One question that often arises in the context of Scrum is whether individuals can be part of more than one Scrum team. While there is no explicit rule against this in Scrum, it’s essential to explore the implications of such arrangements on productivity and adherence to Scrum values.
Scrum as a Framework
Scrum is not a set of rigid rules but a framework within which people work together to deliver value in complex environments. The Scrum Guide, maintained by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, outlines the core components of Scrum, including accountabilities, events, and artifacts. It emphasizes delivering valuable products through transparency, inspection and adaptation. It does not specify the number of teams a person can be part of, leaving this decision up to the self-organizing Scrum team.
Productivity and Task Switching
One of the key considerations when deciding whether an individual should be on more than one Scrum team is productivity. A study conducted by Gerald Weinberg, author of “Quality Software Management: Systems Thinking,” highlights the significant impact of task switching on productivity. Weinberg’s research indicates that when people work on one project 100% of the time, their productivity remains high. However, when they are split between two projects, they lose approximately 20% of their time due to context switching. Productivity decreases further the more projects a person supports.
This phenomenon is relevant to Scrum team assignments. If a person is a member of multiple Scrum teams, they may face the challenge of juggling between different team dynamics, priorities, and tasks. This context switching can result in reduced productivity, as individuals must constantly readjust their focus and mindset.
Scrum Values and Focus
The Scrum framework includes five values which help Scrum teams establish the trust that they need in order to deliver work in a complex environment. These five values are: courage, commitment, focus, respect, and openness. Of these values, ‘focus’ holds particular relevance to this discussion. The Scrum value of focus emphasizes the importance of dedicating one’s attention and efforts to the work of the Scrum team and its goals.
Being a member of multiple Scrum teams can potentially undermine the value of focus. When individuals are spread too thin across different teams, it becomes increasingly challenging for them to concentrate on the priorities of each team effectively. This can lead to diluted commitment and a decreased ability to deliver value consistently.
Given the negative impacts that assigning individuals to more than one Scrum team can have on productivity and focus, what is the rationale behind having individuals participate in multiple Scrum teams within an organization? This practice is frequently adopted because certain team members possess specialized skills that are valuable to multiple teams.
So… what should be done? Instead of unilaterally assigning individuals to multiple teams, the organization should ask the Scrum team to explore potential solutions. Do they want to expand their skill sets? Perhaps they’re open to hiring additional team members? Or maybe they’d consider adapting their technology stack to incorporate different technological approaches? These are just a few options that the Scrum teams can deliberate upon. When in doubt, it’s always best to ask the Scrum team.
In conclusion, Scrum does not explicitly prohibit individuals from being part of more than one Scrum team, but it’s essential to consider the potential impact on productivity and adherence to Scrum values. Task switching can lead to reduced efficiency, and spreading focus across multiple teams can challenge the value of commitment and focus. Ultimately, the goal should be to create an environment that supports the principles of the Agile manifesto and values of Scrum. For the best thing to do in your specific context… ask the team!
Don’t miss out on this year’s Scrum Day conference in Madison, Wisconsin! Scrum Day is a one-day event scheduled for September 14, 2023. This is your chance to meet speakers from Stanford, Sub-Zero, Amazon and more. Network with peers in our facilitated networking activities and participate in engaging Q&A activities. With break-out sessions for Developers, Scrum Masters, Product Owners and leaders, Scrum Day has something for everyone.