We have seven developers growing to eight. The team is funded from two P&L’s so from the outside we’re considered two teams. We work on two projects at a time, one from each P&L.
We used to run one backlog with developers pulling stories from either project. In the sweet spot where both projects ran smoothly this was great. But that proved short-lived. Churn in one project slowed the other and context switching took a toll on the team.
So we split the work into two backlogs. Everyone sits in the same room but developers are “assigned” to one project. As a side note, I actually planned on having two rooms but the team said “no”.
This change has created more focus. Developers know what they’re working on, churn in one project has less effect on the other. The Scrum is easier to run, plan and track and progress appears more regular.
The change is a qualified success. Four may be too small for sustainable pairing. If anyone goes on vacation or is sick, the pairing practice starts to break altogether.
So to retain the focus of two small teams but gain the benefits one slightly larger one, we’ve loosened the assignments. Developers are asked to work on a specific project but they can switch if they feel the hate. The leads can switch people as well.
Management is often about embracing contradiction. We need to find our way to both variety and focus. It’s all a work in progress.