A watched pot never boils. Similarly, I believe a watched team never achieves their true potential.
As someone from outside the team, it can be difficult to give up control and trust the team to self-organise. Try to remember that unless you’re doing the work, you never really have control. As the team are the ones doing the work, you have to trust that they are also the best people to decide how the work gets done. When a team feels trusted, they will usually do all they can to retain that trust.
This message applies to anyone who relies on a scrum team to get things done: Management, Executives, Product Owners, Project Manager, Scrum Masters. You need to decide if you want to be a supporter, or a disrupter. If you’re constantly bugging a team about their progress, then you’re distracting them from making that progress. This is disruptive. not helpful. If the team knows you’re there to help them remove impediments, protect them from disrupters and answer their questions, then you’re a supporter. Team’s value their supporters but feel very different about their disrupters. It shouldn’t be hard to pick which side you want to be on.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how the team does it, as long as they deliver on their sprint forecast and meet the Definition of Done. That doesn’t mean you have to wait around for the end of each sprint waiting to see if the team is achieving yet. Here are some opportunities for supporting the team:
Make it clear that the team has control over what they take in. This is the best way for the team to really commit to what they’re forecasting to deliver. Consider leaving the room while they select items to show you trust them to make the best decisions.
This is a good opportunity to get a gauge on sprint progress but don’t interrupt. Answer questions if directed at you, or if the answer is long, make a time to discuss it after stand up. If things are looking dicey, you may ask the team at the end of stand up how they feel about their sprint forecast – is it still looking doable? But be careful not to be a nagging nanny. If you do then you risk the team becoming defensive, in which case it will be much more difficult to get an honest answer from them. If they say no, the sprint is no longer achievable, then at least you know sooner rather than later. Ask them if there’s anything you can do to help and encourage problem solving within the team.
Other than lurking at stand-ups, another way to find out how the sprint is progressing is to check the sprint burndown and the scrum board. These artifacts save you from having to bug the team.
If the team raises an impediment and you can do something about it, then get onto it asap! If the team knows you’re there to support them, they will feel comfortable raising issues with you.
Celebrate the team’s success. Focusing on positive outcomes can motivate teams to put in the effort to repeat them. If they failed, support them in their plans to improve next time. Ask them what you can do to help and suggest they consider that in the retrospective. Help them understand the value that they are delivering.
Trust is a two way street. You need to show the team that you can be their trustworthy supporter. Be honest and transparent and you increase the chance that your team will return in kind.