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About Dirk Lässig

Dirk is a principal software engineer and agile coach with many years of professional experience in the software development area. He has worked throughout the software lifecycle as a software engineer, software systems architect, team lead, business analyst and enterprise IT architect delivering major software systems.

Balancing the team focus is an import factor to create flow in scaling agile. In an agile organisation we extend the focus area of people. There are limits and so focus of a team must fit to its capabilities.

Teamwork

One necessary change in an agile transformation is teamwork. Agile organisations are structured by teams. People who were used to work on their own, will become team members and work inside a team on the team's goal.

That is already a big change for people. In order to support the team's goal and to work together with other team members, they must extend their focus area from single task to a team goal. Extending the focus area requires experience. Depending on the experience of a team member, the level of contribution to the team's goal varies. Some members are capable to see the big picture others can only see certain aspects. Some know to use all the technologies, some only a couple of frameworks. Some can connect the dots between all the disciplines, some have only experience in their own discipline.

Good teamwork combines all the different level of experiences in the necessary knowledge areas. Inexperienced members learn from other more experienced members and grow. In a well functioning team the individual focus area is growing through the learnings supported by the collaboration between team members.

Everything within the Team

Teamwork is an excellent means to focus on higher-level goals and to cope with the complexity that is required by the solution to reach that goal. But this capability is not infinite. Depending on the collaboration within the team and the learnings the team members have absorbed, there is a limit.

In an agile transformation we want to grow teams. We want to extend their capability to work on higher-level goals. Usually the perfection vision of a team is to extend the Definition of Done, to grow the skills towards Continuous Delivery and the responsibility towards DevOps, to define also the UX, discover product ideas and also to understand the business. Well, you need a lot of experience within the team to cover all of that. The team must absorb a lot of learning. That requires also time and dedication.

If we expect the team to grow too quickly and load expectations onto the team, to do everything within the team, then the team members can be overwhelmed with number of duties in their hands. Especially in a scaling context and in a large organisation the complexity to cope with is hugh. There is a limit of complexity a team can cope with.

The Right to Focus

Finding the right focus of a person is crucial to be in a flow. With flow I mean, that a person is challenged but not overwelmed, challenged to still learn, challenged enough to be not borred. My colleage Mark Bregenzer created the Team Knowledge Model as a tool for Scrum Masters and coaches to make the state of flow transparent to the team. See this documents on less.works for more on the Team Knowledge Model.

One purpose of an organisations is to give focus to the people working inside. Therefore people have a right to be focused. Because an agile transformation leads to extending the focus area of teams, we must be aware that there are limits. The existing experience and the pace of learning the new practices set boundaries for the growth of teams.

But there are also other important prerequisits that help the teams and the team members to cope with the growing focus area.

  • Small Batches - working on smaller ingrements of the product reduces the variability, that the teams have to cope with.
  • Pull System - it prevents overburden and helps to focus on the right level. In a pull system people are not getting pushed to take on more work.
  • Learning culture - especially to learn from mistakes, so team members experience more learning opportunities.

These are standards that are usually adopted in every agile transformation. There are good reasons to stick to them.