Training Wheels and Taking Bets

Most of us can relate to the experience of having training wheels. Maybe at first, they were a help or even a trick to get us to try something we wouldn’t have before.

After we learn we can ride the bike, the training wheels become at best vestigial and at worst a hindrance.

This isn’t in and of itself a problem. As our desire to ride the bike increases. we want to take the training wheels off. We see our friends executing drive turns and hopping over curbs then naturally ask the question: why aren’t I doing that?


The real problem comes when they are ready to shed the training wheels, but they are disallowed.

As a parent of 3 children, I fully understand the need to exercise wisdom when letting children take risks; however, too often a parent does not or cannot recognize the moment when risk moves to uncertainty for a child riding their bike. In that moment, it is much easier for the parent to keep letting the child ride with the training wheels rather than becoming free to fail and improve.

You and your team will likely go through a similar cycle of learning. In the beginning and as you learn, you might be restricted in the actions you can take or how you are allowed to self-organize. As you show you can deliver and effectively self-organize, you should be allowed to remove restrictions designed to minimize the cost of failure.


You and your team need to become free to fail and improve.

You may find yourself in a situation where you and your team are ready to take on more responsibility. Maybe you want to design a daily production push process for your company’s flagship application, but you are getting stonewalled by those calling the shots above you. Maybe your team wants to start conducting its own performance reviews rather than the old H.R. yearly review way of doing things.

You know you and your team can handle it. You feel it.┬áIf only you were given the chance to prove yourselves. Begin to watch for that moment when you can place your bet. It may be a moment when your manager issues a challenge or comment on how she doesn’t see how you could possible push to production more often than monthly. That’s when you pounce!


Issue your challenge!

And make sure you deliver; you’ll only get so many failed challenges before you’ve exhausted your Trust Fund.

This is you and your team leading. This is you challenging mediocrity and fearful thinking. This is you being agile.

Do these things meekly yet with courage. Touting victories or unnecessary braggadocio will work against you eventually. Remember, your goal is to change things, not to elevate yourself by putting others down.


Keep winning these bets, and people will stop betting against you.


Jason is a developer, Scrum Master, writer, teacher, coach, husband, father, and community leader out of Tulsa Oklahoma. He's been delivering software since 2007 and absolutely loves the values and principles of agility especially as given form by the Scrum framework.