Scrum Teams - Empower from Mediocrity to Greatness

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Thousands of words have already written about the importance of the scrum teams to the success of the scrum process, in this article, I want to review the main criteria that transform scrum teams from mediocrity to greatness.

During this article, we will be questioning the traditional artifacts (Daily meetings, retrospectives Etc.) of the scrum process and describe how great scrum teams can perform superior work without using them.

The role of scrum team in scrum process (Agile Manifesto)

“…Scrum is a team-based approach to delivering value to the business. Team members work together to achieve a shared business goal. The Scrum framework promotes effective interaction between team members so the team delivers value to the business…”.

Now, these definition is great on paper but if you have experience in the practical side of working with scrum teams, you probably know that there are so many aspects that stabilize the mediocrity of some of the teams and in other words are keeping them to perform better.

Now, based on my experience, you can transform almost any team to perform better, it may take some time and a lot of education, but know that you can, the transformation can be achieved if your team has the spirit and commitment, the technical side is always easier J

Scrum teams - The road from Mediocrity to Greatness

Let’s review some of the main criteria that will justify the word “greatness” in the context of the “Scrum” team.

Know how to make fun with each other

Although it seems simple, a good relationship among the team members is probably the main key for a great team, team members that know how to interact, collaborate, and simply have fun with each other will be by far more productive than a team with an unpleasant atmosphere.

Team ownership on the Product backlog

The Product Backlog is created and maintained by the product owner (There Is no dispute about it.), but although this ownership, a great scrum team will make sure that they have full involvement in the process of refining the backlog because they understand that quality and maintain backlog will affect the overall project development goals.

Story points are belonging to the past

Another major process in a scrum process is to measure the work effort using story points instead of the traditional H/D work effort, great scrum teams don’t need story points, they have the knowledge and expertise to understand the amount of work they can commit per sprint.

Neglecting Criticism

One of the major pitfalls of any scrum team is occurring when the team members are wasting their time to criticize other team members (Especially on the retrospective meeting) to justify their own failures, a great scrum team will have team members that will criticize only the process and the ideas related to it because they understand that personal criticism will most likely cause more damage than it will help.

Collective Ownership as a fact and not as a slogan

To understand the importance of collective ownership, just think about a special army unit that goes behind enemy lines, can they succeed in their mission without the sense of ownership for both their partners and for the mission goals? Think about scrum teams, they are not so different, without the ownership of the other team members and for the project goals, they will most likely fail to succeed with their mission.

True collective ownership should start from the perspective that all team members are equal, there is no need to define specific “Roles” within the team because they know that they have collective ownership to the success of the project, Roles are meant for those who want to separate themselves from others and therefore are not relevant to a truly great team.

Definition of done is for those who fail to understand it

Definition of Done (DOD) is a definition of criteria that should be accomplished prior to the team can mark the story/task as done, a great scrum team have the knowledge and confidence about the DOD and therefore allowing them to exclude the definition of DOD from the project stories and tasks.   

Why do we need Sprint 0?

Sprint 0 is the sprint where the team establishes the main artifacts of scrum (Backlogs, Roles, Risk assessments, Etc.), great scrum teams will exclude this sprint from their process because they can deliver business value already in the first sprint.

Knows the power of the team swarming method

Definition (Swarming):

“A behavior whereby team members with available capacity and appropriate skills collectively work (swarm) on an item to finish what has already been started before moving ahead to begin work on new items”.

A great scrum team will master this concept because they understand that this method will provide them a better chance to achieve the sprint goals as defined by the product owner, in addition, the swarming method will demand the team members to work together as a united team because they understand there is no place for individuals.

Definition (T-Concept):

“…A person with deep vertical skills in a specialized area (such as UX design) as well as broad but not necessarily very deep skills in other relevant areas (such as testing and documentation) …”.

Now to be truly able to implement the swarming method, we should use the T concept, it will allow us to create a balanced team that each individual can contribute to any given task.

Familiarity with the customer

A great scrum team will know the basic facts about their customer (the real customer and not the PO that representing them J), now I know that there are some issues with the idea that the scrum members will gain a direct interface with the customer, but the best scrum teams truly understand what their clients desire and are therefore capable of delivering the exact customer requests without the PO as a negotiator.

Know the power of spike solutions  


A story or task aimed at answering a question or gathering information, rather than at producing a shippable product.

Sometimes, we will need to add stories that will not contribute to the shippable product that the team should provide at the end of the sprint, in scrum, we have a specific name for these stories called “Spike”, using this type of stories the team can perform research and gather any information that will help them to handle and resolve difficult technical challenges.

Trusts each other

Simple, you cannot achieve greatness if your team members are not trusting each other, there is no way to handle a large, complex project without a basic trust among the scrum team members, I know that it seems obvious but believe me that I saw just too many projects that fail because of this simple fact.

There is no need for a Retrospective meeting

Hold it! Don’t start to think that I’m wrong, just think about it for a second, a true great scrum team does not need a dedicated meeting to think about how they can improve in the next sprints, the ability of the team to improve the process at any given time is by far a superior approach than one 30 minute meeting at the end of the sprint.

There is no need for Daily meetings

Daily meetings are used to increase the synchronization among the scrum members, but wait, if the team as all other artifacts of great communication, collaboration, and the self-improvement approach, do they really need this meeting? The answer is NO! The synchronization is performed during the entire process and not related to 15 minutes’ meetings at the start of the day.

Continues delivery against mandatory sprints

In scrum we should deliver a working software once the sprint is done, this is one of the basic criteria of the scrum methodology, now the thing that separates the great scrum teams from all others, is the ability to deliver features continuously once it’s done and therefore there is no need to divide the project into sprints that most teams are using to monitor the team deliverables.