We recently assessed a young Scrum implementation and our observations led to a lot of discussion around the office. We saw excited teams, a stable cadence of meetings, and leadership eager to support the implementation — in other words, a very promising start. Yet the teams had hit a wall and the organization was struggling to understand why. Our answer: You need a transition team.
As we dug deeper to find the root cause of what was stalling the implementation, it became clear that the teams were all struggling with the same organizational impediments. (We use the term “organization impediment” to refer to impediments beyond a team’s sphere of influence.) Yet there was no one in the organization accountable for, or empowered to, address those impediments.
Why a Transition Team?
Scrum fundamentally changes the way teams interact with the organization. This change uncovers many impediments that, if not addressed at the enterprise level, often limit teams to a fraction of their potential. A transition team is tasked with coordinating between the teams and the enterprise in order to identify and remove organizational impediments.
A well-run transition team will own the process of moving to Scrum and be held accountable for supporting its success. To do this it must be empowered to resolve impediments that cannot be addressed at the team level.
How it works:
Ideally this will be one of the first Scrum teams your organization launches, so that it can support the implementation from day one. Who should be on the transition team depends largely on context. The team’s success requires it to be cross-functional and empowered — meaning it possess the diversity and authority to lead the organizational change necessary. The team’s roster may evolve as the Scrum implementation matures and the organizational impediments begin to change in nature.
The transition team works closely with the Scrum teams to discover common impediments that are slowing them down, but that are beyond the teams’ sphere of influence. These impediments come in many forms such as the need for more training, a more agile approach to product planning, better testing infrastructure, more agile tooling, etc. The transition team adds these impediments as stories to an organizational impediment backlog, which it prioritizes in true Scrum fashion. The team paves the way for agile success by working in sprints to tackle the impediment backlog at the top of the backlog. Just as importantly the transition team makes these impediments and their velocity against them visible, serving as the key success metric for the agile transformation.
The ultimate goal of a transition team is to instill a culture of continuous improvement not just within the teams, but also from top to bottom. When the transition team has achieved a relatively mature Scrum, it should not be disbanded but rather repurposed with a charter to support the organization’s continued agility. At this stage the team becomes the go-to support center for teams that need coaching, training for a new member, or ideas on tackling an impediment.
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