Scum Rules: The Development Team Has No Dependencies

June 18, 2020
4 minute read

The Development Team is the subset of the Scrum Team that is actually working on building the Product Increment every Sprint. It usually does not include the Scrum Master nor the Product Owner and should be free of any other dependencies.

The Development Team members collectively need to be cross-functional with all the skills needed to create a potentially releasable product increment. These skills include technology skills, creative skills, business skills, organizational skills and skill with the tools applicable to the work.

The Development Team must have no dependencies on people outside the team. The skill set of the team must be complete. If the Development Team is not cross-function, then every Sprint there will be delays or undone work that will result in quality problems or a Product Increment that is not potentially releasable.

Overcoming this challenge is best done when the team itself is formed. The Product Owner and Scrum Master do their best to identify all the skills needed to build Product Increments and attract people to the new team based on that skill list. As people join the team, those people can refine the list of skills and identify further gaps.

If the Scrum Team has already started working, then a technique like the Agile Skills Matrix can be used to help an existing team systematically identify gaps. Another technique that can be used is the Context Obstacles Diagram. In either case, when gaps are found in the skill set, the team needs to collectively agree how to fill in the gap and reduce its dependencies. The options include:

  1. An existing team member learns the skill through trial and error, self-study, mentoring, cross-training or formal training.
  2. The organization finds a person elsewhere in the organization who has the missing skills and can join the team.
  3. The organization hires a person from outside the organization who has the skills.

The first option is strongly preferred as there is an upper limit to the effective size of a Scrum Team and the other two options increase the number of team members.

Cross-functional teams have all competencies needed to accomplish the work without depending on others not part of the team…. — The Scrum Guide

Development Teams are cross-functional, with all of the skills as a team necessary to create a product Increment; — The Scrum Guide

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Bruce Power
Capital One
Equitable Life of Canada
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