I've recently taken on the role of Scrum Master at the office, something I agreed to do in order to try out some new tools and techniques such as user stories and planning poker.  Making the switch from engineering software to engineering team results has been enlightening.  Keeping the pigs productive and the chickens out of the sausage factory has been exhausting.  This is due in no small part to sudden layoffs and subsequent attrition that directly impacted the teams. 

Four weeks as Scrum Master in this environment has reactivated my dormant psychology degrees.  Anyone exposed to psychology knows that fear is the fuel for a lot of animal behavior (e.g., two of the the four basic "F's": fighting, fleeing, feeding, and reproduction).  Some animals act independently to ensure their own safety; others act selflessly to ensure group survival.  Team members fall in line accordingly:

When team members are afraid, they will act in either their own interest of self-preservation, or in the interest of team survival.

I'm making no value judgments here - I would never fault anyone for doing what they feel is necessary to protect themselves and their family.  This is merely observation. 

Let us consider the fear shared across the team: losing their job.  Some act to ensure their own survival: they leave the team for a more stable environment; they hoard tasks to protect their value to the company by having a lot to do; etc.  Others act to the benefit of the group: they seek out improvements to the team processes to help compensate for loss of resources, they maintain their value to the company by moving into vacant but necessary roles; etc.

The longer I'm in the Scrum Master role, I can see the axiom apply to more and more individual behaviors.  Fears will vary, responses too; but the pattern tends to hold true.

Next time: Coping with the Fear of Changing Code