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No Silos, Please!

Cross-functional teams deliver more than teams in silos

15 October 2015

 
I was on a team that started Scrum with ten members. It was a team of developers, test engineers, release engineers, a ScrumMaster, and a product owner. We were a colocated, cross-functional team -- and we delivered great results. The business results for products built by this team were exciting and resulted in growth for the product. New market areas, time lines, and features were identified.

The team rapidly grew from 10 members to about 80, in about 3 months. Few of the new people joining were familiar with Scrum or Agile management, and a few thought, "This is really just common sense; we can tailor it per our needs." A hierarchal team structure was created with this 80-something-member team. Now the team structure transformed into something similar into:

It took us some time to realize that this created multiple silos. There was a silo of developers, whose main focus was getting signed-off requirements, all feedback to be submitted as change requests, deferring bugs for future releases, not always sharing complete information about implementation with other concerned people. Another silo was for test engineers, who held their own Scrum meeting, followed their own processes, with the main focus not on communicating bugs but on logging more and more bugs. (At times these bugs were not even relevant.) And so on. Test engineers became frustrated as information was not shared with them in a timely manner. The same held for DevOps. Everybody started feeling that we were doing something wrong. People started complaining about processes, their frustration started turning into anger. The team that delivered the best-quality products to market was now  struggling, fighting, negotiating.

When we analyzed the entire situation, we saw and admitted the mistakes that we had made by creating multiple silos. This was not done deliberately, but it happened. Now the problem was how to break out of these silos and organize a large team into a high-performing, cross-functional team. After hours of brainstorming, we agreed on a solution to create 8 different cross-functional teams that could cover the approximately 80 people. The new team structure was something like this:



The idea was not to disband quickly and form new teams again and again based on need but to have teams that worked together for longer periods of time. There was a product backlog that divided into release backlogs and then divided further into backlogs for each separate team. This helped us to break those silos, where all units essential for delivery were not working together.

And with this structure, the team went back to continuously delivering great products. I don't claim that this is the only or best solution to organize your one big team into cross-functional Scrum teams -- but this is one way, and it has worked for us.
 

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.



Article Rating

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Comments

Tim Baffa, CSM, 10/15/2015 1:55:37 PM
Good that you recognized the inefficiencies and pain points with traditional, phased, silo-ed work processes, and made changes to remedy that.

Over and over, stable, cross-functional teams deliver exceedingly great results.
Adrian Stewart, CSM, 10/16/2015 11:18:42 AM
Great short article. Silos are something that organisations can easily fall into based on traditional topologies.

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