At Amazon, we live and breathe our Leadership Principles.
This year, we introduced a new Leadership Principle: Learn and Be Curious.
Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves.
They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.
I’ve been encouraging my two teams to really take some time to think about how they want to execute on this principle by either taking on a goal (we are very goal-oriented at Amazon) that they will work on individually (outside of Scrum) or, use this goal to drive new innovation and opportunity within our platform within our Scrum team.
For the former approach, I asked each team member that has presented a Learn and Be Curious (L&BC) goal to me to back out the time they want to invest from our Sprint capacity. For example, if the Sprint capacity is usually 220 hours, and two team members are working on a L&BC goal, our capacity is adjusted to 180 hours to provide both engineers 20 hours across 3 weeks to deliver on their personal L&BC goal.
Early on in the Sprint, I noticed that the burn down was trending nicely (we use the burn down as just one of many information radiators on my team). Then I noticed a sharp dip over about 3 days which is not unusual for this team. About a week in, the sharp dip continued so I asked about the burn down at the end of stand up one morning wondering if they needed more work.
On the contrary! The team had self organized to ensure that they had enough time to work on their L&BC goals without having to be randomized between the core Sprint work and the L&BC work. This way, with the Sprint goals well in sight, they could take much of the last week to work on their L&BC without having to task switch between Sprint work and their personal goal work.
When you have the privilege of leading a high performing team, they will self organize to optimize for the most efficient and friction free outcome.
As a leader, it is important that you have the right metrics and data to ensure that you can audit as needed and ask the right questions. But, most importantly, stay out of their way and let them do what they do best.