In a Rugby team, it is the ‘pack’ that keeps the team on track. The stronger the pack is and more technically sound they are, the better core strength they portray in keeping the Scrum upright, thus helping the Scrum half wrestle the ball away from the opposition. However, it is not just the pack that needs to be rock solid. The ‘line’ must consist of fast and agile runners who are capable of maneuvering through any obstacle and make their way to the try line.
An Agile team should exactly be like that! They must be able to steamroll through any obstacle or blockage utilizing their skills and competencies to drive the Scrum team towards is Sprint and project objectives.
What is a team?
It is important to first of all see what a ‘team’ is. A team is a group of individuals who possess knowledge, skills and expertise in a variety of areas. But they all must be committed to a goal where each team member is assigned to a set of tasks geared towards achieving the set goal.
Each member in the team may specialize in one area but will have some sort of general skill in other aspects as well. A good team member must be a specialist as well as a generalist capable of taking up any challenge to the betterment of the team.
Team Vs Group of Individuals?
It is important to understand the difference between a team and a group of individuals performing a certain set of tasks. Let me try to explain using two different scenarios.
Scenario 1: A cricket team is chasing a score of 250 runs in a 50 over cricket match. 9 wickets have fallen and the team needs another 8 runs for victory with the last pair standing with 2 overs to go. At the crease is the number 5 batsman, a specialist batsman and the last man who is a specialist fast bowler. However, the bowler tries his utmost to give back the strike to the senior batsman and to hang around till victory is achieved.
Scenario 2: The production line in a garment factory consists of a supervisor, a designer, a pattern maker, a cutter, a tailor and a quality checker. These individuals do a specialized task and hand over the work to the next in line who adds more value to it and so on. If one person is absent or gets delayed in performing the task, the whole production line may get affected. Another team member may not be able to take up the task as he specializes only in one area.
So, which one would you define as a team? Is it scenario 1 or scenario 2?
I’m sure all of you agree that the group in scenario 1 is more like a team where each individual is assigned a specific role, but as per the requirements of the team they are able to adapt and contribute to the betterment of the whole.
This is exactly what is expected from a Scrum team. The Scrum team must be,
● Cross functional – This does not mean that QA engineer must mandatorily be able to code or a business analyst must be able to perform UI design work etc. but it just means that each team member must be able to develop at least one additional skill which may be transferable and be applied as and when needed.
● Self Organizing – There is a misconception among Scrum teams that it is the sole responsibility of the product owner to update the backlog and for the Scrum master to manage the stories and tasks. It should not be the case again. The implementation team has the freedom to add or update tasks as required to achieve the product goals. They must also be able to organize themselves during the Sprint, manage their time, carry out scrum ceremonies diligently and basically organize their work for the common betterment of the team.
● Self Healing – A Scrum team must be able to face impediments as a team, discuss about them and identify solution options most suitable to overcome those problems. Yes, the Scrum Master can be the protector and the guide, but the team itself must collaboratively sort out issues and move the project forward.
● Goal Oriented and committed – All activities and tasks carried out by the team must be in order to achieve the sprint goals and objectives and finally the release goals and objectives. The Scrum team must be committed during the sprint to perform tasks diligently to work towards the goal as a team. Thus any decisions made during the sprint must be made with the end goal in mind.
● Led and Protected by a leader, the Scrum Master – The Scrum Master is not a task master like in traditional waterfall projects. He must be a servant leader who leads by example. The scrum master must guide the team about the process to be followed, protect the team from outside interferences and solve problems through subjective and objective discussions and analysis.
Thus we can see that a good Scrum team is like a well-oiled machine. A well trained and highly disciplined Rugby team.