Kicking The Last of the Departmental Blues

Creative Commons License brettanicus
Given proper coaching, teams must be empowered to decide and execute decisions on their own. This means that a team must have the proper make-up including designers and architects, application and database developers. Once a team commits to the story backlog, they must work together to ensure that all stories are delivered by the end of the sprint. If you’ve recently migrated from a department structured organization, making the whole team understand that they succeed or fail all together will take time.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

If you don’t get your team pulling in the same direction and helping one another to reach their goals, you’ll begin seeing some unpleasant side effects. Between problems of departmental thinking (“I’ve setup that webserver for you. Good luck!”) and employees being assigned to multiple teams you’ll see your team literally pull itself apart. One possible sign – the team no longer values its own velocity but instead wants to individually track the stories completed by the sysadmins, .net developers and QA staff. In other words, back to the old departmental mindset; for a scrum master, a clear sign of agile gone awry!

The Darkness Is Blackest Just Before The Dawn

As depressing as this might seem, realize that your team is fighting for survival. Deep down they really want to succeed but they’re having a more difficult time than they expected. Just because they used to work in the functional design room doesn’t mean they can’t sit with a developer and understand why that particular page style is hard to implement in CSS. Cross-training / cross-polinating is not only a good thing for your organization, but its a great way to foster communication and new ideas within the team. For now, go ahead and track the velocities per old-school department for a few sprints, but don’t advertise them!

Team Work Is Built-In

After a month, go back and take a look. What you discover may pleasantly surprise you. You’ll see that each department is quite random in their weekly deliverables but the team velocity will remain on course with the average. What does this mean? Just what you wanted to accomplish in the first place – unbeknownst to everyone else, team mates really do work together to help each other out and accomplish their agreed upon goals. Sometimes they don’t even realize it, but that’s OK. A million years of evolution is impossible to wipe out just by being sequestered in a department for a couple of years!

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