What makes Scrum teams different?

I was in a daily standup last week watching a team that is reasonably new to Scrum, and witnessed a team start the path towards self-organization and collective ownership.  The conversation went something like this:

Bob the Developer: I’m finishing up coding that feature, handing it over to Joe to test this afternoon, and then I think I’m done with all coding work for this sprint.

Sally the Scrum Master: What will you work on after you give that feature to Joe?

Bob: Hmmm…well, I think I’ll swarm with Joe on testing that feature, and work with him immediately on any issues.  We will make sure it’s wrapped up and the product owner sees it too to get their feedback.

This response from Bob was very different than what he would have said 3 months prior.  3 months prior, his response would have been something like “I’m going to go look at the next feature” or “I’m not sure, I guess I’ll wait for a bug to show up”.   Bob had radically transformed his view on his role on the team, and was understanding that he was part of a collaborative group whose collective responsibility was to deliver to his customers.  He wasn’t there just to write code.  His role was now bigger than that. 

It’s this type of maturity that makes Scrum (and more generally, any flavor of agile) teams special and different from traditional waterfall “teams”, which are usually a collection of people with different goals, responsibilities, and probably work in different departments.  They aren’t populated with people who only want to live in their world.  They are cross-functional teams, with a broad range of skills and capabilities – but these people understand the goal of a Scrum team.  The team works together to achieve, even if that means doing something outside their core skills.     

The Scrum Guide states this very clearly:

Individual Development Team members may have specialized skills and areas of focus, but accountability belongs to the Development Team as a whole.

I’ll repeat that: Accountability belongs to the team as a whole.

This simple, but immensely powerful, concept is one of the core tenets of Scrum, and what makes Scrum teams special.

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