December 2, 2020

Agilists

News for Agilists

Was Morpheus From the Matrix the Best Ever Product Owner In a Movie? | by Rob Healy | Serious Scrum | Nov, 2020


Fig. 1: Morpheus speaks with Neo, from [4]

As a former Product Owner, I know that much of the Herculean effort this role can require is worthy script material for an Action-Adventure movie. However, to date, it doesn’t appear that Scrum Product Owner — The Movie yet exists. However, there have been several attempts at portraying an exemplary Product Owner in popular movies. Candidates include “Goose” from Top Gun [1] and “Connor” from Highlander [2]. But could the best example of a Product Owner, as defined by the Scrum Guide [3], be “Morpheus” from the Matrix Movies? Read on to decide.

Warning: for those that haven’t seen The Matrix, there will be some spoilers.

You Have To Let It All Go, Neo — Fear, Doubt, And Disbelief. Free Your Mind.

The character of Morpheus was played by Laurence Fishburne 1999’s The Matrix and it’s less popular 2003 sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Before the movies existed, the character of “Morpheus” was in Greek mythology where he was the God of Dreams. Through the movies, Morpheus is depicted as a visionary leader with an unwavering belief that it was his mission to lead his team to “find the One”. This has strong parallels with Scrums stated responsibility of a Product Owner for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Development Team.

Fig. 2: Morpheus addresses the original Nebuchadnezzar Crew, from [5]

You Have To Understand, Most People Are Not Ready To Be Unplugged…

Morpheus is the captain of the Nebuchadnezzar. Its crew is a cross-functional team staffed mostly by former computer hackers that are responsible for maintaining their own hardware, writing software (such as “the woman in the red dress”), and networking requirements to connect with the Matrix. Although the team was responsible for their own actions, the missions and priorities were determined by Morpheus alone. This correlates well with the Product Owner’s duties toward managing the Product Backlog.

Fig. 3: Mouse the designer, image from [6], captions added.

I Can Only Show You The Door. You’re The One That Has To Walk Through It.

Although Morpheus is the captain of the crew and sets the missions, he is not autocratic in his behaviour and encourages members of the team perform to the best of their abilities. Even though his actions are guided by a strong faith, this is tempered by a firm belief in individual choice. This freedom to choose can lead to disappointment. This was evidenced by the treachery of crew member Cypher who decided to follow priorities not aligned with his Product Owner’s vision — in clear contravention of the Scrum Guide. But, despite this act of treachery, Morpheus’ style of servant leadership never wavered and was rewarded by individual acts of leadership from his crew. When Morpheus is captured in The Matrix while protecting his team from an unplanned attack by Agents; Neo, Trinity and Tank decide to launch a rescue mission for him.

Fig. 4: Neo’s Choice, from [4]

We Are Still Here!

But Morpheus as Product Owner doesn’t act alone and has to take into account a broader range of opinions than just his crew. In The Matrix Reloaded, Morpheus, upon reviewing his team’s actions with Commander Locke and the Council of Zion, respectfully defends his decisions and inspires the people of Zion to support his plan to deliver freedom to them. Morpheus displayed tremendous communication abilities to convince the Council, other Captains and then the entire people of Zion of the merits of his strategy.

Fig. 5: Morpheus addresses Zion, from [4]

Don’t Think You Are, Know You Are.

So, as a planner, co-ordinator and visionary leader of a cross-functional team of talented developers, Morpheus is a good example of a Product Owner. As a superb communicator who can manage stakeholder groups and team members he makes himself out to be a great one. At the end of the Matrix Trilogy, Morpheus saw that his dream of ending the 700 year old war between humans and machines had been realised. In realising that vision, unfortunately he managed to lose every single member of his original crew and his ship and his city is in ruins.

So if you are a fan of getting things Done to achieve a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, then Morpheus could be a good role model as a Product Owner. If you are interested in achieving goals without the need to burn out either people or equipment, it’s likely there could be better…

Fig. 6: The Desert of the Real, from [4]

References

  1. “Agile Top Gun — Maverick is Scrum Master, Goose is Product Owner”, Mr Mastery. 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTvNxtEyiBM Accessed on 8 Nov 2020.
  2. “The Highlander Principle”, Pichler, R. 2012. https://www.romanpichler.com/blog/the-single-product-owner/ Accessed on 8 Nov 2020.
  3. “The Scrum Guide”, Schwaber, K and Sutherland, J. 2018. https://www.romanpichler.com/blog/the-single-product-owner/ Accessed on 8 Nov 2020.
  4. “The Matrix: Morpheus’ Best Quotes, Ranked”, Lagiola, S. 2020. https://screenrant.com/the-matrix-morpheus-best-quotes-ranked/ Accessed on 8 Nov 2020.
  5. “Why the iconic iconic costumes in ‘The Matrix’ are about so much more than ‘a black shiny coat’”, Fawnia Soo Hoo, 2019. https://fashionista.com/2019/03/the-matrix-20th-anniversary-costumes Accessed on 9Nov 2020.
  6. “Photo Gallery, The Matrix”, Unknown, Unknown. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0133093/mediaindex/?ref_=tt_mv_close Accessed on 9Nov 2020.

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