Aug 28, 2012

Viking laws for tech teams

Viking laws... An oxymoron to most people, I'm sure. That's not surprising given that the Men from the North have long been depicted as drunken primitive barbarians, only interested in pillaging and looting (what's wrong with that anyway?). After all, History is written by the victors, in this case Christian victors who probably had no fascination for paganism and polytheism. Most of what we really know about the Vikings comes from the famous Sagas, which were only written at the very end of their civilization (12th-14th centuries).

According to these Sagas, Vikings *were* civilized and organized. Actually, the oldest parliament in the world is the Icelandic parliament founded in 930AD in ├×ingvellir: a stunning location with cliffs and waterfalls, straight out of Wagner's Ring (do not miss it if you ever visit Iceland). Free men met there regularly to solve disputes and take decisions according to law, which was memorized and recited by the "law speaker". And for the next three hundred years, "one man, one vote" was the rule.

Some of these laws, or at least their underlying principles, have been documented around 1250 in the "King's Mirror", an ancient Norwegian text meant for the education of the King's son on commerce, military tactics, etc. A modern, business-oriented summary of these principles appeared some years ago in a book called "The Viking's Guide to Good Business" (ISBN-10: 997985622X). It's a nice, short read and you should be able to grab a copy for $0.99 :)

Another set of Viking laws is floating around, although I can't seem to pinpoint their origin:

  • Find out what the market needs 
  • Do not make promises you cannot keep 
  • Do not demand over-payment 
  • Arrange things so that you can return 
  • Keep things tidy and organised 
  • Arrange enjoyable activities which strengthen the group 
  • Make sure everybody does useful work 
  • Consult all members of the group for advice

And so, in my next posts, I will indeed go medieval on you and discuss how this wisdom from the past may apply to today's agile, high-performing tech warriors. I might even use some real-life examples (PH34R!), although names will be changed to protect the stupid and incompetent.

Oh, I'm afraid none it of will be remotely PMP, Prince or ITIL compliant. It will be fun, then :)


  1. Just a small comment.
    Th oldest parliament seems to be Poliochni in Lemnos (the place were i was born) in Greece

  2. Then Wikipedia disagrees with itself:

    You're probably right, though :D