A scrum team is a complex dynamic system, which makes it quite delicate and vulnerable to going off track if it lacks a strong foundation of principles and best practices.
Regardless if you’ve been practicing scrum methodologies for years, or are just starting out, all teams are susceptible to potentially moving back to old habits or relaxing their practices and picking up some not so great habits along the way.
Here are just a few items to look out for see if your teams may be approaching the danger zone and could use a little help and support to get back on track.
1. The team isn’t delivering work consistently each sprint
A team should consistently deliver between 80–120% of their planned sprint work. You don’t want them playing it too safe each sprint and pulling in more work at the end, but you also don’t want them rolling work over each sprint and never getting to celebrate a victory of completing a sprint goal. One of the benefits of scrum is being able to plan long term for feature work and releases, but to do that you need a consistent team.
2. There is rarely a focused sprint goal
Scrum gives teams a time box to focus and reduce context switching. If the team doesn’t have one large or two related sprint goals and is just working on random bits of work, they aren’t getting the benefits of reduced context switching and swarming (a team working together on the same goal).
3. The team often doesn’t have something to demo at sprint reviews
Every once in a while this may happen due to unforeseen circumstances, but even with tech debt you can show how things still work properly, times have improved, or you can show what bugs the team has fixed. You should treat uncompleted sprint work and unknowns that have popped up that disrupt the team as major impediments.
4. The team doesn’t have an improvement to take into the next sprint
Scrum is all about inspecting and adapting. The retrospective is the most important meeting in scrum. This is where the team takes the time to reflect, so they can inspect, adapt, and make improvements. If the team isn’t working on bettering themselves and their work, then they are missing the point of scrum. If your team doesn’t have retrospectives, or they just use them as complaining sessions, then that is one of the first things you should tackle.
5. Your team is not having fun
It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Studies have shown time and time again, that happy, engaged employees mean more productive employees. That means better, quality solutions for customers, which means more revenue for the organization. Managers are the first responders for their teams. They should keep a look out for a team harboring negative feelings or going through difficult times. Managers have the most control of anyone to directly support and improve the feelings and circumstances of the team.
These aren’t the only factors to be on the lookout for. Whether you manage one team or many, these high level characteristics are a great way to determine which teams you should dive a bit deeper into to see if they need some coaching on their scrum best practices.
What are some characteristics you keep a look out for with your teams?