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Quality Engineering >> Quality Methodologies

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aphillips
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Reged: 02/15/12
Posts: 4
Loc: Sydney
Scrum Teams
      #698513 - 02/15/12 12:22 AM

I would like input on team composition for Scrum since we have recently been split into several scrum teams in what I believe is a strange way. First I need to give an overview.

We are a medium sized section in a large organization. The section is responsible for maintaining custom software for a distributed network of PCs plus the network and upstream management PCs and the finally the larger central computer(s) of which I know nothing. I work(ed) in the sub-section dealing with the PC software along with 5 other programmers, 3 designers, 3 testers, and 2 managers. In the rest of the section there are about another 30 - 40 people who handle all the other stuff, which I know very little about - they do things with the network and upstream computers as well as business analysis and overall system and acceptance testing.

We have just been split into five scrum teams. The teams have been split in terms of functionality to the overall system. For example, there is one team to handle miscellaneous fixes and small enhancements as they are required, another team was formed for improving performance, and the other teams for three major new features that are to be added.

Previously I worked in a team of 5 or 6 programmers all working on the PC code. In my new scrum team I am now the only PC programmer - the other 5 PC programmers are now in other scrum teams. There are 2 people I previously worked with (a designer and a tester) but all my other new team-mates are from very different areas that I know nothing about.

The logic of the composition of the scrum teams was not explained. Of course, it is obvious that management were trying to encourage communication between different people as there was a tendency for different sub-sections to become insular. It is true that there has been some increase in communication between team members who probably wouldn't have been talking before (but this is probably just that we all did Scrum training together). However, the people I need to communicate with the most are now in different teams.

The problems that I see with this arrangement are:

1. It is inflexible since there is very little scope for people to help with other team members' work. For example, if I was away for some reason there is nobody to take over my tasks. The work would not get done unless they managed to get someone from another team to do it. (Actually the designer in my team is a former programmer but she is not allowed to do any programming!)

In the first sprint our highest priority backlog item was a task estimated to take about 50 man-days. However, only two team members knew how to do the task which would not allow it to be completed in a single (two week) sprint. The solution was to train up other team members in how to do the work but this is inefficient for many reasons, especially considering people in other teams could easily help.

2. Having a feeling of a common purpose is good for a team. However, most team members do not understand what other team members are doing so there is no sense of working towards a common goal.

3. The basic idea behind Scrum is that the team self organize, ie get together and decide between themselves what has to be done and who does what. However, in our team, although there is no "assignment" of tasks the product owner tends to create backlog items with specific team members in mind and there is no discussion since the team members know their tasks and just do them.

Hence most of the work is done much like it was before we adopted Scrum, except that there is much less flexibility due to belonging to different Scrum teams. For example, if there is a lot of work in a specific area there may be 8 or 10 people qualified to handle the work but because we can't grab people from another team it means that one or two people have to do the work.

4. The product backlog items are of very different types since they relate to diverse areas of the overall system. This means that the product owner tends not to select the items based on importance to the business. Instead he tries to pick ones so that everyone is kept busy. However, even in this he has not been very succesful and people on one team have had little to do while people on other teams could have used their help.

5. Due to the poor way the teams have been organized some people have to be in more than one team (and some aren't in any team). This can cause a conflict of interest and I believe this goes against one of the main principles of Scrum where team members are not allowed any distractions from completing the sprint on time.

6. One of the best things about Scrum is that it makes more visible what is really happening. One aspect of this is the daily stand-up where if one team member is not pulling their weight then it is obvious to the others. (In my experience with Scrum this is not a problem as the peer-pressure and the sense of a common purpose generally motivates all team members to do their best.)

However, in our setup because most team members understand little of what other team members are doing this visibility is reduced. For example, if I said a task that *should* take an hour would actually take a week I doubt that anyone (except one) in my team would even bat an eyelid.


So I feel the way these teams are set up reduces visibility and flexibility. It also undermines empowerment and motivation. Can anyone confirm my feelings and have any further arguments for this? Alternatively, can anyone explain if and why I am barking up the wrong tree?


Edited by aphillips (02/15/12 12:28 AM)


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Juleo_2607
Advanced Member


Reged: 05/11/05
Posts: 442
Loc: Pune
Re: Scrum Teams [Re: aphillips]
      #698514 - 02/15/12 12:38 AM

Hmmm, maybe you can ask the management/someone from management "softly",what is the logic behind having these teams, in terms of the aim, tasks and composition of the team.

If that doesn't work, then...hmmm, sometimes things are not ideal and you need to adjust yourself.


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Joe Strazzere
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Reged: 05/15/00
Posts: 12344
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Re: Scrum Teams [Re: Juleo_2607]
      #698545 - 02/15/12 04:37 AM

aphillips,

This all happened recently, right? Perhaps you just haven't given the new process enough time to shake out the problems?

You say that the reasoning behind the composition of the teams was not explained. Did you ask about it? It may not have been haphazard, but the reasons may not be obvious to you.

Don't worry about the "principles of Scrum". Instead, help to guide the organization toward what works well for the company.

I don't work in a "Scrum" environment, but I know of others that have, along with other "Agile" environments. As far as I can tell, no two are alike. They all adopt what works well for them, and discard parts that don't work well. Hopefully, that will be your experience, too.

--------------------
- Joe
Visit AllThingsQuality.com to learn more about quality, testing, and QA!

I speak only for me. I do not speak for my employer, nor for anyone else.


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michaeljfModerator
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Reged: 09/17/01
Posts: 3979
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Re: Scrum Teams [Re: Joe Strazzere]
      #698609 - 02/15/12 10:08 AM

The first couple of Scrum iterations I worked on were somewhat like this, they seemed disorganized and disjointed compared to how we normally worked. After a couple of iterations and retrospectives things adjusted and we did well after that. Although it seems like, from your description, that you aren't really doing Scrum except in name and by some loose definition. If you see gaps bring them up in the retrospective so you can adjust them for the next sprint. The material you bring up now is perfect for a retrospective. If your company wants to make this work they will have to commit to the changes Scrum will bring.

--------------------
- M

Nothing learns better than experience.

"So as I struggle with this issue I am confronted with the reality that noting is perfect."
- Unknown

Now wasting blog space at QAForums Blogs - The Lookout


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aphillips
Newbie


Reged: 02/15/12
Posts: 4
Loc: Sydney
Re: Scrum Teams [Re: michaeljf]
      #698643 - 02/15/12 07:08 PM

Thanks for the useful feedback.

Juleo_2607 said:
> ...maybe you can ask what is the logic behind having these teams ...

I am not even sure who decided. I guess I could try to find out but I get the impression that I will be told that I don't need to know.

Joe Strazzere said:
> This all happened recently, right?

Yes, we are just coming to the end of our first (2 week) sprint. Thanks for the advice. I will try to give it a chance and see what happens.

michaeljf said:
> it seems like ... you aren't really doing Scrum ...

I think the team are making an honest attempt to do it properly, but most had not even heard of Scrum before.

> The material you bring up now is perfect for a retrospective.

Our team are having the first retrospective on Monday and I will try to bring it up. The trouble is other teams are in the same boat and have different sprint cycles. I have mentioned it to others and they seem to think it is outside the scope of what can be discussed.

I actually asked our Scrum trainer about this at the start of the first sprint (Feb 6th). I basically asked: since a team should be self-organizing can all the teams get together and "self-organize" and even change the way they are split up. His answer was bluntly "I don't know". I don't know why he said this but I suspect he thinks if he tries to change too much his contract might be terminated.

I also found out from him that management had not had any Scrum training and basically did not understand how it is supposed to work. I think it is just as important that the "chickens" understand Scrum as much as the "pigs".


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Joe Strazzere
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Reged: 05/15/00
Posts: 12344
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Re: Scrum Teams [Re: aphillips]
      #698703 - 02/16/12 04:20 AM

Quote:

I actually asked our Scrum trainer about this at the start of the first sprint (Feb 6th). I basically asked: since a team should be self-organizing can all the teams get together and "self-organize" and even change the way they are split up. His answer was bluntly "I don't know". I don't know why he said this but I suspect he thinks if he tries to change too much his contract might be terminated.



He said this because Scrum isn't some law with rules that must be followed on penalty of death.

The decision on how Scrum will work in your company rests with your company's management - not with a trainer.

I understand that you are looking to bolster your argument that the way Scrum is being implemented isn't the way you would like. But looking for answers in "the book of Scrum" isn't likely to help your situation. Try to be patient and supportive and see where it goes. Point out your concerns, but be open to solutions that may feel awkward at first. Try to embrace that it's not your decision as to the methodology chosen, but that you may be able to help it work well in your shop anyway.

Sometimes you can stop change. Often you can't. Try not to be an obstacle, because obstacles can get removed.

--------------------
- Joe
Visit AllThingsQuality.com to learn more about quality, testing, and QA!

I speak only for me. I do not speak for my employer, nor for anyone else.


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aphillips
Newbie


Reged: 02/15/12
Posts: 4
Loc: Sydney
Re: Scrum Teams [Re: Joe Strazzere]
      #698778 - 02/16/12 04:10 PM

Thanks for your comments.

Quote:

He said this because Scrum isn't some law with rules that must be followed on penalty of death.



I agree completely that Scrum is not a matter of following rules. That's exactly my point. The whole problem is that we are following the rules to the letter but without understanding the purpose of the rules and the underlying philosophy.

Quote:

The decision on how Scrum will work in your company rests with your company's management - not with a trainer.



It would be great if management would do that but I don't think they have any real idea. They decided (or were told) that we should be agile and just threw some money at it in the form of training for the workers, but did not realise the most important training is for themselves.

In fact when the "big boss" first announced that we were going agile in a meeting I asked what sort of agile he meant (Scrum, XP, Evo, Kanban, ...). He got very defensive since he apparently had never heard of Scrum or any other agile methodology.

Quote:

I understand that you are looking to bolster your argument that the way Scrum is being implemented isn't the way you would like.



Actually, I am looking for a convincing argument that the way Scrum is being implemented has any chance of working. Or if there is no such argument how I would go about pushing things in the right direction.

Quote:

Sometimes you can stop change....Try not to be an obstacle



I am not trying to be an obstacle to change. In fact I think that a lot more (gradual) change is needed than is being attempted. However, I believe the current changes may be heading down the wrong path. For example, there is no real empowerment of the teams to be self-organizing.


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Joe Strazzere
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Re: Scrum Teams [Re: aphillips]
      #698801 - 02/17/12 03:25 AM

Quote:

However, I believe the current changes may be heading down the wrong path. For example, there is no real empowerment of the teams to be self-organizing.



Got it. You've indicated several times that "self-organizing" is important to you.

You may have to come to terms with the possibility that your company may just not be one of those "self-organizing" kinds of shops.

Good luck.

--------------------
- Joe
Visit AllThingsQuality.com to learn more about quality, testing, and QA!

I speak only for me. I do not speak for my employer, nor for anyone else.


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Walen
Super Member


Reged: 05/09/01
Posts: 1254
Re: Scrum Teams [Re: Joe Strazzere]
      #698814 - 02/17/12 04:57 AM

There is are other possibilities around "self organizing" that I've seen at massively-huge-companies that decide they can fix things by "doing Agile" (or some such statement).

One aspect may be technical expertiese - real or perceived does not really matter in this instance. If there is a belief that someone, or some group of people, have expertise in a given area - SHAZAM! They do.

Thus, needs may have been "addressed" byt fitting teams together as they understood them - or some highly paid consultant told them too one afternoon - or what they thought the highly paid consultant said because they did not really understnad - or, you get the idea.

In short, unless you have a fairly small development organization, creating "self-organizing teams" organically - where you "pick teams" like we did as kids to play a ball game (insert any game involving a ball) - that probably is not going to happen. As you move from dozens to scores to hundreds of people, that simply will not work, right? In fact, I've seen it break down with between one and two dozen people trying to form three "teams".

Sometimes, someone needs to decide who is on the team. THEN - once the people are there, look to see what the people are good at - everyone together, ideally - then look at what people LIKE to do - everyone together, ideally.

First time around, it is not uncommon for this to not happen - or for people to stumble around with it - including management. It really takes a different mindset than many people are used too, particularly when large, fairly conservative/traditional companies try it.

It may not be perfect, but unfortunately, that is what happens sometimes. It can take a period of adjustment. This usually involves management realizing they need to learn about this stuff, too.

--------------------
P. Walen

My Blog: http://rhythmoftesting.blogspot.com/


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Juleo_2607
Advanced Member


Reged: 05/11/05
Posts: 442
Loc: Pune
Re: Scrum Teams [Re: Walen]
      #698821 - 02/17/12 05:32 AM

As Joe said give it 2-3 sprints/iterations to materialize. Maybe they are seeing at a bigger picture or they'll get into a feedback loop, which will improve things as time passes.

Else you can always suggest them with adding a listing at the end of each iteration about "What worked and What DID NOT work", so they get some feedback.


Cheers.


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BreaksStuff
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Reged: 02/17/12
Posts: 2
Re: Scrum Teams [Re: Juleo_2607]
      #698868 - 02/17/12 08:47 AM

I do see potential pitfalls, but I agree with the feedback you've gotten - give it some time.

Do you have a scrum master, to protect the scrum, facilitate communication and ensure everyone understands their position?

One thing I would recommend is that everyone on your team regularly reviews whatever Agile training material you've been given, as well as sharing self-study. You have to work together to identify areas for improvement during your review. You could do the occasional working lunch.

It really does take time, practice and teamwork to get good at this, and to communicate upwards what you need to be successful.


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aphillips
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Reged: 02/15/12
Posts: 4
Loc: Sydney
Re: Scrum Team Composition [Re: BreaksStuff]
      #698918 - 02/18/12 06:09 PM

Thanks for all the useful comments!

We did our first sprint review and retrospective yesterday and I mentioned my concerns. I was surprised that everyone seemed to agree with me that the team composition was not ideal. However, they were unwilling to try to do anything about it, mainly (I think) because it would fall on deaf ears and nothing would be done.

Our major backlog item was not finished by the end of the sprint. One reason was there were not enough people in the team with the expertise to get it done on time. (We were going to train up other team members to help but it never happened.) The other reason was that we were waiting on input from people in other teams to get it finished.

I pointed out that if we got the people from our team who could do the work and the people from other teams that we were dependent on then we could create a new team of about the right size for a Scrum team. This team could work together better because they would all understand what everybody else in their team was doing and they would would not be reliant on people on other teams who are focused on other things.

Thanks again for all your feedback. I am well read on Scrum but have never seen anything covering this sort of situation. Anyway, I will give it some more time and see if things improve.


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Andreas777
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Reged: 09/07/12
Posts: 3
Re: Scrum Team Composition [Re: aphillips]
      #717039 - 09/26/12 03:05 AM

Your team sounds like it is used to be micro-managed. SCRUM doesn't work like that. It will take time until everyone "gets it", and it will be a frustrating journey.

Also, since these are new teams, members need to find their roles within the team hierarchy. That needs time and has nothing to do with SCRUM.

Personally, I think you may be looking at something like half a year to a year for things to really change.

Things like team composition, iteration length, task breakdown, etc etc.. you will figure that out together.

IMO, let the chips fall where they may.

You can make sure all sprint retrospectives are documented though, that tends to speed up the process.

Good luck!


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