My mother got her driving license back in the eighties, four decades ago. In all those years, she has never had an accident nor has she ever gotten a ticket. Not even a slight paint scratch on any of her cars. Her secret? She hasn’t sat behind the wheel since she passed the exam.
This pretty much exemplifies why time is ineffective for measuring someone’s experience. Sure, you need time to improve your skills, but time alone does not guarantee anything; it just provides opportunities to learn and grow.
In the ever-changing, continuous-improvement-centered world of Agile and Lean professionals, this is particularly remarkable.
Let’s say, for example, that someone who has been a Scrum Master for fifteen years tells you that Developers must commit to completing the work planned during a Sprint Planning Meeting before the end of the Sprint even if they have to work around the clock.
At first, you may think this seasoned professional must be right; fifteen years is plenty of time, but in reality, the Scrum Master is unintentionally demonstrating that the last decade and a half has been a missed opportunity to not only stay up to date with the current version of Scrum but also to understand core concepts of Agile.
In case you didn’t know, the Scrum Guide was first published twelve years ago, in February 2010, the year Shakira sang Waka Waka, the first iPad was presented, and Mark Zuckerberg appeared as the Person Of The Year on the cover of the Times Magazine.
A lot has changed since then, and Scrum is by no means an exception. In the first revision of the Scrum Guide, published in July 2011, the “commitment to complete the work” was substituted by a more realistic “forecasting of what they believe they can complete”. And that’s five versions ago.
To add insult to injury, working overtime goes against the principles of the Agile Manifesto, which was written twenty-two years ago, in February 2001.
You may have encountered somebody like this in your career, people who weave their years of experience as the only argument supporting their lack of expertise and poor judgment.
They make as little sense as my mother unsuccessfully attempting to crank up a Tesla while yelling she owns her driver’s license since 1981, but unfortunately, they are far from uncommon.
Please, don’t become one of those; pay attention to the red flags and try your best to be patient while interacting with them.
On the side of the coin, don’t miss out on highly talented people around you because their lack of seniority or their youth don’t allow you to see their value. Going back to the driver’s seat, Max Verstappen got his license when he was already a full-time Formula 1 driver, winning his first Grand Prix after a mere few months and becoming World Champion five years later.
All in all, from my perspective, time works like a box: the larger it is, the more valuable things you can store inside, but it is its content that determines its worth, not its size.
A dumpster full of trash is way bigger than a jewelry box full of diamonds.
So when you want to assess people’s backgrounds, time is definitively deceitful, but thinking of them like they are on a road trip, their Agile journey if you will, is a very productive approach.
If you wanted to know your friends’ location on an actual highway, you’d probably ask them for signs, landmarks, the surroundings, etc… In essence, you’d be placing them on your mental map to have an idea of where they are now and anticipate the destination of the route they have taken by listening to how they see the world around them.
Just apply those same principles, and you’ll be good to go. Actually, here’s a little piece of advice: ask yourself the same questions from time to time.
Where are you on your Agile journey today? Is it the same place you were twelve months ago? Is your trip providing a valuable experience? Where is the road leading you?
I hope you like the answers. If you don’t, keep improving. In any case, enjoy the ride.