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I'm currently working in a scrum-like development environment that holds 8 teams of developers (each with their own scrum master, project manager and analysts) that all work on different applications of the same application platform.

The teams fight over dominion of the applications and they refuse to allow other teams to touch "their" applications (rather than thinking about the applications as applications that have been assigned to them, but that they do not "own"). As the sprint cycles are the same for all the teams but the content of the sprints is not, it often happens that one team is struggling to make it while another team has time to spare.

How can I improve the collaboration between the teams so that they can all work together rather than staying locked in their own groups?

I know a bit of SAFe and other scaled frameworks, but the leadership at the organisation is lacking and I don't think that I can count on any help from management. I'm not sure if I would be able to introduce SAFe or something similar in the organisation.

Edit: There are actual project managers (as in the Prince2 kind) in every team, and the analysts function as product owners. I'm a relatively new architect in the organisation.

  • Do you mean "product owners" or is a project manager something else? Also, are some teams consistently taking on more than they can handle and others too little, or does it vary from sprint to sprint? – Erik May 22 '18 at 10:42
  • What is your role in the organization? – simbabque May 22 '18 at 11:05
  • I've voted to close this question as too broad because this isn't the sort of problem where there's a single 'just do this' answer. The problem you propose is a known problem, or which things like the Nexus or SAFe are the solutions, but those heavily depend on the organisation being agile enough to support that sort of framework. Without some change to your organisation there's no 'simple' way to succeed and this site is not intended to deal with the sort of scale that an answer would require. – Cronax May 22 '18 at 11:35
  • Can you not sort them by EPICS? – Mister Positive May 22 '18 at 13:15
  • @ElGringoMagnifico Added a part about architects, which may or may not be relevant, depending on your company's definition of architect. – Peter May 23 '18 at 9:10
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In Scrum, teams aren't supposed to help each other out if a team can't meet their sprint goal - each team commits to and is supposed to meet their own goal. If there is spare time, teams can pick additional stories - which stories they pick is negotiated with their Product Owner. Teams quite simply cannot commit to a sprint goal if they may or may not get "help" from other teams or even may need to "help" out another team on short notice.

Scrum places responsibility and accountability with the team. That a team takes ownership of their work is a good thing - in Scrum, as well as in a majority of other methodologies.

If you simply want to improve collaboration between teams, look into Scrum of Scrum, as well as the interaction between the Product Owners. In addition, classic management tools to improve communication and collaboration are available as usual, such as rotating team members, team building exercises, temporary special project teams, etc.

If you are a junior team member, who wants to drive process change, your best bet is to flag interest in Scrum Master training with your line manager.


EDIT: You mention that you are an architect. The role of architects varies significantly between companies but, in my personal experience, architects can play a significant role in enhancing collaboration by:

  1. Having regular meetings between architects where they flag problems, define goals, and create an "architectural vision". Ideally, the architect group should be represented in Scrum of Scrum.
  2. Occasionally serve as "floaters" where they integrate into teams as needed to guide them, and learn from them, during the implementation of key features. To minimize disruption, teams should commit to the sprint goal without the floater.
  3. Occasionally arrange short lived and focused special project teams which consist of architects and some members of other teams. The special project teams usually implement architecturally relevant framework/library tasks that benefit most or all teams and may or may not fit well into the standard scrum format.
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    Rotating team members is generally not a good idea, it tends to really break up people's flow. – Erik May 22 '18 at 11:01
  • @Erik All of these collaboration increasing tools have their downsides, and rotating team members certainly will decrease productivity while people rotate. – Peter May 22 '18 at 12:03
  • Yes - but you should try to aim for ones that don't have a downside on the scale of "weeks to months" :) – Erik May 22 '18 at 12:07
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Move people between teams

Scrum teams can be fluid, and the membership of the team should be that required to deliver the committed features. In time this ought to break down divisions, because everyone is a colleague of everyone else having worked in multiple teams and been responsible for multiple deliveries.

But, you seem to be implying that you have resistance to doing this, so...

Brief your management on what you require from them to do your job

Provide a concise, targeted explanation for a managerial person. Something like:

  • Some teams are struggling with delivery and we need to help them
  • This, that and the other aspects of SAFe are helpful here and that's what I want to do
  • But some of the team members are resistant because I don't have management authority
  • So what I need is for you to take an outline understanding of the approach and support me in implementing it
  • I wonder why this would get down voted. It does actually seem like a valid answer... – ElGringoMagnifico May 22 '18 at 13:51
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    @ElGringoMagnifico I downvoted it because it seems to go against the ideas behind Scrum. – Erik May 23 '18 at 9:33

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