What should I do if I cannot get a real Team?

Question: What should I do if I cannot get a real Team?


First, let’s assume you are doing something important.  That it is the next most important thing to do at your company (eg, a release).  If so, you would do best to get a real Team.  And Scrum will have a bigger positive impact with a real Team.  And you will be more successful.  Pretty much guaranteed. So that, any costs of getting a real team will be well-repaid.

There are many senses in which one cannot get a full real Team.

Examples of a not “real team”:
– part time team
– not fully motivated
– not the right skill set
– not collocated (and in this case you know that is not good — for example, in your case you know that will seriously diminish communication)
– too many distractions
– they just won’t work with each other

So, what can you do?

The short answer: do the best you can.

The longer version…

Sometimes you know the thing to do is stop. You can tell you will not succeed, and the best thing to do is stop.  It sometimes happens that when you recommend stopping, then managers will take action and fix some things.

Sometimes you see that things are compromised, but you are not sure how big the impact will be.  You might succeed or your might not.

In that case, I think I recommend that you try to play it, as best you can immediately, as a Scrum team.  As close to a real Scrum team as you can get. By definition, it will be a half-baked Scrum.  But something Scrum-like.

Scrum will tell you how much this hurts you. You can see, Sprint by Sprint, whether this maybe is working ok (not great but ok) or whether it is quite bad.

Again, it is not SCrum per se that is bad, but rather Scrum allows you to see that the Team (or the Team situation that you have) is “less than optimal”.

The idea is that (a) it might not be that bad. It might be ok, even pretty ok, as they say.  Or (b), now that you know it is bad and everyone can see it, you maybe can do something about the problem. Often, with the clearer evidence that Scrum gives, some managers will now take action.

Sometimes you will see quickly that things will move, the team will get something, not a lot but something done, Sprint by Sprint, but not very fast. Sometimes people are ok with “slower than hoped for”…and sometimes they will make the situation better.

Could I recommend another approach than Scrum? Should you try waterfall, for example?

Honestly, I cannot in good conscience recommend waterfall. As suggested, you might have to do a half-baked version of agile-scrum. Do that or give up. In my opinion, even if you are not well-trained or well-experienced, your half-baked version of agile-scrum will help you succeed better than using waterfall.

OK, I can imagine one situation (unlikely for most of you).  Imagine that you have a small group, who kind of have the skill set.  Imagine they do not want to do Scrum. Imagine you know that fairly well, and they, together, have done a “successful” waterfall project.  Imagine that you feel confident that the “Google approach” (see the Mark Striebeck article here) will not work.  Well, doing another waterfall project is maybe not a terrible option.   Why then am I reluctant?  Because I know, from much experience, that the situation will have change, and that the Team could (if they would try it) almost surely do better with Scrum, even half-baked Scrum.

I accept that a small percentage of people do not like to be in a team (although most introverts like it once they get used to their team).  And Scrum is a team sport and waterfall, basically, is not.  So, possibly (a very unlikely chance, but possible) you are in that situation.


There are lots of scenarios.  You may have been through this situation.  If so, please share you experience.  Or ask your questions.


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