August 4, 2022

What does Cross-Functional really bring to your Sprint Backlog? 🚀 (62)

We started this Scrum foundation series explaining we see four underlying concepts of the Scrum framework. In the past series of mails we covered the three pillars of Empiricism, the Scrum Values, and Self-Management.

A self-managing team is taking decisions about who does what, when, and how. This ensures the team can move forward without unnecessary waiting time. If we want to improve on that, and to support the team taking ownership, having the needed skills within the team is another step.

 

👉 Cross-functional, meaning the team internally has all skills needed to successfully complete their goals.

 

Growing cross-functionality = growing skills = raising mastery = higher motivation = higher effectivity.

 

In order to have your artefacts bringing the transparency they were created for, your team needs to have the required skills.
 

Let’s have a look at the Sprint Backlog.

 

Reminder: the objective of a Sprint Backlog is to bring transparency on the work that the Developers plan to accomplish during the Sprint in order to achieve the Sprint Goal. The Sprint Goal, being part of the Sprint Backlog, is expected to bring transparency on the single objective for the Sprint that will bring the team another step closer to their Product Goal.
 

Without even trying to being exhaustive, here are a skills / experiences I would expect the team to use:
 

  • Estimating: how much work can we as a team take on during the Sprint timebox? So, not necessarily estimating in hours, days, or story points, yet being able to understand what is realistic to deliver and what is no longer realistic.
     
  • Splitting: tasks might be larger work items, spanning multiple days. Items sized of multiple days do not allow the team to understand their progress (during a Daily Scrum). Finding ways to split these larger items into smaller, yet still valuable items for users, is a key skill the team needs.
     
  • Risk Awareness: be aware of the risks of going for one or another option for implementing an item? Each approach has its proper risks. Which approach, taking the risks into account, does the team feels is the better one for reaching the Sprint Goal, and the Definition of Done.
     
  • Structuring / Visualisation: as the Sprint Backlog is expected to be a real-time picture of the remaining work for the Sprint, the easier it is for the team to understand their progress towards their Sprint Goal, the faster they can detect situations where they need to take action to prevent, or address, issues.


These are just a few examples of skills that are put in action in order to have a transparent Sprint Backlog.

In teams I often see Scrum Masters taking up actions to keep the Sprint Backlog up-to-date. Sprint Backlog management is not an accountability of the Scrum Master, it are the Developers together who need to deal with this. Where the Product Owner brings focus with a draft Sprint Goal, the Scrum Master can bring better techniques to the Developers. Yet, it are the Developers who are accountable for their Sprint Backlog.
 

☝️ It is not a matter of who in the team has the skills, as long as together the team has the skills needed.

 

Summary:

Cross-functional is about having all skills within the team to create value each Sprint.

In order to have a transparent Sprint Backlog, the Scrum Team needs specific skills that allow forecasting what is feasible in one Sprint.

Prompt:

Together with your Scrum Team, evaluate which skill improvements the team would benefit from to make your Sprint Backlog more transparent.

 

We hope you will find value in these short posts and if you are looking for more clarifications, feel free to take contact.

 

PS. Next week we'll look at Cross-Functionality needed for your Increment.
 

If you want to take a deeper dive into the core concepts we are covering in this blog series, then surely check out our Professional Scrum MasterY workshop. We have some scheduled in the coming period.

 

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A Cross-Functional Team and the Sprint Backlog