One of the hardest things to do in agile is to deliver using part time team members where delivering as part of the team is not the team members only day job.
Moonlighting Scrum Coach or Product Owner
If you are using Scrum centric agile patterns, when your Scrum Coach or Product Owner have been assigned to the team but told to do it in “their spare time” it is almost impossible.
I liken it to moonlighting or running a second job, they are involved but not committed.
This is the point where every Agile Coach reuses the Chicken and the Pig cartoon from ImplementingScrum.com, so as not to buck the trend ….
In the beginning, an AgileData team has to form and storm. If the AgileData team have never worked together before or even worse not been in an agile team before, then it will take time for them to create a self organising team and to define, agree and adopt their AgileData Way of Working.
This is a critical time. It is the most important time for the Scrum Coach to be present, as and when required.
The Scrum Coach is critical in advising the team on how to experiment. They are also critical in helping via retrospectives and constant feedback on how to identify and focus on the next areas that will be improved. Without this assistance, the team will often go around and around in ad-hoc circles trying a hundred and one different patterns, but never proving if those patterns are making things go faster or slower.
One of the many AgileData challenges is that a Scrum Coach is often only a part-time member of the team. When an AgileData team is mature and self organising then the Scrum Coach is only really needed part time to run the agile ceremonies and provide feedback. Typically I will see a Scrum Coach being engaged for 50% of each week to undertake this role.
When the team is new, this should be 100% for the first 3 to 6 sprints (9 to 18 weeks) which is the average amount of time it takes an agile team to form. Often I see the Scrum Coach engaged 50% at this time. If the Scrum Coach and the AgileData team are experienced, then this can often work, but it isn’t ideal.
However, if the Scrum Coach is trying to do the coaching role as a side hustle to their other job, it is almost impossible for them to be around at just the right time in those 9 to 18 weeks to help steer the AgileData team in the right direction. And by steer, I mean helping them identify areas of improvement they should concentrate on themselves, rather than telling them exactly what and how to do things.
In my experience, if you have a full time team, you need a full time Scrum Coach, at least to begin with.
Another thing to watch out for is when you have a part-time Scrum Coach who is also trying to manage another Scrum Team, often for another customer (in the cases where you have a contracted Scrum Coach rather than a permanent one). This will often result in the Scrum Coach not being available to work with the AgileData team at critical points.
You are probably running a hybrid remote AgileData team these days. You’re Scrum Coach might use slack to try and keep up to date with what is happening, pop in and out of video conversations, or they might “pop in” for just the ceremonies and then disappear. They might even do a few regular days each week and miss some other days on a regular basis.
But without being present when required (virtually or physically), they are going to lose the subtleties that come with personal interaction. A good Scrum Coach is a guru in picking up on these subtleties and help the AgileData team increase their maturity based on these observations. When the Scrum Coach is not around the AgileData team will typically just flounder.
Even worse is when the Scrum Coach is more of a dictator than a servant leader. In this scenario, the Scrum Coach will tell the team what actions to take next without really understanding what has happened in the last Iteration, what worked and what didn’t. It is one of the worse form of guessing.
If your Scrum Coach isn’t there when the AgileTeam is, I suggest you get them to turn up or get a new Scrum Coach.