What have exploding ants got to do with Scrum?

 In Team and Leadership

Exploding Ants

Reading the newspaper over breakfast this morning, I came across an intriguing article regarding a newly discovered species of ant in Borneo, the Colobopsis explodens ant. This got me thinking about the mindset that Scrum Team members should have.

This ant will pay the ultimate sacrifice in service of the colony, should a predator approach the colony, the last line of defence is the ant’s ability to explode itself. The ant will latch itself onto the predator by biting it and then expand its abdomen so much that it explodes itself covering the predator with a highly toxic and sticky goo. The outcome of this process is that both the predator and ant die. This is the ultimate sacrifice of the ant in service of the colony: it puts the survival and success of the colony over its own.

What has this got to do with Scrum teams you might be asking yourself?  Well, in fact, quite a lot. I am not suggesting Scrum team members should explode themselves in service of the team. I’m not sure health and safety or the personnel department would like that much! But what is important is that, like the ant, Scrum team members serve the team and put the team’s needs above their own, putting the team first for the success and health of the team. Much like the ant puts the survival and success of the colony over their own needs.

Scrum is a team game and it is the team that win or lose. It is not of much importance if one team member has a fantastic Sprint, but the team do not achieve their goal.  We win as a team and we lose as a team.  For this mindset to flourish, all Scrum team members must serve the team first and put the team’s needs over their own. They should do today whatever it is the team needs them to do, allowing the team to succeed and achieve their sprint goal. If I’m a software developer and today I need to perform exploratory testing on a newly built Product Backlog Item to help the team achieve the Sprint Goal, then that is what I should do. If I’m an analyst and the best thing for me to do today is sit with the developer and pair all day, then this is what I should do. If the best thing for me to do today to help the team achieve the Sprint Goal is to make tea and coffee for the team all day, then this is what I should do.

As a Scrum team member I put the needs of the team over my own, I serve the team, I hold and honour the team’s agenda and if we all do that the team succeeds and is healthier for it. What’s more, in doing so, we as individuals also succeed.

Scrum team members; think and act like the Colobopsis explodens ant, but don’t go quite as far as exploding yourselves!

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