Skip to main content

Case Study: Overloaders vs Slackers

Imagine two tribes, the first tribe is referred to by anthropologist as the Slackers.  The anthropologist refer to the other tribe as the Overloaders.  These anthropologist are a crafty bunch, they have devised various methods to study the tribes without the very observant members of the tribes realizing that they are the subjects of experiments.  In fact if we asked the astute tribal people if the anthropologist exist, the people would say no.  They would look at you funny and step away from you, giving you just a bit more personal space.  From the slightly safer distance the people may ask you, why would any tribe wish to have anthropologist.  What happiness could they bring to the tribe?



Never-the-less, we know the anthropologist exist because we, dear reader, are pan-dimensional super intelligent creatures that do not live confined to the bounds of this page.

These tribes collect berries of all types around their villages and transport these berries in handmade containers.  These containers require considerable time to create, people practice for many years to develop the skill to build these containers and only the best are decorated with symbols and given special (almost religious) significance in ceremonies.  The anthropologist have found discarded broken and dysfunctional containers and of course studies of the symbology have launched many PhD theses and careers.

One behavior the anthropologist have observed and studied is thought to be a fundamental cultural difference between the two tribes.  Members of one tribe will not carry baskets of berries without slack space in the basket for more berries.  It is observed to be rather an obsession of these people to adjust the slack space of each basket before they will pick up the basket and move it.  Considerable effort goes into the learning of how many berries of various types to place in containers and how much slack is required for which fruits.  This learning process takes years.  Yet the adults appear to quickly load and pickup baskets.

The other tribe has a unique practice of placing various types of berries into the baskets in such a way as to create a dome on the top that appears to be impractical to carry.  They will not move a basket until the stacking is precise, and take great care in adding the last few small berries to their baskets before lifting and gently but expertly balancing the containers and transporting to the village.  It has been observed that this tribe's children practice piling stones and rocks as young children in a game of learning to acquire the skills.

A compelling theory for the differentiation of these people into their tribes is the DNA differences found on five genes.  Peer review of this theory raises the age old issue of nature vs nurture.

Utilizing this fundamental cultural difference in the tribes behaviors the anthropologist have devised several experiments.  By surreptitiously planting berry bushes of various varieties in close proximity to each other and with measure distances from the two tribes villages, the anthropologist have created similar environments to study the efficacy of the tribes methods.

Now dear reader, predict which tribe has the most efficient method for berry transport.  Overloaders or Slackers - which is your projection of efficiency?  Please take into account the total quality of product delivered, for a crushed berry is wonderful in jam on toast but will stain a basket.

Did you have great reasons for your answer?  I'm sure you can sustain quite the debate with any opponent of your theory.

Does your theory matter - is efficiency the measure we wish to judge a society upon?  Perhaps we do... perhaps we have the veil of work pulled over our eyes.

Morpheus: “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.Neo: What truth?Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.”

The Bushmen Who Had the Whole Work-Life Thing Figured Out - NY Times article by James Suzman.
The possibility that our hunter-gatherer ancestors might not endure an unremitting struggle against the elements first came to public attention in the 1966. It followed a series of studies conducted by a Canadian anthropologist, Richard Borshay Lee, among the Ju/’hoansi “bushmen” of the northeast of southern Africa’s Kalahari. He was surprised to learn that Ju/’hoansi spent only 15 hours a week securing their nutritional requirements. Given that in 1966 the 40-hour week had only recently been introduced for federal workers in the United States, these figures appeared extraordinary. It was on the basis of this, that Ju/hoansi and other similar hunting and gathering people came to be referred to as “the original affluent society.”
Post a Comment

Most Popular on Agile Complexification Inverter

Situational Leadership II Model & Theory

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought the technique needed to move forward was one thing, yet the person leading (your leader) assumed something else was what was needed?  Did you feel misaligned, unheard, marginalized?  Would you believe that 54% of all leaders only use ONE style of leadership - regardless of the situation?  Does that one style of leading work well for the many levels of development we see on a team?

Perhaps your team should investigate one of the most widely used leadership models in the world ("used to train over 5 million managers in the world’s most respected organizations").  And it's not just for the leaders.  The training is most effective when everyone receives the training and uses the model.  The use of a ubiquitous language on your team is a collaboration accelerator.  When everyone is using the same mental model, speaking the same vernacular hours of frustration and discussion may be curtailed, and alignment achieved, outcomes …

Where is Shakespeare When We Need Him?

We are desperately searching for a term for people that connotes the best of human kind.  The creative, sensing, combinatorial synergistic, empathic solutioning persons that have yet to been labeled with a role name that works.

Some of the old terms:
Staff, Workforce, Human Resource, My Team, Army, Company

Shakespeare created 1700 words in his time.  He mutated verbs to nouns, and vice-a-versa, transformed verbs into adjectives, and formed words from whole cloth never before heard.  This skill is rare, but there is a poet that can create the term we need in the twenty-first century.

What should this term define?

21st Century Human Resource; the generalizing specialist.

Yes, but what more?  What less?

Suggest your poetry in the comments, let us see if we cannot do 1/1700 as well as The Bard.

By-the-way; who create the phrase "coin a word"?



A TED Play List - How do you create new words
6:52
Erin McKeanGo ahead, make up new words! In this fun, short talk from TEDYouth, lexicographer Er…

Team Performance Model - by Drexler and Sibbet

Many of you have all heard of the Tuckman model of team dynamics (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing).  It was created in 1966 and has become the most popular model for describing team behavior.  Is it time to level up in your mental model of team dynamics?  Are you ready for a richer more functional model?



Introducing the Team Performance Model by Drexler and Sibbet



Orientation - Why am I here?
"Orientation is about understanding the purpose of a team and assessing what it will mean to be a member.  you need to understand the reason the team exist, what will be expected of you and how you will benefit from membership.  In a new team, these are individual concerns, because the group is only potentially a team.  that is why these concerns are illustrated as occurring in your imagination at an intuitive level.  As a team leader it is important to provide time and space for people to answer these internal questions themselves."

Keys to when Orientation challenges are resolve…

PEZ -or- Why one shouldn't track Scrum Tasks in Hours

I've been called to task - asked why I teach teams to distinguish between Task Hours and some non-denominational non-specific non-absolute unit.  The latest team I guided used PEZ!  As in the daily stand up a person might be heard to say:
"Yesterday I was working on the code to DisCombobulate the GUID so that we could distinguish customers from guest and the task to peek into the hashed session state was harder than I anticipated - I will need 2 more PEZ to get that done today."
Benefits of "Task Points"

Because it works and is more fun.  Not a sufficient and rational reason.

Because it's a fractal of the concept of Story Points.  Not a practical enough reason.

Because it encourages transparency and acknowledges that we are really bad at estimates.  Not sure we wish to propagate that notion.

Because Scrum has a value of Openness and in that sprit - can we admit that a team of 7 people doing 50 "hours" of tasks a week is really a poor metric.   Is t…

Elements of an Effective Scrum Task Board

What are the individual elements that make a Scrum task board effective for the team and the leadership of the team?  There are a few basic elements that are quite obvious when you have seen a few good Scrum boards... but there are some other elements that appear to elude even the most servant of leaders of Scrum teams.









In general I'm referring to a physical Scrum board.  Although software applications will replicated may of the elements of a good Scrum board there will be affordances that are not easily replicated.  And software applications offer features not easily implemented in the physical domain also.





Scrum Info Radiator Checklist (PDF) Basic Elements
Board Framework - columns and rows laid out in bold colors (blue tape works well)
Attributes:  space for the total number of stickies that will need to belong in each cell of the matrix;  lines that are not easy eroded, but are also easy to replace;  see Orientation.

Columns (or Rows) - labeled
    Stories
    To Do
    Work In P…