Little’s Second Law

One day I was writing down quotes to be printed in a HUGE font and put in the team room. On that day, I thought it would help (and actually, I think for that team, it did help).

Anyway, this sentence came to me:

People are remarkably good at doing what they want to do.

Apparently no one has ever said that, so I now, for fun, I call it Little’s Second Law. To be honest, God gave me the phrase — I did not work to figure it out; it was just there in my brain in one moment.

Again, to have a little fun with Little’s Law (which I agree with, but definitely did not invent), I call it Little’s Second Law.

The other day I was doing a workshop, and someone remarked that people were having fun and being a lot more creative. They implied, somehow, that if a person really wanted to do something, they put a lot more energy into it and the results were always better. Someone said five times more new ideas (of equal value) come out in that situation.

Of course, to many of you, this is obvious, and obviously, intellectually I have had that same idea before. Hence Little’s Second Law. BUT… it’s remarkable how dumb I can be, and I never quite fully made the connection. Or, at least I can say that that conversation in that workshop was an “AHA!” moment for me.

So, two key ideas result for me for Scrum Teams:

  1. Product Owners: It is up to you mainly to get them to feel that they want to do your (or the customers’) stories.
  2. Maybe, at least some of the time, we should (we = everyone, including the team) let them do just what they want to do and see what happens. This is kind of the idea with the Google 20% time.



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3 thoughts on “Little’s Second Law

  1. Matthias Marschall

    I totally share your opinion. If people do not like what they do (or how they do it) they drag their feet.

    And it's really amazing to step back and see what ideas the developers come up with if they get some time to do stuff they like.

  2. Joe Little

    One way of thinking about this is: It is amazing how people respond to freedom. It is almost as if this were our natural state. (I might be being sarcastic when I say this, but not sure.)

    The opposite way is thinking how badly we respond to perceived restrictions on our freedom. As managers, we have to respect that good people deserve respect. Including that they are imperfect, but still respect. So, we must see if they agree that doing X works if 'where it's at'. At least.

    And I agree with your point too. Some people are remarkably creative and productive if you give them free rein. Truly impressive. Some need a bit of channeling, but even they can do great stuff with a bit of channeling.


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