“Management Exerts Subtle Control over Self Organization
In the original paper describing Scrum, Takeuchi and Nonaka identified
“subtle control” as one of its six principles. They list staffing
decisions as a key management responsibility.
Selecting the right people for the project team while monitoring
shifts in group dynamics and adding or dropping members when necessary
[is a key management responsibility]. “We would add an older and more
conservative member to the team should the balance shift too much
toward radicalism,” said a Honda executive. “We carefully pick the
project members after long deliberation. We analyze the different
personalities to see if they would get along.
Getting the Right People on the Agile Team
If you are a personnel manager or otherwise influence team composition
in your organization, here are some of the factors to consider.
Include all Needed Disciplines on Agile Teams
As a cross-functional team, it is important that all skills necessary
to go from idea to implemented feature be represented on the team.
Initially this may mean that team size is slightly larger than
desired. But, over time, individuals on a Scrum team will learn some
of the skills possessed by their coworkers. This is a natural result
of being on a Scrum team. As some team members develop broader skills,
other individuals can be moved onto other teams.
Mix of Technical Skill Levels on Agile Teams
Subject to considerations of team size, you should strive to balance
skill levels on the team. If a team has three senior programmers and
no less-experienced programmers, the senior programmers will need to
code some low-criticality features that they could find boring. Not
only might a junior programmer have found such features enjoyable to
work on, that programmer would also benefit from learning through
association with the senior programmers.
Balance Domain Knowledge on Agile Teams
Just as we strive to balance technical skills, we should strive for a
balance between those with deep knowledge of the domain in which we
are working or the problem we are attempting to solve. This is not to
say that if we have the opportunity to assemble a team entirely of
domain experts we shouldn’t take it. Rather, we should consider the
long-term goals of our organization. One of those goals is likely the
build up of domain knowledge throughout the organization. You’ll have
a hard time achieving that if you put all of the domain experts on one
Seek Diversity on Agile Teams
Diversity can mean many different things—gender, race, and culture
being just three among them. Perhaps equally important can be how
individuals think about problems, how they make decisions, how much
information they need before making a decision, and so on. Research
shows that homogeneous teams reach consensus more quickly than do
heterogeneous teams, but they do so by failing to consider all
Consider Persistence When Forming Agile Teams
It takes time for agile team members to learn to work well together.
Strive, therefore, to keep team members together who have worked well
together in the past. When forming a new team, consider how long
members will be able to work together before some or all are dispersed
to other commitments.”