Star Trek


I have a very distinct leadership style.  Those who I work for will attest to this.  I'm not talking about superiors.  I'm talking about subordinates.   In order to help build a culture I am proud of, I uphold altruistic principles.  I am a servant-leader.

Servant-leadership is a philosophy and practice of leadership, coined and defined by Robert Greenleaf. Upon doing my research, I read that Greenleaf felt a growing suspicion that the power-centered authoritarian leadership style so prominent in U.S. institutions (of the time) was not working. In 1964, he took an early retirement from IBM to founded the Center for Applied Ethics. Yes, 1964!

When representing ethical leadership on a grid (see above), the graphic should help put into perspective who leaders are and what leaders do. Egoism: When a person acts to create the greatest good for himself or herself.  You can find people exhibiting this orientation at every level of an organization.   When the organization and its employees make decisions merely to achieve individual goals (at the expense of others), they lose sight of a larger goal.

Utilitarianism: The idea that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its usefulness in maximizing utility or minimizing negative utility.  The focus is to create the greatest good for the greatest number of people.  In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock says "logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

Altruism: The opposite of egoism, a person's primary purpose is to promote the best interests of others.   From this perspective, a leader may be called on to act in the interests of others, even when it runs contrary to his or her own self-interests. In Start Trek III: The Search for Spock, Kirk says altruistically,   "Because the needs of the one... outweigh the needs of the many."

Larry Spears, the head of the Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership for 17 years, identified ten characteristics of servant-leaders in his 2004 article Practicing Servant-Leadership. The ten characteristics are listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community.

Unlike leadership approaches with a top-down hierarchical style, servant leadership instead spawns collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power. At heart, the leader is a servant first, making the conscious decision to lead in order to better serve others, not to increase their own power.

The objective is to enhance the growth of individuals in the organization and increase teamwork and personal involvement.  Exhibiting servant-leader qualities tends to give a leader authority versus power.

Are you a servant-leader?

Scrum Alliance & Star Trek

Live Long and ProsperMax Keeler tweeted that the new Scrum Alliance director is new to Scrum.  I went over to the Scrum Alliance website and I see they have selected Donna Farmer as the new Managing Director.

Beginning October 1, 2010, Farmer will lead the non-profit organization, working with the staff and Board of Directors to realize the organization’s vision and mission.

Lately, there seems to be some turbulence in the Scrum world, after Tobias Mayer resigned from his SA staff role as creative director and renounced his SA certifications of CSM, CSP, and CST.  He then wrote a scathing blog post on the whole thing.  I've also read an email response to his post by the Scrum Alliance, over at the Agile Scout website. The whole situation was really quite disheartening.

I empathize with Tobias and what he went through.  I empathize with the Scrum community, as it evolves and tries to navigate through constant change.

But, let's go back to what Max tweeted about.  Max sent me a link to the source (if it stops working let me know).  Farmer admits to being new to Scrum.  Even though she is, should it matter?

My analogy is the latest incarnation of Star Trek.  When I heard J.J. Abrams was going to be the Director of the movie, I was shocked.  How could the franchise do this to us!?  Abrams admitted he wasn't even a fan of Star Trek.  This was blasphemous to hear.  How could anyone but a fan direct a Star Trek movie?

Well, though Abrams wasn't a fan, he took the franchise in a new direction and made a pretty damn good movie.  I'm not saying Farmer is going to be a savior for the Scrum Alliance but I want to give her the benefit of the doubt.

I will continue to be optimistic about the future of the Scrum Alliance and the Agile Alliance until someone like Ken Schwaber or Alistair Cockburn publish something that counters the very principles they stand for.

So, before we pass judgment on Donna Farmer, let's all get a extra-large popcorn and see how this plays out.

May the Scrum Alliance live long and prosper.

Graphic from

Kobayashi Maru for Projects

Without trying to appear to be too much of a geek, I sometimes code-name a project as Kobayashi Maru. For those out there who are not Star Trek geeks, Kobayashi Maru is a test in which command division cadets at Starfleet Academy are presented with a no-win scenario as a test of character. I use the term for a project in which management gets involved and I'm presented with a no-win scenario.  I doubt they are trying to test character. Rather, it's an example of their lack of understanding project management. I'm sure there are PMs out there who have had management redirect resources from your project to others, only to refuse to narrow scope or push out a delivery date. That is a Kobayashi Maru.  Just because I have a PMP®, don't expect me to pull a rabbit out of a hat.  On a previous program, I've looked management in the eye and reminded them that something will have to give.  Narrow scope, extend the deadline, lower quality expectation, or increase the budget.  Do something or this will be a no-win scenario.

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