Self Managing Teams – Systems Thinking

This is a similar post to my last one on systems thinking, but from a slightly different viewpoint, this time we’ll look at the Scrum team and focus on retrospectives.

A Scrum team can get very good at what they do and given the retrospective’s can improve their working processes. This post may seem simple at the start but please keep reading. Here’s a common scenario where the Scrum Master informs the team that they are empowered to make changes….

A developer starts to influence the group, “I really don’t like the way we test at the moment, it’s slow and we’re not seeing many benefits, there are much better tools we can use”. The Scrum Master facilitating, “OK, let’s look at how we can improve this, come up with some solutions and try them out during the next sprint”. Sounds fine doesn’t it? The team change the testing tool and a month from that point they have a really great new testing strategy.

After 2 months the following occurs. The team about to pick up the software has two different testing tools to support and they’re not very happy. The other teams are struggling to understand which test strategy to implement when some of the newer code needs to change. The metrics the teams were using are now mismatched and hard to understand. No-one can easily tell if areas of code are covered by tests without manually looking.

The reason why the problem occurred is because the Scrum Team are within a larger system. They did not really appreciate this and built a consensus amongst themselves that what they were doing was exercising empowerment and continuous improvement. When you are working in a team it is important to understand how the outputs you produce fit within the larger picture. Who is using those outputs? what is their intended purpose. If you want to change them how do you keep the system functioning?

At this point you should expand the decision making process to beyond the Scrum team and identify the stakeholders and the outputs. If you can convince someone they no longer need something or can get something in a different or better way you’ll achieve far more. This will also help stop the team getting frustrated.

2 comments on “Self Managing Teams – Systems Thinking

  1. Anyone worth their salt knows that self managed teams must work within confines of enterprise. Toolset and metrics are often dictated by a PMO. Common processes helps roll things up to Program level and facilitates easy transitions when moving staff between pods.

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