Scrum Agile Project Management

Testing a Scrum Team with the Chaos Lottery

Inspired by NASA astronaut training for solving complex, evolving problems on the fly, the Chaos Lottery is one approach to testing the resilience of a Scrum team. This is a story about knowing what you should do, and finding you are still not quite doing it.

A system’s resilience is tested by stressing it under controlled conditions to find where it will fracture first. Finding where a system is weak before an emergency allows us to prepare and mitigate better. This is true of any system, including an agile team. We know teams with good habits such as TDD, SOLID principles, pair working, Definition of Done, low WIP limits etc. are successful. Intellectually teams know they are a good idea…but… the human brain is a tricky thing, and habits are hard to change. A GREAT team does these things because its habit. It is just what they do. Every time. A GOOD team USUALLY does these things, but there are often reasons they don’t. It is not a habit. Showing a ‘good’ team where they need to improve can be difficult. They may even be in denial any improvement is needed. We know people learn best when can they fail without fear. Enter the Chaos Lottery: one person in the team wins the Chaos Lottery! For a set time they withdraw from contact with their team, immediately and with no handover.
– If the team practice pair working, they know where the work is up to and finishing off without the lottery winner is no problem.
– If the team check code in often, there is no big chunk of inaccessible work, all but the very last bit is checked in.
– If developers and testers work closely, and the tester was the Chaos Lottery ticket winner, the rest of the team know how to continue with out her/him.

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