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Destruction vector created by upklyak –

Gladiators is a well-formed Agile team as per the prevailing practices – 5 Developers, 2 testers,  1 SM and 1PO.  The team delivers complex technology solutions for the Cloud platform. Each of the developer is skilled in a technology and testers are manual testers. There are various requests from different internal groups in the company to this team and involves multiple technologies. The team follows regular iterations and all the agile ceremonies. However the outcome from the team is very inconsistent and the Team velocity greatly fluctuates. Often the PO,  Arun, has to apologize for the delays to the various internal customers. What do you think could be the reason for these delays given the above context and how would you go about fixing this?

Suggested approach

Unless, we are creating a brand new Agile team from scratch, in the real word such scenarios are inevitable.

Delays happen in delivery due to following reasons from the SKILLS perspective

  1. Each team member can work only on a particular skill, creating skill islands within the team. This situation makes the team approach to collectively swarming a story becomes impossible.
  2.  Collective wisdom of the team in estimating, approach to designs, testing etc., is lost
  3.  Problems get accentuated when there is a demand for one particular skill
  4. The system becomes dependent on individuals and their lack of availability due to personal reasons, causes shocks in the system and further delays making commitments to customers impossible.

For now, the approach would be to ensure that all internal customers are periodically involved after every iteration and keep them informed of the progress and the delays.  Since team members are working in islands, there is no team approach as yet. The  long term approach would be to get all stories defined with sufficient sub-tasks or activities. Based on the skill inventory, for every story, a portion of the story i.e., a sub-task should be shared by other resources. By such sharing, the skill level slowly builds up in the team and over a period of time, for each story at least more than one team member to support the work. This way pockets of high and low load to individual members will be removed and the team will be able to eliminate and make a firm commitment to the customers. The team members also should self-learn the new skills that they are planning to acquire next.