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8 Tips New Scrum Teams Must Know Before Proceeding

Teams that are new to Scrum must take the proper time to grab the basics of the Scrum framework and adhere to its core principles to set a solid foundation and then gradually master it. Find out more tips for new Scrum teams in this article.
July 8 · 7 min read
8 Tips for New Scrum Teams

Scrum – The Most Popular Agile Methodology

Scrum is an Agile development methodology that relies on teamwork to carry out iterative-based incremental development processes. The project is broken down into small prioritized development cycles (called sprints) that are completed on an incremental basis and involve continuous users'/stakeholders' feedback. For example, at the end of one development cycle (or sprint), the team showcases the deliverables to the stakeholders. The stakeholders review and then give feedback, which the team addresses before proceeding to the next sprint. The cycle continues until the team has developed the full-fledged product.

The basic Scrum framework relies on the following main elements:

  • 3 Scrum team roles, i.e., Product Owner, Scrum Master, and development team
  • A product backlog that includes a prioritized list of items reflecting user requirements.
  • Sprints
  • Scrum events (sprint planning, sprint review, daily Scrum meetings, and sprint retrospectives)

Overall, Scrum is a complete project management framework that helps organizations to become more responsive to market and customer needs with timely and quality deliveries. The main Scrum values include courage, openness, commitment, focus, and respect. Moreover, some of the key benefits of Scrum are as follows:

  • Faster release of new products
  • Adaptable to market demands or/and changing customer demands
  • Self-organizing and collaborative teams
  • Better customer satisfaction
  • Better view of project progress

The success of Scrum relies on the Scrum team and how well-knowledged it is to deploy the core principle of Scrum rightly to ensure responsive, incremental, and quality deliveries. So, let's now explore in more detail about Scrum team, its composition, and similar other details.

Scrum Team – A Complete Overview

In simple words, a Scrum team is a group of individuals that work in a collaborative environment to deliver the product. Each member of the Scrum team has different skills to offer and a different set of duties to fulfill. To better understand the Scrum team, consider the example of the rugby team. In a rugby team, every player has a specific duty and position to play and should collaborate with other players all the time. Likewise, in the Scrum team, every member has a specific duty to fulfill and ensure continuous collaboration throughout the development cycle.

Members of a Scrum Team

The Scrum team comprises three main roles, i.e., Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the development team. Stakeholders of the project are also associated with the Scrum team on different occasions. Moreover, the size of the Scrum team should be less than 9 people. The ideal size is considered to be 7 members, including 5 developers Product Owner, and Scrum Master. However, the size can increase or decrease depending on the organization's size or project needs. Let's now explore the three roles of the Scrum team in more detail.

Product Owner

The Product Owner has a clear understanding of what users and stakeholders want from the product. Their main job is to understand the needs of users and then prepare a prioritized product backlog for the development team. Some of the key duties of the Product Owner include:

  1. Communicate with the customers and stakeholders to know their requirements.
  2. Define, manage, and prioritize the product backlog.
  3. Guide and provide directions to the development team on what features should be delivered in next sprint.
  4. Keep customers and the development team on the same page.

Overall, the Product Owner act as the guide for the development team during the whole development cycle. If development team is discussing and collaborating on how to handle work, then the Product Owner is the one that finalizes what to prioritize.

Scrum Master

The Scrum Master is the master of the Scrum framework and helps the development team to apply Scrum principles rightfully. The role of the Scrum Master is different from a traditional project manager. The Scrum Master only acts as the coach for the development team to ensure that the members follow Scrum for timely and quality completion of project. Some of the key duties of the Scrum Master include:

  • Ensure that the team follows Scrum principles.
  • Ensure that the team is on track to meet the sprint goals.
  • Facilitate daily stand-up meetings.
  • Improve the efficiency of sprints.
  • Address and remove internal or external conflicts disturbing the team.

Overall, the Scrum Master is a supportive leader that helps the development team and Product Owner and ensures that the project adheres to Scrum principles.

You can read about the difference between Scrum Master and Project Manager in this article.

Development Team

A development team is a group of people with unique skills that work in a collaborative environment to develop the project based on the prioritized list of tasks set by the Product Owner. The development team can comprise of developers, designers, architects, writers, and similar others. Some of the key duties of the development team include:

  • Conduct product backlog estimation meetings to estimate the efforts to complete product backlog items using different estimation techniques, such as Planning Poker, Async Poker, T-Shirt Size, Bucket System, etc.
  • Conduct sprint backlog planning meetings.
  • Participate in daily stand-up meetings.
  • Complete the work assigned in each sprint within the timeframe.

Overall, the development team is a self-organizing and cross-functional team in which members are continuously improving their project workflows and skills and adhering to Scrum principles thoroughly.

8 Tips for New Scrum Teams

If your organization has decided to set up a new Scrum team, then it must take some time for the team to set solid roots around Scrum before it actually starts using the Scrum methodology. Although Scrum seems an easy framework to grab and understand, it can affect the quality of product deliveries if handled inefficiently. Therefore, below are 8 tips for new Scrum teams that can help to start a successful Scrum-based development journey:

1. Spare Time to lay Solid Foundation

Scrum should not be instantly enforced, rather the team should be given 2-3 days so that a solid foundation is laid. For example, the first day can be set to refresh the principles of Scrum and the best practices to apply Scrum. The second day can be set for team building and interaction. The third day can be set for setting and estimating the Product Backlog and initiating the first sprint. Although spending 3 days seem to consume a lot of time and team energy, it can set a solid foundation that can help the team to have a powerful kickstart of its Scrum journey.

2. Knowing Each Other

Scrum teams are attributed as self-organizing, collaborative, and cross-functional teams. These attributes urge that team members should know each other so that they can interact and collaborate effectively. So, whether the members have worked together in the past or they are working for the first time, they should conduct a session where they can interact to know each other better. The session should be a fun activity where they share their strengths and become more open with the team. Doing so will help members feel less restrained during future development cycles.

3. Set a Team Contract

A new Scrum team needs to clear out a few key points, such as how we will work as a team, who are the members, what are members' roles and responsibilities, when are the Scrum events, and similar other points. All these points can be set up in a team contract so that members can have a better sense of what is expected from them.

4. Set Definition of "Done"

How does a team know when an increment is completed successfully? For that, there should be a proper Definition of Done (DoD). However, the DoD can differ from team to team. Therefore, it is important that a team set a quick interactive session to derive the DoD before the beginning of the sprint. Once the DoD is set, the team will have clarity of what is the stop point of the current sprint.

5. Estimate and Refine Product Backlog Items

Before sprint planning, Scrum urges the need of estimating product backlog items in a specific estimation session where the Product Owner narrates the prioritized backlog items as user stories to the team. Afterward, the team can use any backlog estimation technique to estimate the efforts required to complete that item. The popular estimation techniques include Planning Poker, Async Poker, T-Shirt Size, Affinity Estimation, Bucket System, etc. The product backlog estimation session helps the team to have a prior understanding of the work they are going to do next. Moreover, it also helps in pinpointing challenges with the backlog items, re-arranging items, and settings a better team understanding.

6. Set "Safe to Fail" Environment

A new Scrum team will most likely make mistakes. Maybe the team fails to complete sprint timely, struggles to collaborate, delivers faulty features, etc. In such situations, it can become frustrating situation for members to remain productive and take risks. Therefore, a new Scrum team that is already hesitant with a new development methodology should be given an environment where it is safe to fail. Members should be encouraged to take risks and fail so that they can learn from their failures and eventually become a master of iterative-based development.

7. Small Members Count

Scrum expects the team to be cross-functional but also expects the members' count to be small. Ideally, a team of 5-9 members suits best, as it streamlines meeting sessions, collaboration, and efficient teamwork. However, there are many large-scale organizations that are also on track to set up Scrum teams. Since large-scale organizations deal with more complex projects, there will be a need for large or multiple teams to collaborate on one project. In such scenarios, organizations can use Scrum scaling frameworks for better streamlined collaboration, such as LeSS, Nexus, Scrum of Scrums, Scrum@Scale, etc. Overall, it is encouraged to set up a small Scrum team, but if the project demands a big team, then organizations should go for it unhesitantly.

8. Avoid Cutting or Stretching Sprint Time

There are chances that new Scrum teams might initially set easy sprint tasks that they complete before the deadline. So, they might think to cut the sprint duration and start planning the next sprint. However, instead of cutting sprint time, the team should add up a few easy stories and complete them by the sprint deadline. Similarly, if a team finds it difficult to complete the lined-up stories in the set sprint deadline, it should avoid extending the sprint time and try to adjust the remaining stories in the next sprint. This way, the team can keep the rhythm intact no matter the situation.

To sum up, adopting Scrum might be struggling at the beginning, but focused training, adhering to Scrum principles, team commitment, and learning from failures can lead new Scrum teams to become more efficient with Scrum-based iterative development.

Conclusion

New Scrum teams have to go through a lot of changes in the beginning, which can be challenging for some teams. The recommended way is to make the team follow Scrum by the book and train itself with all the basic concepts around the Scrum framework. Once members become well-educated, they can gradually upscale their skills and know their shortcomings with every passing sprint. In a nutshell, Scrum addresses the fast development/release needs of today. So, try out the above-listed tips and start your journey with the Scrum framework.

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