Creating Self-Sufficient Scrum Teams

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Jun 9, 2022
Updated on
Jun 18, 2022
Table of Content

Excellent teams can work independently and self-organize, and a powerful project management approach can enable their proactivity. But before that can happen, it is imperative to understand some fundamental challenges that may hold teams back from operating independently.

The discipline behind competent teams is gaining traction in the marketplace. Amidst this optimal team management paradigm search, a "self-sufficient team" is becoming the hottest buzzword.

Essentially, self-sufficient teams are empowered work units that function optimally with zero or minimal supervision. It is vital to identify the key indicators that use broad operational objectives to ensure self-sufficiency in your teams, because building self-sufficiency in teams is not a one-person job. 

This article will be your primer on self-sufficient teams and how you can make one.

What Is Self-Sufficiency?

Self-sufficiency is when Scrum teams reach the point where they can achieve their goals in time without asking for help, using the available resources and skills at their disposal. This isn't a task but a procedure, and therefore, it implies self-improvement and continuous learning.

Businesses highly depend on how well their teams perform and deliver. The quality of their work and the level of their productivity essentially determine the company's success. Therefore, it really matters how supportive the management is in handling and empowering these teams. One of the positive techniques is to inspire them and make them self-sufficient.

You can encourage teams to make workable project plans instead of giving them particular guidelines and posing questions to lead/guide them. For instance, you can ask them to come up with the optimal ways to divide their work-related tasks, project completion estimates, roadblocks or potential problems they can identify, and their solutions.

Self-sufficient Scrum teams are:

  • Motivated. As the team feels a sense of autonomy and ownership, they become more driven to achieve the collective goals/objectives and deliver each Sprint with accountability and responsibility.
  • Responsible. Teams that are allowed to make their own decisions take the ownership of the project deliverables and are liable for the timely assignment delivery and their contribution. 
  • Ongoing learning. As the project advances, the teams learn from their errors and become more organized, while slip-ups decrease over time
  • Efficient. Since the teams work as a cohort and are accountable for the results, they're more likely to select the best, most efficient way forward. They learn from their mistakes, discuss their options and hence grow more and more competent as the project advances.

Why Is a Scrum Team Supposed To Be Self-Sufficient?

According to the scrum guide, Scrum teams are cross-functional and self-organizing.

The Scrum Guide says that an Agile software development team is self-organizing and self-sufficient. The team brilliantly administers its work during the entire Sprint and isn't being instructed or directed by anyone else. 

As a result, it's preferable to have a self-sufficient, cross-functional and self-organizing team to empower all members to optimize the project's performance, increasing productivity, creativity, and flexibility.

There are various reasons for Agile scrum teams to be self-sufficient. When a team is self-sufficient and self-organized, it is competent and intelligent enough to accomplish their work without seeking help from anybody outside the team.

This explains the concept of self-sufficient teams: rather than being compelled to achieve work items, a Scrum team proactively concentrates on boosting them. This approach isn't top-to-bottom, but bottom-up.

Scrum teams proactively decide which tasks from the Sprint backlogs need to be prioritized and completed instantly. They can also provide estimations of the hard work involved and the time required to deliver a shippable product.

It is imperative to develop and foster a work culture where teams with Scrum roles are self-sufficient and simultaneously guide them on becoming more self-organizing and self-sufficient. Not even the Scrum Master shouldn't tell the team how to approach and prioritize tasks.

The Scrum Master and the team both need to assimilate their approach to the new management style in order to be genuinely self-organized, self-sufficient, and Agile.

A self-sufficient team gets the work done smartly and manages estimation, delivery, and allocation. However, they still need to be mentored. They certainly don't require commands; team members have all the essential skills, and, if required, they can be reskilled to accommodate the project specifications.

How to Make A Scrum Team Self-Sufficient?

Creating a self-sufficient Agile Scrum team is not a one-person job, and indeed, it demands organizational level assistance from the entire team and management. Project deliverables and responsibilities lie with the Scrum team Master, who is critically liable for ensuring that the team takes charge without micromanaging their everyday work.

Scrum Masters have to be actively aware that while they coach the team to be self-sufficient and self-organized. They shouldn't redirect the team’s operations according to their outlook of how things should be carried out.

Scrum Masters coach the team to ensure that it follows all Scrum rules appropriately.

For instance, the daily Scrum meetings should take place every day, and the entire team should partake in them. They should direct these meetings themselves and not wait for their Scrum Masters to initiate the discussion.

Scrum teams are cross-functional and self-sufficient; it is essential that they have all the diverse skill sets to ensure timely and accurate project deliverables. They do not need to look outside their team for help at advanced stages.

Then comes the Scrum Master's role: The Scrum Master is there to guide and lead the team whenever they require support and assistance, and to eliminate any impediments they may encounter in the course of delivery. 

Scrum Masters offer need-based coaching and ensure that the team progresses and becomes more self-sufficient with time. 

When they give the employees extra responsibilities and hold them accountable, it should help them build self-sufficiency. It's an empowering demonstration of faith in their creativity and capabilities. 

Essential Characteristics of Self-Sufficient Teams

As the team grows and advances, it's vital to avoid micromanaging it. The team should work without its Scrum Master hovering over every task. 

Ask them to negotiate with team members and decide on the best ideas to leverage and how to implement them to ensure proper execution and results. 

The primary role of a Scrum Master is to facilitate, not take over. However, a Scrum Master must be available and open to their team's questions. In addition, Scrum Masters can step in when they think things are going off track to guide them. Then, they can back off, allowing their teams to resume independent work.

Letting employee teams decide for themselves about their projects makes them more inclined toward greater productivity. They take a more significant part in the company's success, and this new approach can inspire them to achieve and accomplish more.

All successful, self-sufficient teams share the following characteristics:

  • Motivated and democratic. A self-sufficient Agile Scrum team doesn't have a manager or a leader. The Scrum Master only helps to eradicate impediments that stand in the way of the Scrum teams that handle backlog (also known as scrum artifact) on their own, as they have a sense of ownership of the collective goals.
  • Self-correcting. A self-sufficient team routinely catches up on the frequent Sprint retrospective and Standup meeting to review their progress and take appropriate actions in case any course correction is needed.
  • Cross-functional. Self-organized and self-sufficient Scrum teams have all the essential competencies and skills to accomplish set Sprint goals within the team. 
  • Collaborative. The Scrum team works as a team rather than a group of individuals. They self-manage and collaborate to get their work done and don't let any communication gaps obstruct their progress.
  • Committed. Self-sufficient Scrum teams are focused and committed to achieving Sprint goals. The team ensures that the project is delivered on time and the possibly releasable increment is advanced at the end of each Sprint.
  • Trustworthy. Team members depend on each other to facilitate them out with the problems and have a strong respect for the diverse skill set that each of them brings to the team.

How Can GoRetro Help?

For any company, development lies in having and promoting a self-sufficient workforce. These teams are empowered work units that can function optimally with zero or minimal supervisory authority.

If your Scrum teams need autonomy and self-sufficiency to operate, you may want to reconsider your team's performance and organizational goals.

While establishing new habits takes time, you should be willing to embrace the fact that team members are going to hit a few bumps as they start to take initiative. However, you can create a more robust, self-sufficient Scrum team, leading to a more prosperous and successful business. 

This self-sufficient Scrum team model is scalable. Department executives can empower their teams with valuable tips, find ways to minimize and eradicate micromanagement tendencies, and guide them to perform better.

An Agile Sprint retrospective platform like GoRetro can help you facilitate the retro process and make it seamless, data-driven and streamlined. With GoRetro you can run scrum team retrospectives quickly and effortlessly.

Visit GoRetro to learn more.

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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