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3 Reasons Why Teams Struggle to Self Organize

May 20, 2011

The teams where one or a few team members are more skilled than the rest of the team struggle the most with self organization. The skills gap is rather significant within these teams. So these teams are 'led' by a person (or a couple of persons). This person is the one who’s most skilled, usually the architect, technical lead or the lead developer. In some cases it might be the Scrum Master. Titles do vary but the symptoms remain the same.  In some teams it's a single person and in others couple of team members (or more) take the lead.

Having one or a few dominant members means the team is far from being a self organized team. It's not the team which commits and take responsibility, rather an individual (or a few individuals). Several factors contribute to this. Typical symptoms to watch out for include

  1. Planning meeting led by a single person
  2. Lead Developer assigns tasks
  3. Team dependency on a single person to carry out major changes

Planning meeting led by a single person

The planning meeting has just started. The Product Owner starts to discuss top priority items from the Product Backlog. The team starts to ask questions. It becomes obvious after a few minutes that the questions and the discussion is led by a single person. He's asking bulk of the questions. It's almost like one-to-one discussion between him and the Product Owner. The team ‘estimates’ the item, and again that person leads the estimation effort. The team merely 'agrees' to the estimate given by that person.

Lead developer assigns tasks

Daily Scrum is ruled by one or a few team members. While talking, most of the team members are talking to this person, as if they are reporting to him. Team members look up to this person to 'guide' them. This person comes up with majority of the tasks. He also assigns tasks in some cases.

Team dependency on a single person to carry out major changes

The team is dependent on a single member or a few members to carry out any major changes. This person is typically an architect or a lead developer. The team depends on this person to carry out any major changes and to add new features. This might happen because of the skills gap between this person and the rest of the team is big. Or this might happen simply because of the historical and political reasons. This person might have been there right from the starts and behave as if he own certain areas.

Learn more about Scrum and Agile in one of Scrum Certification Master Courses.

© Faisal Mahmood

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