A scrum implementation team is expected to be self-organizing and self-healing. The concept of self-organizing is often discussed whereas self-healing is seldom debated. The scrum implementation team themselves plays a pivotal role in becoming self-healing and this article intends to explore the same.
The Scrum Team
An Agile Scrum team consists of the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the Implementation Team. Though there is no prescriptive standard size for a scrum team the latest Scrum Guide suggests that the team should be of size 6 +/- 3. This means that a scrum team may have a team ranging from 3 to 9 members.
As we know the Product Owner though part of the scrum team will most probably be external to the implementation organization. There will be instances where a proxy product owner (typically a business analyst) is assigned in which case that individual may also be part of the internal team. The Scrum Master should be from the implementation organization most often with development and definitely with leadership capabilities. Thus the implementation team may consist of business analysts, UI / UX designers, Software coders and QA engineers at different levels of experience. Today, having a DevOps or SysOps engineer who can ensure Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI / CD) has almost become the norm and will add muscle to the team to enable quick and quality delivery.
What is meant by self-healing?
Project teams face problems or issues on a day-to-day basis during the lifetime of the project. These problems may become blockers hindering project progress if not addressed as soon as they come up. Agile teams focus on solving problems with a really quick turnaround time. Traditional project teams often depend on advise or assistance of an external stakeholder to make decisions when faced with a problem. In projects following predictive approaches, a more formal problem solving and decision-making process may be in place that may further delay timelines.
Issues most commonly seen in projects are to do with resource constraints, requirements or scope related queries, quality related issues to name a few. A lot of these problems can be solved through a bit of discussion and negotiation among the team members.
Agile teams are empowered to find ways of taking the project forward. Since the team is small in size and as team members know each other and their capabilities well it is possible for them to have fruitful discussions to solve problems. The team within them trying to find solutions for the problems faced through dialogue, negotiation, and collaboration is thus known as the self-healing nature of an agile team.
Product owner role in Scrum maximizes value out of a feature team, project managers finds best project implementation to deploy that value— Beatric Düring (@bea73) April 6, 2011
How can implementation teams ensure that they are more self-healing?
The Scrum Master is different from a Project Manager and is expected to play more of a servant leader, protector and facilitator type of a role within the project. Thus the project manager is not a taskmaster but a problem solver guiding the team in achieving the goals. This article is not about the Scrum Master’s role in ensuring self-healing!
Team members must ensure that whenever problems are encountered, they quickly raise it with the relevant parties. Agile team members must not sit on problems or dwell on the problem, but quickly move on to the stage of identifying the root cause of the problem and to identifying solutions for the same. This can be done through proper communication and collaboration among team members. The team members must be open to discuss even sensitive problems and be honest in receiving or providing comments. Collaboration will help generate solution options (especially through techniques such as brainstorming and mind mapping) that can be further evaluated to determine a logical course of action. The key advice here is, ‘Don’t keep anything on your to-do list for long if you can’t handle it alone. Share it! Telling the problem to someone is often half the solution solved.’
Agile teams are cross-functional with team members expected to be capable of or be willing to take up challenges. This characteristic most often ensures that there is always someone within the team with the required capability to tackle the problem.
One important trait of a self-healing team member is the willingness to challenge the status quo and to question at all times. The simple process of asking ‘why’ would enable teams to drill down on problems. The inquisitiveness to compare solution options, try them out without any fear of failure means that Agile teams are always willing to learn and improve. This is a key characteristic of a growing and ever improving team.
Document findings and apply lessons learnt
A good team never repeats the same mistake twice! For a team to be self-dependent they must have sources to which they could refer back. The only way this could be done is by documenting ‘lessons learnt’ from previous experiences. These would then become guidance for the team whenever they face similar problems in the future. Hence, it is the responsibility of every agile team member to do proper documentation to a level that is necessary.
The success of an Agile project depends on the team and on how well they could cope up with problems on their own. A self-healing team would drastically cut down on time depending on information and guidance from others. Every Scrum team must aspire to be such a team.