Self-Organized also means having cojones

Living and breathing Scrum means for a team being self organized. My experience in different Scrum projects tells me that this is not always an easy task to grasp. Experienced Agile teams are self organized when it comes to maintain the code base or gathering information for user stories from the product owner. But what happens when soft skills are involved?

Imagine the following scenario:

You are a member of a high performing and technologically skilled team. The team’s capabilities extend from maintaining the currently developed code base to complex refactorings to keep the architecture agile for changes without loosing the main goal out of sight: “Building high quality software which satisfies the stakeholders with the right time to market.” Due to the customer’s economy measures the high performing team needs to be cut in size and team members are suddenly coming and going, but the core team and spirit is kept together. New developers are put into the team and tremendous effort must be accomplished by the new team members. After several weeks the team begins to see that the new team members are not well performing and do not fit into the required skill set of an ideal team member for this precise team. Several retrospectives have shown that the team tends to be quite unhappy about the current situation but no one is having the guts to speak out what everyone is thinking.

How would you address this problem as Scrum Master, Product Owner or even team member?

Because as a self organized team it is clearly our responsibility to address the problem and find a suitable solution. Even if it means to name the unproductive team members and find new ones. So being self organized in the end means having cojones “balls” and addressing problems which slow the whole team down! Don’t get me wrong: Every new team member gets a chance to be integrated in the team but there is clearly a dead line which varies from team to team and project to project. Decide for yourself but when it comes to unpleasant situations stand your manhood!

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Daniel Marbach


  • Good point, but good teams usually don’t have this problem because they are also good at identifying and hiring team members who are up to the task.

    The more common problem is when the team has to deal with a bad manager. Managers who aren’t as good at his or her job as the team members are, or a manager who doesn’t have respect for the abilities and accomplishments of the team. Another common problem is a manager who won’t push back against upper management when they try to force bad decisions on the team.

    My experience is that Cojones are more often needed to push back against poor front line management, or for a good front-line manager to push back against upper management. A front line manager who won’t push back against upper management is a liability.

By Daniel Marbach

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