The Project Is Not the Team

I’ve always been under the impression that Scrum and Sprints can only go as well as the shape of the product backlog. Having Continuous Integration in place is essential to move effectively through this good backlog. Recently, I realize I’ve been making an assumption, that there are already well-formed teams in place.

During a recent visit to one of our offices, I observed the following:

Some people are segregated to a functional unit of a manger and a couple of directs. Collections of individuals are resourced to one or more projects. These groupings create many integration points and external dependencies to other functionally segregated individuals.

With shared resourcing, whatever high-priority projects are being worked upon becomes the moniker for the “team”. Individuals then complain about the high overhead of Scrum, which I now understand when one person is on several of these project “teams”, and in multiple Scrums, with multiple standups, planning and the like. It is out of the control of the individual to select what team to work on, or what work to do. The divide and conquer approach allows people at higher positions to move these “resources” around at will.

The manager that someone works for should not determine the team they work with. Dedicated cross-functional teams of larger size need to be formed. People come together on dedicated teams. The established and dedicated teams consume backlog items of features. Dedicated teams have less hand-offs and therefore less churn. Problems do not languish for long as collaboration in these groups is tighter. These teams should be somewhat self-selecting, with guidance from leaders but an allowance for the team to include who the team wants and maybe more importantly, that people who do not want to be on a team or are not wanted by a team, are not forced to do be on a certain one.

We are now coming up with a proposal for stakeholders to sponsor piloting a dedicated, cross-functional and enabled group of individuals, and see if we can have one of the only teams in the group ready for consuming a well-formed backlog, once it is ready to be worked on.

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