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The Scrum Team: A Puzzle of People

How one CSP builds teams by inspecting and adapting

1 October 2010

Knut Kvarme

By definition a team comprises a group of people linked in a common purpose.

It is my experience when I get involved in discussions regarding a new project, it soon becomes a conversation about the team and who you want to group together in order to deliver within the scope defined in the project assignment.

After several years with the cross-functional team mantra at mind, I no longer think about my new team in terms of who (people). I rather think of a range of skills that I need in my team. After staffing my team I usally find that not all the skills on my list have been covered. And that’s perfectly fine!
Getting the team started and having an inspect and adapt approach in regards to the team coalition is my preferred approach. Sometimes the team steps up and gains the required skills. In those cases no further staffing is necessary.

Other times my initial list of required skills might have been wrong, and we complete the team with adding people with other skills that I thought was needed. The big advantage of this inspect and adapt staffing approach is that the gained knowledge about the tasks in hand and the observation and understanding of the team, provides the answers on how to complete the staffing of the scrum team.
So, we have a complete team with the required skills. What now?

Looking at the skills of in a team is not enough. A team consists of individuals that needs to pull together as a whole. And as individuals we all have our preferences, beliefs and behavior.

Some time ago I was lucky enough to work with Thor Ødegård (one of the creators of the JTI). He asked me one question that was an eye opener for me. The question was simply: What gives you energy? Now, I’ve always consider myself a pretty self aware person, and I already kind of knew the answer to the question. But I had never put in down on paper and used that information to balance my working life with enough tasks that gives me energy.

Now, that kind of awareness can and should be used in a scrum team setting. Especially when establishing long-lived scrum teams. Making the team members aware of their likes and dislikes, what gives them energy – in short: what their natural preferences are. I must emphasize that these findings should in no way be used so that team members can avoid tasks that they dislike. I would say it’s rather the opposite. Using that kind of self awareness and share and use this information within the team, will not only make others understand your individual preferences within the team. It gives other team members the possibility to understand and help you perform tasks that you find difficult. Even further it will help the individuals within the team to maintain that important balance between their natural preferences and challenge themselves with “non-preferred” tasks without losing that necessary energy needed to grow and thrive as a individual within the team. In my experience this may very well be the key to a successful cross-functional high performing scrum team.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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Chris Watts, CSM, 10/28/2010 7:50:36 AM
I strongly agree with Knut's article on the importance of keeping the team energised in a project. One of the most effective ways of achieveing this is through the daily scrum. I was fortunate enough to attend one of Sir Clive Woodwards key note addresses explaining how he produced the winning team to secure for England in 2003 the Rugby World Cup. He explained that in any team there are two potential members: energy sappers and energisers. His policy was only to allow the energisers to be members even at the cost of other members with superior playing skills. With Scrum principles of multi skilling , this policy accords well with Scrum values.

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