Teams Within Teams

It’s a part of the Scrum Guide that we usually just pass over without any further inspection; I’m talking about the Scrum Team section. And it’s understandable; everyone can name the three main building blocks of the Scrum team: the Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development team. That’s it. Self-explanatory. Move on.

Well, not quite.

Important addition

In the Scrum Guide’s 2020 revision, there were a few changes in the aforementioned Scrum Team section, and I would like to focus on one that jumps right out the second sentence of the first paragraph:

“Within a Scrum Team, there are no sub-teams or hierarchies.”

There is no standalone Development team defined within the Scrum team anymore. This setup could give the impression that some team members are not responsible for the value we’re trying to deliver. Somebody could say, “Well, my assigned item is developed and done. I did my part in the team’s velocity. And that’s all from me.” In this case, somebody can be under the impression that the Product Owner is responsible for the value being delivered to the Stakeholders. But that would be a mistake. The whole team needs to work together, and everyone’s input is important for reaching the common Sprint goal.

Another example might be a division in the development process where Developers transfer their work to QA specialists and are no longer involved. Another mistake. In the Scrum framework, QA specialists are considered Developers and are equal. The idea of a half-done Sprint Backlog in which testing isn’t finished (possibly because of a bottleneck in QA) and Developers are taking new items into the Sprint Backlog is a situation that should not occur. In this scenario, where the Sprint is in its second half and QA is overwhelmed, the Developers are also equally responsible for quality and must participate in the successful delivery of the Product increment.

Negative effects of teams with unwritten internal hierarchies or sub-teams are a remnant of the past, where projects were driven as waterfalls and we thought everything could be planned in advance and managed closely during development.

One team

The Scrum team Developers, Scrum Master and Product Owner work together to bring the highest possible value to their Stakeholders in the shortest possible time. Everyone has this responsibility, which might sound scary, but keep in mind that if everyone does their share, together the team can do it.