We are working on scrum framework. Now a situation arise that we have to shuffle 2-3 scrum team members in between sprints.

Is it possible to shuffle sprint team members in between a sprint? What are the potential drawbacks of doing this?

  • So long as it's between sprints, you're fine, it's during sprints you don't want to shuffle them. This is the nice thing about scrum, boxing things and having task completion at the end of each sprint allows you to make periodic changes; like releases or requirements or what have you, so long as it's between and not during sprints it should be handled by the next sprint planning. That said shuffling team members will always cause a break in team cohesion which can take time to rebuild or in some cases may increase team cohesion depending on who you shuffle – Jimmy Hoffa May 21 '13 at 16:57
  • @Jimmy Hoffa: Good points. Moving team members around may require adjustments to the team organization, which can be quite expensive (see e.g. Tuckman's model en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_development). Unfortunately, human beings are not like machines that can be simply plugged in somewhere and start working as expected. – Giorgio May 22 '13 at 16:53
  • @Giorgio ...that depends on whether or not they are instances of the same type classes... – Jimmy Hoffa May 22 '13 at 17:04
  • I had forgotten about the LSP! :-) – Giorgio May 22 '13 at 17:09

Is it possible to shuffle sprint team members in between a sprint?

Of course it is possible!! You should never be so subservient to a methodology that you allow it to stop you doing things that you know that you need to do.

What are the potential drawbacks of doing this?

The obvious drawback is that the people who are moved around end up working on a different part of the problem. They may need to acquire the domain and technology-base knowledge they didn't need to have before the shuffle. They will definitely need to acquire understanding of parts of the codebase that they didn't previously. These overheads will tend to make reduce "agility" ... in the normal sense of that word.

But if there is an overwhelming reason to shuffle the team, you may just have to wear that (hypothetical) loss of efficiency / agility. If you have people who can't cope with certain tasks, or can't work together, a well executed shuffle could get back that lost efficiency ... and some more.

  • "These overheads will tend to make reduce "agility" .." Short term you are correct, however after a few sprints, the Team is more agile, as each person can take on a broader range of work and has a broader understanding.... Some people advocate regular "shuffling" for this reason. – mattnz May 22 '13 at 1:08
  • @mattnz: True. On the other hand in my experience there is a price for too much agility: while every team member has a rough idea of what is going on in different areas of the code, very few have a deep understanding. This can be OK for a while but eventually you will need to change some parts of the code that no one really understands: this will cost more time and will be more error-prone. So, it is good if each team member works on different parts of the code, but a team should not overdo it (I think each team should find the right balance). – Giorgio May 22 '13 at 17:05

Well, the simple answer is, yes it's possible, but there is a good chance doing so will affect the completion of the sprints tasks.

It depends on the reason for the changes however.

If some outside factor (absence, employee leaving company/project at short notice etc), then there is only so much you can do to mitigate this.

If it is a re-prioritization of tasks mid-sprint, ideally you don't want this to happen mid-sprint, but with agile, you are supposed to be able to deal with this a little better, although it's not ideal.

  • This is happened due to wrong team combination,so how can i deal with this without changing team, so loss can be minimum or without any loss ? – rahularyansharma May 21 '13 at 12:33

One of the core concepts of Scrum Agile is timeboxing and that means basically a fixed period of time for what I call focused activity. This focused activity would at it's base be the sprint you are in.

Given that, I always found the biggest drawback is a loss of focus when changing sprint team members during a sprint. The loss of focus means a loss of work and team velocity. The only times I have done this where it worked was because of a particularly bad team member or an emergency situation where a team member was out sick but the work they were on that sprint was higher priority than other teams.

What is more interesting as a question is to ask "why" you are considering moving team members around. Usually this is an indicator of a bigger problem and, as you mentioned, a situation as risen. If you must move team members around note the loss of focus which also means a loss of work and try to solve for the problem that came up initially to prevent it from happening again.

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    +1 to loss focus point,but i want to point out here is that if there something wrong in team then surely the loss of focus due to shuffle will be less than the loss of wrong team combinations. – rahularyansharma May 21 '13 at 12:09
  • @rahularyansharma you are correct and the wrong team combination was one exception I have had to make myself in the past. I took that as a learning exercise and better planned my teams as I got to know my team mates, skills, behaviors and all better. A bad team definitely creates a greater loss of focus over fixing it early on by member moves. – Akira71 May 21 '13 at 12:23

Man, if you let a methodology block your project management skills you are misunderstanding the spirit of a methodology... It is there to help, to let you focus on the important and let the repeatable stuff be done without thinking.

Of course you should move those members from the team!

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    -1 spoken like so many PM's I have worked with... "The methodology isn't there to have rules that help you when you follow them, it's there to you know.. help.. or something.. but don't worry about it, I'm sure it still helps when you don't follow it!" – Jimmy Hoffa May 21 '13 at 16:50

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