Thursday, August 9, 2018

Who does the work requiring an expert in another team

Classic situation that tests our agile thinking… Team Neptune and Team Saturn are two mature agile teams. Team Neptune has a sizable chunk of upcoming work that centres around “System/Framework/Technology X” for which, one particular member of Team Saturn is the expert. The involvement of this expert will be crucial to the success of Team Neptune’s work. The challenge comes in how we can achieve the chunk of work without damaging / disrupting one or both teams.

“System/Framework/Technology X” It could be an ancient system that the expert helped to design and build with everyone else who worked on it now departed from the company. It could be a framework that the expert has deep experience in, etc, etc.

Generally what I see is that the expert is not needed for all of the work, however there is a central and crucial piece of work that they need to be involved in. You can see that in the diagrams below as the gray square “crucial piece” within the blue chunk of work.
I have seen three approaches used to handle this situation:

Approach A. For the duration of the chunk of work, the expert becomes a temporary member of Team Neptune and takes a leading hand in the work. They leave Team Saturn for the duration, attending none of their ceremonies.

Approach B. For the duration of the chunk of work, the expert takes a leading hand in the work; attending both teams ceremonies for the duration of the chunk of work. The expert remains a permanent member of Team Saturn. With a foot in both teams the expert is able to progress the work of both teams, with a focus on the Team Neptune work.

Approach C. Part of the work is allocated to Team Saturn who completes the work and hands it back to Team Neptune. The expert remains a permanent member of Team Saturn. Team Saturn also takes on a piece of work to provide knowledge transfer / training to Team Neptune. The expert attends design / planning ceremonies for Team Neptune and all of his Team Saturn ceremonies.

All three approaches involve sharing, helping each other, cross skilling and a big effort from the expert. Approach C has regularly proven to be the best approach when this situation has arisen. The reasons I believe delivers a good result are:
  • Both teams remain unchanged in regards to people; keeping their sense of team.
  • Clear focus for both teams, and especially for the expert.
  • No duplication of ceremonies eating into the experts’ time.
  • Keeps management mindset on split up the work to match the teams; i.e. promoting Stable teams.
  • Improved opportunities for members of Team Saturn to contribute to the work, hence improving the cross skilling.

How have you handled similar situations? What worked well for you?