How does Scrum Help Build an Optimal Team?

Scrum. © Spiria, 2016.

Let’s start with a reminder of what Agile values above all else: individuals. You can have the best technique, the most elegant code and the most efficient algorithm, but if your team doesn’t work well together, none of it will mesh.

One of Agile’s values is optimizing communication and collaboration. All projects are built around individuals, which leads to the following principles:

  • Teams self-organize.
  • Business people and developers work together throughout the project.
  • Projects are built around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

It is all too easy to forget about self-organization when the people involved in a project are not motivated, don’t feel like they’re trusted to get the job done, and aren’t supported. This atmosphere will upset the delicate balance required for collaboration.

Collaboration is a worthy goal, but it is too often the victim of the following five team afflictions:

  1. Lack of trust. Instead of admitting to our mistakes and shortfalls, and asking for help as needed. We all want to do the right thing, so we should give each other the benefit of the doubt.
  2. Fear of conflict. Harmony is sometimes an illusion. There must be room for disagreements and constructive criticism.
  3. Lack of commitment. When objectives are not clearly set out, it can be difficult to rally behind a common goal.
  4. Lack of ownership.. It is difficult to identify ownership of a project when objectives are not clear. By taking ownership of objectives, problems can quickly be identified and owners can have a second look at their project.
  5. Lack of attention to results. Collective results trump individual conduct. We celebrate success and suffer failure as team, learning the whole time. The team comes first!

Where Does Scrum Come in?

Scrum is based on the theory of empirical process control. According to this theory, knowledge is gained from experience, and decision-making is based on knowledge. This provides enough flexibility to examine new situations and adapt to them. It prizes transparency, which provides for a common language and a common definition of what is considered complete.

Scrum can act as a tonic for dysfunctional teams thanks to its own rules and ceremonial aspect:

Sprint Planning Session

  • Foster engagement through debate and full participation.
  • Foster ownership by recalling objectives and ensuring that they are clearly understood, and by setting objectives for each successive sprint.
  • Foster the debate of ideas through discussion at the task assessment and analysis stages.


  • Foster ownership and engagement through clear rules.
  • The discipline involved in daily scrums fosters trust, stimulates discussion, and encourages engagement and ownership. Daily scrums also help keep results in perspective by keeping people informed and interested.
  • Defining what is “complete” encourages people to get involved, take ownership and be results-oriented.

Sprint Review

  • Underscore the team’s successes.
  • Review the objectives of the overall project and of the last sprint to make sure those objectives have been achieved.

Sprint Retrospective

  • Help build trust by enabling team members to get to know one another and develop relationships.
  • Foster commitment to continuous improvement.
  • Stimulate the debate of ideas through discussion.
  • Foster ownership through commitment to action items and improvements.