From Component Teams To Feature Teams

Components I recently facilitated a software development group’s transition from component scrum teams to feature scrum teams. The new structure reduces cross-team dependencies, which had been causing significant delays in shipping new features. Over the course of a day, we dissolved the existing component teams, refined a shared product backlog, created a shared definition of done, self-organized into new teams, and held LeSS-style sprint planning meetings. The excellent work everyone did left me in awe, and I felt honored to have the opportunity to facilitate the day. The participants left energized and excited for their new adventure.

What follows is a description of how we structured a one-day event to transition the participants from being members of component teams to being members of feature teams.

Set The Stage

The group’s manager had been preparing the individuals for the transition. In each employee’s weekly one-on-one meeting they had been told that their current team would be shutting down and they would be participating in a day-long event to create new teams.

Early on the morning of the big day, the leadership team gathered together with me to go over the plan for the day one last time. The day would start with very brief presentations by leaders about what wasn’t working with the current component team structure: dependencies are killing us! The organization’s chief scrum coach gave a very brief introduction to the LeSS model on which the new structure would be based.

We took a few minutes to honor the work of the teams that were being dissolved today. They had done good work on their components. We spent a bit of time making sure each person was introduced to the larger group, including details about their skills and history at the company.

Create A New Product Backlog

We began collectively to refine the new product backlog items. We started with a high-level look at the new objectives. We brought items from the teams’ previous backlogs in as well. We used The Team Estimation Game to create the initial estimates for the new product backlog. During lunch, the product owner assembled the product backlog, ordering each of the items that we had just refined.

Self-Organize Into New Teams

After lunch, we asked the participants to self-organize into as many teams as possible, given the constraint of any team being able to complete virtually any item in the product backlog. This would require each team to have members from each of the previous component teams. The organizational leaders and I huddled in the room watching the group explore various options. Occasionally, they had questions that required an answer from one of the leaders. After about 45 minutes of deliberation, the new teams announced themselves. I had the honor of giving them their first assignment: name your team. That took another fifteen minutes, as the teams really wanted coordinated names. It seems like a small thing, but I’ve found that teams that name themselves seem to do better.

Create A Shared Definition Of Done

Next up, I facilitated the teams in creating a shared definition of done. You can read about the technique I used in last February’s post: How To Create Your Team’s Definition Of Done.

Plan The First Sprint

Now that we had teams, a product backlog, and a definition of done, we were finally ready for sprint planning. The first part of sprint planning was done together. The product owner would pull the first item from the product backlog and ask the group to decide if it could be done in the sprint and which team would take it. Then the next item was pulled from the top of the backlog, and so on. It wasn’t long before the teams collectively said “Enough!” They couldn’t accept any additional items and still have full confidence that they would be completed in the first sprint.

For the second phase of sprint planning, the teams retreated to different corners of the room to task out the stories that they had just committed to deliver. The scrum masters for each team supported the teams with facilitation so that the tasking could happen efficiently, yet self-organized.

Wrap It Up

Five o’clock was fast approaching as we celebrated all that had been accomplished during the day. Conversations were still buzzing between new team members as they left the room. As the organization’s leaders and I debriefed the day’s events, I was in awe of everyone that had organized or participated. I left full of hope for the future of the organization and the new teams. I’m excited to follow along on their journey as feature teams.


Chris Sims

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