A Scrum Team Member is aware of the work that other Team Members are doing, notices if others are struggling with their tasks, and if so, offers to help them. This is part of the concept of self-organization that is so core to Scrum. A Scrum Team Member is not just focused on their own personal tasks.
This help can be offered as ideas, powerful questions, sharing the work of the task, or even offering simple encouragement. Sometimes just another set of eyes on a problem is helpful. If Team Members are constantly seeking to help each other, this actively contributes to team cohesion, cross-training, and the development of a high-performance team environment. Of course, if people don’t help each other, then individual Team Members may struggle for a long time without making progress and overall productivity will be dramatically hindered.
If Team Members are not helping each other, there is something deeply wrong. Fortunately, this is a relatively easy problem to start to “fix”. Three steps will help a team make great progress on helping each other.
- First and foremost, the whole team needs to understand their purpose in working together. Often this is a product vision, a project charter, or some other high-level business objective. Usually it is easy to find this information by asking around within the organization. The Product Owner of the team needs to find the information and share it with the whole team. This communication shouldn’t just happen once, but should be ongoing and at least every Sprint Planning meeting. The Product Owner might start the meeting by reminding the team of this high-level goal. Knowing the purpose of the work provides necessary context for understanding why the members of a team should help each other.
- The second step is for the team to build a Skills Matrix (http://www.agileadvice.com/tag/skills-matrix/). This visual record of how each person feels their skills contribute to the success of the team helps team members to know who to ask for help with various tasks, and when to offer help. In simple terms, the team creates a master list of all the skills needed to achieve the overall goal for the team. Then, each team member does a self-evaluation on how well they can perform the skill on a five-point scale. This information is all collected on a single large poster-size chart, and everyone can see it or gets a digital copy for reference.
- The final step is to establish active Pairing (http://www.agileadvice.com/tag/pair-programming/) or Mobbing for certain aspects of the work. This is the hardest step since it requires discipline to maintain – the Scrum Master should help with this! The purpose of pairing and mobbing is to allow multiple people to work on a problem simultaneously in a way which encourages close communication, knowledge transfer and skill development. The team decides what kinds of problems require pairing and what kinds of problems require mobbing, and then that becomes a formalized team agreement on helping each other. For example, a software development team might decide to do pairing for all database development, and mobbing for all defect fixing work. A marketing team might decide to do pairing for all competitive research work, and mobbing for all brand strategy work. Pairing and mobbing encourage a high level of collaboration that leads naturally to greater and greater levels of helpfulness between team members.
Every day, the Development Team should understand how it intends to work together as a self-organizing team to accomplish the Sprint Goal and create the anticipated Increment by the end of the Sprint. The Development Team or team members often meet immediately after the Daily Scrum for detailed discussions, or to adapt, or replan, the rest of the Sprint’s work. — The Scrum Guide
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