Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Need to ask what each member of your team is doing? Then your team is too big!

In daily (or more frequent) stand ups that is common in agile/scrum based teams many practices the process of asking each and every attendee: what did they do yesterday, will be doing today and if there is any impediments. Many do this by default without considering alternatives.

I have previously blogged that I trust my team members and do not need to know in detail what they did yesterday. I firmly believe it is more productive to focus on the tasks on the board rather than the individual. If you do not trust every member of your team then you have bigger problems.

However task focused only works with a small “1-2 pizza” team. A small team where everyone knows what everyone is doing, where the scrum master / project manager have full understanding of what tasks is currently in progress if not already obvious from the board.

Once the team grows too large you tend to have too many tasks on the board and people are all working on different perhaps even unrelated  tasks. The other team members, and especially scrum master, cannot keep up with all individual and task statuses so you need to do the token ring quiz.

The ring quiz takes time, and tend to let people’s focus drift away from the stand up and not really listen particularly well to what the others have to say after a while (I am guilty of this frequently), especially if some tasks never involve certain other members.

Also the project comes more inclined to individual tasks and not pairing and swarming together on the same tasks. The risk is then some people can disappear between the cracks or loose focus and your project start to become less efficient and agile.

So if you find you stand ups are leaning towards individual “what-you-did what-you-will-do any-impediments” interrogations then it is a strong smell of having a team that is too big.

(“1-2 pizza” is an analogy of how many can share large pizzas together. In my case 3-5 members is a good size, 8-9 is too big, and more than that is simply not agile)




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