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Agile management: Avoiding pitfalls of multi-team projects

Amy Reichert explains why eliminating external distractions is an essential Agile management practice for leaders heading multi-team projects.

What is the biggest pitfall for Agile managers to watch out for when moving to multi-team projects?

The answer is failing to eliminate external distractions. What do I mean by external distractions? I'm referring to special projects assigned to Agile management leaders that have nothing to do with their teams' tasks. For example, a Scrum Master heading two Agile teams is asked to create a new process for the Scrum Master group that will improve the group's ability to plan team tasks. Great project, nice idea, but it's still an external distraction. The request is considered external because it did not originate with the development teams this Scrum Master supports. It came from a member of his Scrum Master team. It's considered a distraction because the task is not a necessary action for either of his teams. Acting on the request won't do anything to improve his team's velocity or productivity. It won't get work done. Nor will it directly boost the quality of the work his development teams are doing.

Acting on this request may serve to improve the efficiency of Scrum Master group. But valuable project or not, the task takes time, focus and energy away from his supported team's work.

A Scrum Master I have worked with said effective leaders strive to eliminate these distractions -- not just minimize them. Simply minimizing distractions often fails as an Agile management strategy. Here's why: By allowing one distraction in, you've left the barn door open, so to speak. Once a door is opened, more distractions will follow. It is imperative for Agile leaders who manage more than one team to retain focus on each team's work. The total elimination of distractions allows Scrum Masters to support multiple teams effectively, without being overwhelmed with additional projects and duties not specifically related to their assigned project team's success. Team productivity improves when leaders are attentive and involved.

Are you managing multi-team Agile projects? Let us know what works for you, and follow us on Twitter @SoftwareTestTT.

This was first published in April 2013

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