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Do away with hierarchy in a Team.

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

My father once told me a story about the wild west. There was a stranger looking to travel across California. He found a man with a stage coach for hire.

"How much is a one-way ticket?" the stranger asked.

"Depends. Do you want a first class, second class, or third class ticket?" The driver said.

The stranger didn't know the difference, so he went to the back of the coach, opened the doors and looked. All of the seats were the same.

"I'll take a third class ticket." He said. He purchased the ticket, loaded his luggage onto the coach and settled in while other passengers began climbing into seats next to him.

Then they set off.

About halfway through the trip, the coach started having to make a steep climb up a hill. The rocks began to get bigger the further up they went, until finally the horses couldn't pull the coach any further.

The driver got out and opened the door.

"All of you 3rd class and 2nd class passengers get out." He shouted, and they all did as they were told.

"Now the 3rd class passengers, get behind the coach and start pushing. Do everything you can to get this coach up and over these rocks. The 2nd class passengers walk along side the coach but if we get stuck again, you have to help. Now start pushing!"

So while the 1st class passengers sat inside and watched, the 2nd class passengers walked beside the coach waiting to be told to help, and the 3rd class passengers sweated, groaned, and pushed the coach up and over the rocks.

When my father finished the story, he looked at me and said, "In a team, there should be no classes."

In teams there should be no hierarchy (or "classes"). That has always resonated with me. Everyone should be helping to push that coach over the rocks and up the steep hills. There should be no one on the team that consider themselves "1st Class" and sees the work as beneath them. There should be no "2nd Class" that have to be told when to help, they should just jump in and do it.

Being on a team means everyone is equal. You fail as a team and you succeed as a team. If your team has started to create a class-system within itself, I encourage you to raise the issue for discussion. Help your team figure out how to ensure everyone is able to contribute in an equal and meaningful way. Below are some resources that can help: Ben Linders: Characteristics of a Successful Agile Team



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