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Are you new to Scrum? Are you on a new Scrum team? If you’re wondering how you’ll survive the “forming” and “storming” phases of group development, I have some ideas.

I took a Certified Scrum Master training two weeks ago (update: I just passed the Scrum Alliance’s CSM test!). In my team, one woman spent most of the second day texting, one of the guys did all the talking, and another woman got frustrated because we didn’t follow the process that the trainer had described (that was me – why would you take a training and then not at least try the processes you’re being trained on?).

In just two days, I experienced a lot of the problems that new Scrum teams have. My mediation skills helped me survive and get the most out of the training. You can use all of these skills for yourself, to survive your first week on a new Scrum team and figure out what you need to do to thrive on it..

Five tips for surviving the first week on a new Scrum team

1) Be patient.

Be patient. When you think you’ve been as patient as you can be? Be patient some more. Breathe. Take a break. Doodle a little. Remind yourself that you’ll survive the first Sprint planning meeting.

2) Observe everyone.

Observe everyone. Observe everyone on the Dev Team, observe the Scrum Master, observe the Product Owner, observe the stakeholders. Notice who talks and who doesn’t, who tries to manage the team, what conversational styles people have, who contributes and what they contribute, who just sits there and does nothing.

3) Accept ambiguity.

Accept ambiguity. During the first Sprint, you might not have any idea what’s going on. You might wonder how in the hell any work is going to get done. You might not have enough information to get your Tasks done (but see (4)). Accept that to really understand Scrum, you have to experience it.

4) Ask for what you need.

Ask for what you need. If everyone’s talking at once during the Scrum planning meeting, for example, and you really need to hear what one particular person is saying, ask that person to speak up, or ask everyone else to quiet down for a moment. If you’ve identified an impediment, don’t let the one person who can help you walk away right after the Daily Standup. If your Scrum Master has suggested a way for the team to rank the Sprint Backlog Items, and the team isn’t following it, tell the team you want to try it.

5) Start adjusting.

Start adjusting. If you’re talking and nobody else is talking, talk less and give them some space. If someone’s texting all the time, ask them if they have any ideas (don’t call them out on their texting in front of others). If someone keeps interrupting you, tell them you value being able to say what you want all at once, and ask them to wait until you’re finished. If someone’s trying to manage the team, continue doing whatever you’d do if they weren’t.

Know that you’ll survive

The first week on a new Scrum team can be confusing and disorienting. Especially if you’re new to Scrum, and you’re used to working on teams with a team leader or project manager. Even if you’ve been on a Scrum team before, new teams always take time to organize themselves.

To help yourself survive the start of a new Scrum team, be patient, observe everyone, accept ambiguity, ask for what you need, and start adjusting. After a while, the team will organize itself into functioning unit. You’ll probably need a Scrum Master, or even a Scrum Coach, to help you get there.

Once the team organizes itself and starts performing, you’ll enjoy working on a well functioning Team.


Photo credit: © 2010 Enrique Fernández, CC BY 2.0.
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