27–29 September 2017, Churchill College, Cambridge

Empowering teams to self-select

A 60 minute Case Study by:

Serena Caruso

UL - EHS Sustainability

Antonia Greensides

UL - EHS Sustainability

About this Case Study

Over the last year, our development department expanded, doubling the headcount and increasing the size of the 3 teams until they became unsustainable. Sprint commitment became unpredictable, room space insufficient and meetings were unfocused; a reset was absolutely needed.

There were several unsuccessful meetings to work out how to create new teams. The following were considered:

  • team picking (remember those times at school in PE class?)
  • 'matchmaking' based on personality profiling
  • manager selection based on areas of expertise

We realised that the most important part wasn’t the decision itself, but making the underlying reasons for it crystal clear; perfect choices don’t exist, but decisions would be accepted if there were good, understandable reasons for them. All the above-mentioned approaches had fundamental and common flaws: lack of transparency and feedback mechanism.

When, as scrum masters, we got asked to solve this, we decided to take it to the team. After some investigation, we found a very well documented and neat way to do that, based on the book Creating Great Teams by David Mole and Sandy Mamoli. This book describes an iterative process of self-selection, with suggestions on how to handle preparation, implementation and post-event questions.

This gave us a great structured starting point and the right injection of courage and positivity. We went then through the steps of:

  • getting management buy-in (and a guarantee that any output of the process would be accepted and not overruled)
  • getting the product owner team on board and showing them the process
  • gathering business constraints (ensuring that whatever was done was ultimately the best for the company)
  • advertising the process to the teams and gathering questions and concerns to add to FAQs about the event

Did anything go wrong? Of course it did: enough to give us room for improvement, but not enough to diminish the success of the event.

We want to walk you through our event and our implementation of the self-selection exercise; describe the challenges that we faced; and suggest some different approaches to address business constraints without compromising the team-empowered nature of the event.

About the Speakers

Serena Caruso

Serena is a Certified Scrum Master and Director of Ad Artis Ltd. Coming from a software engineering and web development background, she’s now a passionate agilist and advocate of team empowering and process simplification. She has almost a decade of experience with the Atlassian Suite (JIRA Core, JIRA Software, Confluence) and strives to educate businesses to use tools JUST to serve and help teams (and not the other way around). Her favourite mantra: “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”.

Antonia Greensides

Antonia is an enthusiastic and creative Certified Scrum Master and Certified Scrum Professional with an infectiously positive outlook. Her focus is on people and processes, demonstrated by her background in motorbike sales, staff training and service desk management. She became a scrum master in 2011 and thoroughly enjoys the collaborative approach of agile. Her favourite mantra: “Stop starting, start finishing”.


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