of the O (Other/Miscellaneous) track.

It is built around the idea that certain social objects in teams and workplaces can be caused by underlying issues.

His main example are the dilbert cartoons, that are sometimes found on walls in offices.


Why would anyone hang this cartoon on his wall? Maybe they have issues with management? Mistrust, feeling misunderstood, disillusioned, …

David launched the following model that show different steps which can lead to these social objects:

Frictions => Work arounds => Waste => Frustration => Cynicism =>Embedded in organization

He included some scientific experiments that have shown people’s behavior is influenced by their social environment.

Then the attendants were asked to divide into pairs and think about social objects form their own experiences. Lots of stuff came up. I give you a few:

Pictures of beautiful people in suits
Who hung these in the office? They are of no use to the dev teams, what is the point behind this?

• Lots of technical books displayed in an open cabinet.
If these books are not used, what statement do they make?

Cluttered desk with lots of papers piled up
Is the person whom the desk belongs to making a statement about his workload?

Cartoons about testing
Is testing a passion of this person, or is he visualizing his frustration about the lack of it?

I liked the session because I ‘ve never spent a lot of time thinking about these things. There may be a lot more going on.

David concluded by asking how we should approach these social objects?

Carefull is the answer that‘s always returning. We should try to find out the history behind them. Don’t remove them hard-handed; try questioning them carefully, maybe during an office rearrangement. And please use the information to do something about the causes.

About Nick Oostvogels

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant. My biggest strengths are located in the fields of teamwork, motivation, leadership and continuous improvement. In the IT industry you find a lot of these values in the agile movement, in which I often act as a project leader, product owner or coach. My interests go a lot further, into other industries where we find these values in lean production. Besides that, I try to broaden my horizon as much as possible, always looking for better ways of doing business.

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