When I was a kid I wanted to be a Ninja Turtle when I grew up. They were so cool! The four of them successfully overcame any obstacle that came their way. How were they able to do this? How did Splinter create such a Lean and high performing team?
Let’s start by deconstructing their roles and responsibilities.
Each turtle possesses a very specific character trait. These are not necessarily skill sets, but rather archetypes.
Leonardo is the prototypical Leader – he has a vision and takes full responsibility and accountability for the other turtles, often putting them first. His emotional intelligence is very high.
Raphael is a Warrior – he is hot headed, stubborn, but with that comes a strong will and ability to enforce the rules. He is a disciplinarian.
Michelangelo is the Lover – he is amicable, and relate-able and can defuse a stressful situation. He makes friends quickly.
Donatello is the Wizard – he has the mind for problem solving driven by his boundless curiosity for nature and technology. He has a high degree of technical ability.
It’s interesting to note the similarities between the turtles and an effective Scrum Team. Master Splinter being the Product Owner (taking the ultimate responsibility of the team and prioritizing exercises and missions to achieve), Leonardo being the Scrum Master (the servant leader who must keep the team on track to execute on their commitment), and the rest of the turtles acting as the Delivery Team. They are self-organizing and cross-functional, and between them possess the wide range of skills they need to get the job done.
But most importantly they share one significant trait. Their willingness to learn. To overcome some large overarching obstacle (like Shredder) they each have mini obstacles of their own which they haven’t encountered before. The learning is inherent to their growth and abilities as a team. It’s almost like they crave to reach the teetering edge of failure so they can make a ground-breaking realization; then immediately integrate into their delivery plan. Whether hell or high-water, the mission will be delivered. And most importantly they are able to incorporate the learnings in real-time.