The Liberators
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The Liberators

Kickstarting a new Scrum Team takes effort. Butit’s worth it (By Christiaan Verwijs)

How To Kickstart A Great Scrum Team (10 practical things to do)

Understand team development (and your role in it)

  • Forming phase: In this first phase, the team is mostly concerned with their reason for being. Why are they together? What is the purpose of the team? What tasks is the team supposed to pick up? In this phase, people are usually not familiar with each other yet. The sense of safety that comes with familiarity is still missing, meaning that criticism, irritations, doubt, and uncertainties are not yet openly voiced. Instead, people tend to focus on the task at hand and what is expected of them. In this phase, people don’t generally feel part of a team yet. During this phase, the best role for the Scrum Master or Coach to take is that of teacher. Make sure that people know what to do and provide clarity on purpose and (initial) structure;
  • Storming phase: When a sense of familiarity and safety starts to form within the team, people become more comfortable with each other. The openness to voice doubts, worries, and frustration grows. The first conflicts emerge. Initially, conflicts will focus primarily on tasks (‘who will do what?’, ‘how will we do this?’), not on each other. But as familiarity increases, small irritations between members (you included) will surface. This is a natural result of differences between what members expect from themselves, each other, and the team. Be mindful that conflicts can be active (people are voicing them) or passive (resistance or withdrawal). Although this is not always a fun phase to be in, it is a critical phase in the team’s development. If sufficient opportunity is given to constructively resolve conflicts, the team will learn to trust each other. Trying to shortcut this phase by covering up conflicts or ignoring them is the worst thing you can do. The best role for the Scrum Master is that of coach. Don’t resolve the conflicts for the team, but help them identify conflicts and resolve them themselves;
  • Norming phase: When the conflicts that emerge during the storming phase can be dealt with in a constructive and safe manner, the team moves into the norming phase. The focus of this phase is to find a balance between what members expect from each other and the team. This has to do with aspects of the work (e.g. quality, speed, thoroughness) and how people behave (social norms). In other words, the team is agreeing on the norms, values and rules that govern their work as a team. During the ‘norming phase’, discussions become more task-oriented. This is much like what happens in the first phase, but in a way that is more mindful of the norms that the team has established. This is the phase where people start to truly feel part of, and loyal to, the team. The best role to take as a Scrum Master is that of mentor. Using the Scrum Framework and your knowledge of Agile Software Development, you can help the team to work out a productive mode of working;
  • Performing phase: Now that there is safety in the team, and a shared sense of what is important and what is not, the team can work constructively together. In this phase, people become more flexible in their roles and what they do. This is the phase where self-organization becomes most evident; a team member that stands in for an unavailable Scrum Master or developers that pick up tasks outside their comfort zone. The fear of failing and making mistakes has mostly dissolved. Although task-oriented discussions are (and will remain) common, the general atmosphere within the team is positive and constructive. The best role for the Scrum Master is that of adviser. The team is perfectly capable of solving most problems on their own, but help them find the best solutions;
  • Adjourning phase: All teams eventually dissolve. Perhaps the purpose of the team has been achieved, or the team is disbanded for other reasons. Especially for long-running teams, or teams that have worked together intensively for even a short period, this can be traumatic and painful. In this phase, it is important to use rituals and events to say goodbye to the team. The best role for the Scrum Master is that of facilitator. Provide opportunities for people to express emotions that are associated with departures and help them make sense of it;

1. Reserve time for the Kickstart

2. Getting to know each other is half the work

3. Teach Scrum

4. Formulate a Team Vision

5. Create a Team Contract

  • Who are the members of the team? What do they bring to the team?
  • How are the roles distributed? Who is the Scrum Master / Product Owner, and who’s part of the Development Team? People not on the sheet are not part of the Scrum Team, and therefore do not participate during the various Scrum Events unless specifically invited;
  • When and where are the various Scrum Events? Who is expected to be there?
  • What happens when someone’s late to a Scrum Event, or unable to join altogether?
  • When are we — as a team — happy with a Sprint?

6. Pick a Team Name

7. Set expectations

8. Retrospectives, retrospectives, retrospectives

9. Involve management to support the Kickstart

10. ‘Bring it to the team’

Concluding thoughts

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Christiaan Verwijs

I liberate teams & organizations from de-humanizing, ineffective ways of organizing work. Passionate developer, organizational psychologist, and Scrum Master.