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Scrum For Two

How to Use Scrum Principles in a Two-Person Team

By Sara Fauver
Solutions Engineer, BreakFree Solutions

Are scrum principles only for teams of 3 or more? Absolutely not! Scrum is a framework that can be used by any size team to increase their productivity and keep them focused on the goal. Scrum works well for two-person teams because it provides structure, which can be a challenge when working with just one other person. This article will discuss how Scrum works in a two-person team environment, as well as some tips for success.

As a Solutions Engineer at BreakFree, I've used scrum within multiple organizations, all which are subject to external factors meaning it's common to fulfill a project without having a full scrum team. Because the absence of manpower won't magically reduce the complexity of the project, you must consciously adapt the process to fit a two-person team in order to ensure that the product is built correctly, and the client is meeting their goals.

So, What Can be Done When Only Two People Are on the Project?

Transform your scrum structure in order to adjust to two roles, three events and three artifacts.

Typically scrum structure accounts for three roles, five events and three artifacts, or “3-5-3.” However, it's not the exact numbers but the culture of scrum that drives successful development. For teams of two, the structure needs to be adapted to support the scrum theory and values with a practical amount of overhead. Here’s how to do so:

1. Designate one person as the product owner and the other as developer. The backlog will have less flux than a typical project, so the product owner will still have time to work on sprints.

2. Compress sprint planning, retro, and review into the same block of time in order to maximize the continuous length of time in the sprint for development.

3. Keep all the sprint artifacts. The maintenance of these artifacts scales down well when the increments are smaller.

Understand the Scrum Theory: Transparency, Inspection, Adaptation

On a team of two, it is impossible to follow scrum by the book since there is no Scrum Master. The two team members will need to rely on each other to practice scrum. To do this, the Scrum Pillars need to be kept in mind:

1. Maintain transparency with each other and communicate often. Pair on tasks that relate to many other tasks, so the solution is understood fully by both team members. Swarm on complex tasks that benefit from two heads instead of one.

2. Inspect and adapt the project during the regular review and planning time. Do not skip these steps, even if the project “is on track” or the plan “was discussed” during the sprint.

Exercise Scrum Values: Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, Courage

The five scrum values create the best environment to be transparent, inspect and adapt. On a team of two, values become more important, and some require more discipline. Be attentive and lean on scrum values to guide actions and behaviors.

1. Stay committed to the scrum process. Scrum was designed to help teams maximize the value added to a product, not to maximize the number of minutes spent coding.

2. Focus on the sprint goal during the sprint. It might be tempting to plan any time both team members are together during a sprint. Don't do this. Keep working on the sprint during the sprint. Empiricism will not work if the increment is too small to inspect.

3. Focus on reviewing and planning during the review and planning meeting. It might be tempting to spend time working on solutions instead. Hold off on this. Make note of ideas that are important to retain but stay attentive to the task at hand.

4. Act with courage. On a two-person team, changing direction on the product feels like more of a failure. It isn't. Remember that adaptation is an essential part of the development process.

Keep these things in mind when adapting scrum for a two-person team. Remember that the goal is to deliver value, not necessarily to follow every letter of the scrum book. With communication and discipline, your team can be successful using scrum values and principles.

Do you want to learn more about scaling scrum down to accommodate a smaller team and achieve results in your projects? Feel free to reach out if interested in learning more about compressing scrum:

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