Tales of the Bizarro Scrum – Yes, We Are a Self-organizing Team

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Development Manager: “Yes we are a self-organizing team. I task out all the activities and then I let the team decide which tasks they want to work on. I don’t assign any of the tasks myself.”

Not assigning tasks is a good first step, however, it falls short of what is means to be a self-organizing Scrum team. In Scrum, the Product Owner determines the “What”, as in what features are needed, and the Scrum development team determines the “How”, as in how best to accomplish the work to deliver on the feature and the Sprint goal. That includes determining the tasks needed, how long they will take, and who will work on which tasks.

Self-organization will not happen overnight. As a ScrumMaster, you have to foster self-organization. You have to encourage the development manager, tech lead, or architect to empower the team to come up with their own designs and tasks. This takes time. The team will likely overlook key considerations and miss certain tasks at first. However, over time, they will learn, and then the development manager or tech lead, can spend less and less time dealing with the day to day hand holding and move into a guiding and mentoring role while tackling big picture items.

Two key principles apply here: “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams” and “Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.”