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From 1 to Many: Simple things about Teams.

January 12, 2012

How it started

Today I was working out some slides I have on Agile & Scrum Intro… and I have this slide that describes what a Scrum Team is:
  • 5 to 9 people
  • Cross-functional (Programmers+ testers+ UX+..)
  • Members should be full-time
  • Self-organized
  • Collaborative
  • Autonomous, regarding how to achieve commitments
  • Self-managed
  • Stable – same team throughout the product sprints
  • Negotiates commitment with Product Owner
This is ok. This is important. Nevertheless this is just a small part of it. Actually, this is almost nothing.
So I started thinking about how little it is to say just this.
Then I thought how easy it is to have  events and practices like daily scrums, timebox and  planning sessions  in place. You can do this pretty easily and you don’t even need to have a team for it… you’ll be ok with just a group of individuals. Just play out the drummer beat and they’ll follow.
But then, you find out this is just the beginning. It won’t work just because you’re doing it.. if you can’t see and get real value from it, then it’s all wrong and pointless. Waste.

Cargo Cult Phenomenon

Following every SCRUM practice while it has no meaning to those using it will just make them look ridiculous and make them  waste their time. Actually there’s a name for this: Cargo cult, check this video and remember it every time your daily scrum is pointless.
 BTW, don’t think this will never happen to you just because you use clothes and have a degree, it will happen, it may even be happening right now and actually it’s even worst cause you have access to more info than they have!

 Where Teams come from

Teams are usually born from some managers decision, who puts people together according to their skills and project needs. Thin balance. Then everyone will expect you to work as team. But you need time to grow yourself as a team, and you need a purpose…kindness and a lot of good will. You need to want it first. To see value from doing it.

I see people as runners. I may say they are all running for the same team, but in the end, everyone will try to score the first place, last thing that will cross their minds is to look back and reach out for the last mates.

As a Scrum Master, as a proud employee I actually don’t want that to happen. I don’t want people to wait for the slow runners. I want my team to win and I want them all to be fast.

So, there is no magic potion to make this happen. No silver bullet. You can dress them up all alike, link their prizes and defeats..whatever. It won’t work. You’ll still have fast and slow runners.

People will get even less motivated, conflicts will rise, along with the will to abandon the team (and trust me, you won’t get rid of the slower runners.. you’ll lose both the slow and the fast runners). And this will happen to you as well.

I believe there’s one thing you can do. I don’t know if it will work with you. I’m not here to sell silver bullets (hate them. my favorite has always been the werewolf).

From 1 to Many

Take them all to the start point. Point out where’s the finish line. Then tie their legs to each other.

They’ll figure out how to get to the end all together. Yes, you’ll have casualties during the first meters. They’ll discuss, argue, complain, some will even try to quit or start a fight – that’s when you should be around and remember why they’re there and point out the finish line. Focus on finish line.

They will figure out out to deal with faster runners and slower runners. They’ll figure out whom should be in the middle whom will be better outliners.  And in the end you’ll be amazed by how simple and adequate it was the way they figured out to do stuff.

You won’t have 1 but many runners. They’ll all improve their timings and grow stronger, together.

Working Teams

 So, back into Software teams, as we can’t tie their legs (literally) one thing  we can do is to challenge them to write down their Team values and Working agreements.
Team Values
Team values are the team beliefs-  We’re now like a family, we should have our values, they will define us as a team.
– “We will never leave a member behind.”
Working agreements
Working agreements are practical rules everyone agrees as, e.g.,  Pair working, frequent code check-ins… whatever keeps your team at a steady, rhythmic pace.
– ” We keep the pace of the slowest runner”
Writing all this down will make them think why they work together, think about weaknesses and strengths they have and which is the best way to work together.
Things we can tolerate and things we can’t afford nor bare.
By doing this they’ll probably, for the first time, think as a team rather than as individual runners.
Simple things. Tinny little things that actually make the difference.

From → Agile, People, Scrum, Tips

  1. Matthew Smart permalink

    A very insightful article, I really enjoyed it Cátia. Thanks for sharing it with us :-)

  2. João Santos permalink

    Good one Cátia. Well put. Sharing it now ;)

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Building Teams- The power of Values « Scrumplicity
  2. Scrum Master Tip #7 – Small improvements for greater Scrum teams | SCRUMPLICITY

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