Sunday, April 18, 2010

Scrum at Six Card Solutions (or why I think managers are needed in Scrum)

Six Card Solutions belongs to the earlier adopters among Swiss Financial Institutions deploying Scrum. They started rolling out Scrum among their 80 developers in Zurich last Summer (2009). So, how did it go?

Christoph Loher (Product Owner) and Stefan Kinigadner (ScrumMaster) were the leaders of the first team to transition to Scrum at Six's Development Group Zurich. The organization presented to usual challenges one expects when trying to transition one team to a cross-functional Scrum in a company that is organized on function division. Despite this challenge, the team was able to achieve a pretty good Scrum (based on Henrik Kniberg's Scrum Checklist).

One problem in particular stood out: As the project unfolded, the team grew. This was a relic of the classical project planning. At some point, the team became unwieldy - 12 people or so - and performance stagnated. The P-O wanted to split the team in two. Although they talked about it in several retrospectives, the team was never enthusiastic about splitting. Eventually, the P-O insisted (but avoided falling back into command and control). Although not all variables have been eliminated, after the first sprint after the split, it looks like the team(s) substantially improved their productivity and everyone agreed the split was a good thing.

You can download their presentation here:  Scrum at Six Card Solutions

A lot of the discussion centered on why the team could not agree to split. My take: the members of a team are expected to form a unit, to commit to that unit and to solve problems together. Even the ScrumMaster is taught 'When in doubt, ask the team!'  Asking a team to split itself up is asking the team members to reject their identity, something they are not all inclined to do!

Perhaps there are limits to what problems self-organizing teams can be expected to solve. And this hints at the role of management in a Scrum organization.

What's your experience? What are the limits of a self organizing team?