tagged: teamwork

Rely on Specialists, but Sparingly

Last week, I talked about the concept of equality on an agile team. I mentioned that one meaning of equality could be all team members do the same work, so that everyone in agile becomes a generalist.

A common misconception is that everyone on a Scrum team must be a generalist—equally good at all technologies and disciplines, rather than a specialist in one. This is...

Teams Should Go So Fast They Almost Spin Out of Control

Yes, I really did refer to guitarist Alvin Lee in a Certified Scrum Product Owner class last week. Here's why.

I was making a point that Scrum teams should strive to go as fast as they can without going so fast they spin out of control. Alvin Lee of the band Ten Years After was a talented guitarist known for his very fast solos. Lee's ultimate performance was of the song...

Agile in the Age of Hyperspecialization

Starting the start of the industrial revolution in 18th century, there has been a trend of increasing specialization. Rather than workers being involved in all aspects of creating a product, workers began to produce smaller and smaller subsets of the product. By the time Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776, pin-making had become specialized to the point where it…

Nine Questions to Assess Team Structure

It is perhaps a myth, but an enduring one, that people and their pets resemble one another. The same has been said of products and the teams that build them. If it is true that a product reflects the structure of the team that built it, then an important decision for any Scrum project is how to organize individuals into teams. This paper presents a set of guidelines to…

Removing Team Members

People often ask me whether teams should have the right to vote members off. To help answer that question, let me share a story with you. I was at a conference when I saw Derek walking toward me. I had first met him a year earlier when I taught a class at his company. I had been back a handful of times, and always enjoyed talking with him. We hadn’t talked in three months and…

Comparative Agility Assessment - Determining How Agile You Are Comparatively

With this in mind, Kenny Rubin, Laurie Williams and I created the Comparative Agility assessment (CA), which is available for free online. Like the Shodan Adherence Survey and Agile:EF, a CA assessment can be based on individual responses to survey questions. However, it was also designed to be completed by an experienced ScrumMaster, coach, or consultant on behalf of a team or company based on interviews or observation.

The Role of Leaders on a Self-Organizing Team

Self-organization is a fundamental concept in agile project management. The Agile Manifesto includes the principle, “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.” Yet a common misconception about agile project management approaches is that because of this reliance on self-organizing teams, there is little or no role for leaders of agile…

The Benefits of Feature Teams

Moving away from component teams is a difficult but necessary step for those who want to adopt an agile project management approach. For example, when I first began to consult for a certain California-based game studio, its teams were organized around the specific elements and objects that would exist in the video game it was developing. There was a separate team for each…

Cultivate Communities of Practice

On a multi-team project, it is possible for individuals to become isolated, speaking mostly to others on their individual teams. Good ideas are slow to propagate across the organization. Similar functionality is implemented differently by different teams. We put scrum of scrums meetings in place to reduce the impact of some of these problems, but those only go so far. An…

How Do You Get from Here to Agile? Iterate.

Historically, when an organization needed to change, it undertook a “change program.” The change was designed, had an identifiable beginning and ending, and was imposed from above. This worked well in an era when change was necessary only once every few years. But in today’s fast-paced, ever changing environment, it makes more sense to create agile organizations, ready to…

Should a Team Swarm on to One Backlog Item at a Time?

This week I want to address the question of whether a team should work on one product backlog item at a time or whether it's OK to work on multiple items. In general, a team should feel comfortable working on multiple product backlog items at the same time during an iteration.

A typical seven person team will plan between five and ten items into an iteration. They'll usually…

Should the Daily Standup Be Person-by-Person or Story-by-Story?

I want to address a question that I got recently and that comes up every month or two. I was recently emailed the following:

Most of our teams complete 10 or more user stories per sprint. When answering the 3 questions in the daily Scrum, it was clear what each person was working on, but it wasn't as clear how each story was doing or when a story was in trouble. For example,…

Establishing a Common Baseline for Story Points

A common criticism of story points is that the meaning of a story point will differ among teams. In this post I want to describe how can we establish a common definition of a story point across multiple teams within an organization.

The best way I've found to do this is to bring a broad group of individuals representing various teams together and have them estimate a dozen or…

How To Fail With Agile

Not everyone involved in an agile transition wants the change to be successful. This tongue-in-cheek article details twenty things you can do to sabotage an agile transition. Of course, the twenty things also serve as reminders of things to avoid or watch out for.

Programmers and testers (and others) can work together on things smaller than user stories

A common misperception is that testers cannot do any work during an iteration until the programmers finish a user story or product backlog item. However, the unit of transfer between programmer and tester can be smaller than the user story.

Let’s see how this could work through an example: Suppose a tester and I are working on the story about auto-incrementing the next check…

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