In What Circumstances Would You Recommend a Team Swarm?

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Nader Talai

In Agile ways of working, a Team Swarm is a collaborative approach where team members with the necessary skills join forces to complete a task that is proving challenging for a single team member. This method is beneficial for maintaining a steady workflow and ensuring timely delivery and is a common practice in Agile and is especially prevalent among Kanban teams to uphold Work-in-Progress (WIP) limits. 

From my knowledge, the origins of a Team Swarm came from the production system in Toyota, whereby you pull the code, swarm on it and then identify what the problem is and how we can fix it. Similarly, when working in teams, swarming offers a lot of benefits when we are stuck or when there’s a problem. Another benefit of swarming is that it encourages us to look at various options and approach and identify problems that have a lot of value.  

How Team Swarming Works  

The application of swarming can vary based on the team's structure and roles. For instance, a user story with five tasks could be approached in two ways. In a traditional Scrum team, tasks 1-3 might be assigned to a Developer, and tasks 4-5 to a Tester. However, in a swarming scenario, all tasks would be listed, with all capable team members identified, and a collective strategy would be agreed upon to tackle the work. This approach opens up a multitude of swarming variations, depending on the number of people identified as capable. 

The Steps of a Team Swarm  

When a Team Swarm takes place, the process typically starts with the backlog, where user stories are stored. From there the user story is selected for the team to work on. The team then ‘swarms’ on the selected user story and then the entire team then works on that particular user story, including the Developers, Testers and Business Analysts. In the Team Swarm however, the Developers have special responsibilities in the completion of each story, such as code implementation, testers on testing, and business analysis on requirement clarification. All these activities lead to the completion of the user story implementation.  

It Works!  

After this introduction to Team Swarming, I must also add that I have experienced the efficiency of team swarming as I have worked in many teams where they have used swarms to expand their options on innovation and how they do things. I have also found Team Swarming to be particularly beneficial in multi-disciplinary teams that require multiple perspectives on a problem and an optimal solution to solving complex problems.  

This allows us to move forward, and use our differences as strengths and not as weaknesses.  

 

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In a nutshell, empirical process control or empiricism.

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