Who is responsible for defining necessary development team skills for a new project?

Last post 11:20 am December 23, 2014
by Galina Kumykova
7 replies
04:48 pm December 9, 2014

Hello, my understanding that the PO is getting the initial pre-ordered PBL ready to be introduced to the development team during the first Sprint Planning. By that time I assume that the development team has to be already identified.
In a situation where a new project is being lined up:
Q: Who is responsible to identify which skills the development team needs to have in order to deliver the product in the project?
Q: Who is responsible for the Scrum team to have the right set of skills?

Another question. The Scrum Guide mentions only Sprint Planning. However, there is a Release Planning event outlined in some documentation I found.
Q: Who would be responsible for a Release Planning?
Q: What is the role of a Scrum team in a Release Planning?

04:53 am December 10, 2014

The PO owns the PBL. It would be strange if he would receive it from somebody else. He will create it himself, by communication with the stakeholders, the clients and the customers. It is his job to create a product vision and to order the PBL to maximize value (per sprint).

Q1: The Development Team and the Scrum Master are capable to recognize if skills are missing or inadequate. If so, this should be escalated to management by the SM.
Q2: Team allocation is not defined by Scrum, and the PO, SM and Dev Team do not have authority to do so. See 1
Q3: The product owner
Q4: The product owner can and should be assisted by the SM and the Development Team on subjects as: velocity, risk, functional dependencies, non-functional requirements, PBI sizes, technical debt, definition of done etc.

12:23 pm December 10, 2014

Thank you!
"The Development Team and the Scrum Master are capable to recognize if skills are missing or inadequate. If so, this should be escalated to management by the SM. "
At which point this is done? If the team identifies that some skills are missing during the first Spring Planning, which should immediately follow by the Spring execution, and the desired skill is needed from the very first Spring, it gives no time to take actions (training, finding a resource with the right skill set) and might become an impediment from very beginning.

07:03 pm December 11, 2014

just reviewed materials I used for my training (by Berkeley training, "Agile Practitioner". )
One of the SM responsibilities during pre-planning is "Identifies key skill sets needed on the Team"
Q: Is it correct statement?

Also, another responsibility is "Prepares the Team by co-locating members and ensuring Team has received Scrum Team Training"
Q: Can this statement be read as "A Team is getting allocated" ?

08:52 am December 14, 2014

Hi Galina,

Let's see if I can clarify this a bit.

The Development Team can't work on the items they can't complete according to the definition of 'done.' If the Product Backlog includes such items, it creates an impediment that needs to be removed.

It's the Scrum Master's responsibility to remove impediments to the Development Team's progress. However, he or she might not have the necessary authority to actually fix the problem. The Scrum Master will need to work with the senior manager and make sure it's done (see the Scrum Master service to the organization.)

But there are several things the Scrum Master can recommend, and the entire Scrum Team should counsel together and come up with a plan that will work best. Each of the roles will have a unique perspective to add to the discussion. (Remember that the plan for the Sprint is created by the collaborative work of the entire Scrum Team.)

Here are the options:

1. The Development Team can obtain the necessary skills. (This is ideal, if possible, since it doesn't disrupt the team's make-up and it's a good investment for the future. The training can be added by the Product Owner to the Product Backlog and selected for the Sprint by the Development Team. After all, it's a necessary step to getting the product done.)

2. The Scrum Master can recommend to the senior manager to make the necessary adjustments to the personnel make-up of the Development Team. (The team can be permanently changed or an additional member can be added for the duration of the Sprint. It takes a long time for any team to merge and start working efficiently, so upsetting the team's make-up is not recommended if it can be avoided.)

3. The Scrum Master can recommend that another Scrum Team be added to the project. (If the project is large enough, the organization has some resources to spare and someone knows how to manage multiple teams properly, it might be a good solution.)

To answer your question about when these things happen: the training can happen during the Sprint. If any changes to the team need to be made and they can't be made immediately, the team can select the items it can complete during the Sprint and continue with the work, leaving the ones it can't do for the next Sprint. This will give the management the time needed to find the solution. Or if everything hinges on the functionality that the team can't possibly deliver, well, the project will need to be postponed.

Concerning your other question: Co-location is not the same as allocation. From Merriam-Webster: "Colocate: to place (two or more units) close together so as to share common facilities." So it seems like the quote talks about setting up the physical work environment rather than allocating the team's skill sets.

03:44 pm December 19, 2014

Hi Chris, thanks a lot for clearing it up for me. Much appreciated. Let me re phrase one of my questions. I understand the difference between "allocate" and "co-locate". What I meant in the question is: if I am as a scrum master identifying a need for a team members to get co-located, that means it was agreed upon that the developers that have to be co-located will be working on the project as a scrum team. Which assumes an "allocation" of those developers for the upcoming project. Does it make sense?

05:45 am December 21, 2014

Hi Galina,

In the case you're describing, it's probably true that if the team needs to be "co-located," they have already been "allocated" to work together. But we're talking about the responsibilities of the Scrum Master within the Scrum framework, and it's not the Scrum Master's responsibility to allocate the team.

In fact, one can argue that neither is "co-locating" them.

The quote from your training says that the Scrum Master "prepares the Team by co-locating members and ensuring the Team has received Scrum Team Training."

I agree with the second part of your quote, the SM ensures that the team has received Scrum training, but I'm not sure about the first part.

The Development Team is self-organizing, which means they make the decisions on how they organize their work. The SM can coach the team, suggest better co-location solutions to them and if it's an impediment that the team doesn't have the authority to solve, liaison with the senior management and get them to solve the problem.

But the Scrum Master is not a project manager and doesn't actually have the authority to co-locate anyone. (Unless he or she is also a team leader, which is a common arrangement in some companies, or a senior manager.)

The bottom line is, Scrum Masters need to have great people-handling skills because they have a lot of responsibility but virtually no authority. They need to know how to convince the people with authority (the Development Team, the Product Owner and the organization) to make the right decisions concerning their use of the Scrum framework, which will in turn result in delivering products of the highest possible value.

Look at the key words describing Scrum Master responsibilities in the Scrum Guide: coaching, helping, facilitating, leading, planning, causing change, ensuring, finding...

A Scrum Masters is like a wise and clever queen that runs the kingdom from behind the throne by convincing the king to issue the right decrees.


11:20 am December 23, 2014

Chris, thank you for the reply. Looking into jobs descriptions for Scrum Master positions I see a lot of deviations from what the Scrum Guide prescribes for the SM role. In any case, I have a clearer picture now on the theory, at least.