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How often should scrum team membership change? 6 signs it might be time to mix it up

Scrum teams are a self-organized, multifunctional powerhouse. They live and breathe agile methodologies to get the best result possible from any task or project they undertake.

They are unique because they don’t follow a traditional hierarchy like most development teams and corporate structures would. Instead, everyone on the team shares responsibility equally. Sure, each individual has their strengths and weaknesses, but as a team, they should come together and utilize those strengths to further the project’s progress.

There’s plenty of information out there on how a team should look. We literally wrote the ultimate guide to help you understand the ins and outs of scrum development teams. Still, it can prove tricky to put together the perfect team. Even when you do find a great team, it may not last forever.

How often should scrum team membership change?

Some say that a team shouldn’t change, and others say it should change regularly. These differing opinions make it incredibly tough to give a definitive answer on how often a team should switch things up. However, if a team is performing poorly, that’s a clear sign that something needs to happen.

If a team is performing consistently well, and none of its members plan on moving to a different position, there’s no reason to change anything. After all, changing up your teams presents a risk that may not be worth taking. Switching things up has a guaranteed effect on productivity and quality, sometimes for the best, sometimes for the worst. Unfortunately, there’s no real way of knowing which way it will swing until you’re already feeling the effects, so changing up your team is a move that requires a lot of consideration.

One thing we can definitively say is; don’t change teams during a sprint!

6 signs it might be time to mix it up

Your team has gotten too big

Some believe that there is no limit to how big, or small, your development team can be. However, The Scrum Guide states that a scrum development team should be between three and nine people, depending on the size of the project. That’s not to say teams can’t work outside of those parameters, but too many team members can create chaos and confusion that can easily derail the project.

If there’s conflict within the team

No matter how hard we try, it’s simply impossible to make everyone get along with one another. There’s always hope that a team of like-minded individuals working towards a single goal will work perfectly together. Unfortunately, that’s just not how human beings work. Not everyone will get along, and that’s something the team will have to manage if such a situation arises.

Disputes that come up between team members can be extremely tough to resolve. Teams work in close proximity and rely on constant, clear communication between members. If that link breaks down due to conflict, it’s far more straightforward and quicker to restructure the team.

Creativity has slowed down

We have all run into a creative wall during development, and we all know how damaging it can be to the project’s overall progress. In some situations, you can simply take a break to clear your head and start again. However, given the set time constraints imposed by Scrum, it’s not possible to just walk away from a problem and come back to it later.

In this situation, the answer could be as simple as asking for help. Sometimes, all a project needs is a fresh set of eyes, so bringing in an extra team member can help get the team past that roadblock and back on track to success.

Frequently missed deadlines.

When a team works with Scrum, they must respect the given timeframes. A couple of missed deadlines is to be expected, especially from a new group. However, if missed deadlines become frequent, then you have a problem.

This could simply mean you’re not planning your sprints correctly, in which case it’s time to go back to the drawing board and remind the team how to calculate sprint velocity. That way, you can start planning your sprints and build your product roadmap more effectively.

It could also mean that your team needs a change-up. It could just be one weak link in the chain affecting productivity, in which case you can keep the core team and reassign that person to a different role. In this situation, it’s helpful to have a discussion with that individual about any internal or external issues that are affecting their work.

Of course, the worst-case scenario is a team that has adopted each other’s bad habits, resulting in a massive dip in productivity. In this situation, a total restructuring is necessary. Yes, restructuring will result in a momentary drop in productivity, but allowing a poor team to go unchecked will result in more issues in the long term.

Lack of openness between team members

There’s no harm in being proud of your work. After all, for a project to be a success, everyone must perform at peak capability. Sadly, some people take pride in their work a little too far.

It’s impossible to be perfect 100% of the time, and that’s fine. Mistakes are inevitable, but scrum and agile embrace creative problem solving, so if an error does occur, the team can pool their resources and fix it quickly and efficiently. Scrum also places the responsibility on the group as a whole, which sometimes leads team members to make mistakes and move on. Maybe they think others won’t notice their error or that someone else will fix it along the way. But if group members don’t acknowledge mistakes or communicate openly with their team, that mistake might snowball into a much bigger problem.

The same issues occur when a team member refuses to share their work with others. Agile and Scrum methodologies dictate that everyone is equally responsible for the product under collective ownership. So, say a team member needed a specific piece of code to help their section run smoothly, there should be no issues approaching another team member who already wrote that code.

A team member who refuses to be open and share with their teammates can derail the project. They’re not utilizing the methodology, and you should move them out of the team for someone who will embrace Agile and Scrum.

Not open to discussing all of these issues

Finally, if your team isn’t willing to speak up and attempt to address these issues, you’re not going to make any improvements. If bad habits become the norm, there will be considerable drops in productivity, efficiency, and quality of the work. Plus, conflicts can steadily build into something much more serious.

Like Albert Einstein once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If your team is having issues, they need to speak up and try to solve them or move on to something else.

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