I work with many clients trying to embrace Agility by adopting one of the popular Agile frameworks (e.g. Scrum). Remember there is a big difference between “doing” Agile and “being” Agile and a lot of businesses think that because they are “doing” Agile (e.g. Scrum) that they “are” Agile (when they are patently not). However that is for another blog post.
In Scrum there are only three roles – the Scrum Master, the Product Owner and The Team – and while most clients I work with are happy with the first two, they have difficulty with the last – the Team.
The Scrum objective of a true cross-functional/multi-disciplined Team with all capabilities required to deliver is a nice one but something that takes time and massive culture change (excepting, maybe, those start-up’s who embrace the concept from the start). Inevitably The Team is a collection of individuals brought together but who are on separate journeys through their differing professional lives. Some Team members embrace the concept of one Team and work, within their supporting organization, to achieve this. However the majority of organizations, and sometimes the individuals within, find this journey difficult to make. People within organizations are usually structured along clearly defined (and progression incentivized) role hierarchies (Junior Developer, Developer, Senior Developer, Principal Developer, etc. – for Developer substitute Tester, BA, Architect, or whatever role title you prefer). To propose that The Team members cross-skill across other roles is often meet with bewilderment, concern and often resistance. Individuals themselves are usually comfortable working within one delineated role, and feel uncomfortable spreading themselves further. “Not my area, see so and so” is a popular refrain.
While this is fine, and can be managed, as part of the transformation journey towards Agile, it should not detract from the One Team focus at the heart of Scrum. Getting people together as a Team is the first step to creating a Team. Once you have a Team there is the chance of the other Scrum Team requisites following. All too often I hear people say they are not partaking in a particular ceremony or Team discussion as it is “not for me”. Developers avoiding design and research sessions, BA’s refusing to attend test sessions, Architects not attending Sprint Planning – these are all examples of where the gravity of the “Home” role over-rides the One Team ethic. The inevitable result is internal knowledge differences between Team members, internal Team strife and no velocity improvement across sprints. Insist that the whole Team is together for every session from the start.
It may take time to become a true multi-disciplined and cross-functional Team but the first step is to act like a Team. All ceremonies in Scrum are for All Team members. Success depends on the success of the Team, not the individual. Make sure the Team, the whole Team, and nothing but the Team is always, always There.