Pattern: Well-Formed Team

The core of Scrum — its most basic idea — is the Well-Formed Team, which is where we start…


There is an Item of Work to be done.


  • The Item has one (or more) Stakeholders who want the work to be done, and these Stakeholders can’t (or don’t want to) do the work themselves.
  • Each Item has Acceptance Criteria; the Stakeholders have an idea about what the finished result should look like, be, or do — and these Acceptance Criteria will be shared as part of the Item.


Use a Well-Formed Team (WFT) to do the work, which means:

  • the WFT is Self-Organized: the Team Members determine what Tasks are necessary for them to accomplish the work and complete the Item. The Team Members are co-located (if not physically, then virtually) and have frequent Coordination Meetings to stay ‘synced-up’ while they are working. The WFT manages itself so that the Stakeholders don’t have to.
  • the WFT is Self-Contained: the Team Members (collectively) have all the knowledge and skills they need in order to accomplish the work and complete the Item. The Stakeholders will not have to worry about delays based on waiting for outsiders to complete their part of the work.
  • the Team Members are Value-Driven: they value working together; they are constantly working on Improvements of themselves, their Team, their environment, and their tools; and they do their due diligence to complete Items to/with the Standard of Care they deserve. Doing their due diligence often requires them to do Chores that are not directly involved in working on the Items. The Stakeholders can trust that the WFT has Integrity — the Team Members are Professionals — and will meet the Acceptance Criteria while meeting the appropriate Standard of Care.


Generally speaking, this Pattern specifies the following Accountabilities:

  • The Well-Formed Team is Accountable to the Stakeholders for using the appropriate Standard of Care and satisfying the Item‘s Acceptance Criteria,
  • The Well-Formed Team is Accountable to identify and carry out Improvements and Chores that are required for the WFT‘s successful continuation, and
  • The Team Members are Accountable to each other to be good Team Members and live the Values.

Discussion and Examples:

We find Well-Formed Teams everywhere, in all walks of life, doing all sorts of work. The range from the Team of gardeners that maintains your yard and garden, to the team of mechanics that works on your car, to the team of doctors and nurses that works on you in the hospital.

Well-Formed Teams are usually thought of as specialists, or experts, in a particular domain. Well-Formed Teams can come in many sizes:

  • A Well-Formed Team could be a 1-man Team, like my plumber Jerry.
  • A Well-Formed Team could be a Small Team, like the collection of mechanics at a car repair center, the members of a brick-laying team, cooks and other workers in a (small) restaurant kitchen, or the truck-load of gardeners who come by to fix up your yard and garden.
  • A Well-Formed Team could be Large, like a Construction Company, a Hospital, or the cooks and other workers in a (large) restaurant kitchen. However,
    • The internal organization of this large Well-Formed Team must consist of Well-Formed Teams.
    • In other words, it is a recursive definition: a Team made up of Well-Formed Teams whose governance is also done by Well-Formed Teams is a Well-Formed Team. This will be explored in the scaling patterns later in this book.

Well-Formed Teams are Self-Contained and Self-Organized, which means that the Team Members figure out how to work together, combining their skills, in order to get the work done. This can take many different forms — here are just a few:

  • The WFT could use an adaptable assembly line — like in a kitchen or brick-laying team. The work, itself, follows a certain flow — and it is adapted as necessary. There is often a member of the Team (like the sous-chef or Master Mason) who is orchestrating this flow.
  • The WFT could normally work as individuals, but pair and swarm as needed. We see this pattern of behavior on most WFTs, but it is very obvious with mechanics and medical professionals.
  • The WFT‘s Team Members always work in pairs, sharing expertise (and looking out for each other) while doing the work. This is often done when dangerous machinery is involved.

That being said, the third part of the definition (Value-Driven) is the most interesting, for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is because Well-Formed Teams are constantly improving. This has many facets: they need to increase their Knowledge, improve their Teamwork, and improve their Tools and Environment. This takes time (in the form of internally-generated Items or Tasks), and it is time that will not be spent working on the Items coming from the Stakeholders; it is just part of the cost of doing work.

The second reason is because of the notions of Standard of Care and Acceptance Criteria

A Well-Formed Team must have a Standard of Care that it adheres to in its work. This Standard of Care is crucial and inviolate, because the Stakeholders are relying on it. The Stakeholders are relying on the professionalism and Integrity of the WFT; the Stakeholders want the work done right, and they are trusting the WFT to know what that means — and to do it every time. We would like Team Members to be Self-Motivated, and do the work to the Standard of Care without being told, and this would be a very high level of rofessionalism.

This is a very interesting concept. If we think of what it takes to get an Item Done, we can see that a Done Item is one that meets the Acceptance Criteria and that the Team used the appropriate Standard of Care while doing the Item. To make it simple, we say that a Done Item met both the Acceptance Criteria and the Standard of Care.

On the one hand, the Acceptance Criteria come from the Stakeholders (as part of the Item), and defines what the Stakeholders want, need, expect, or are hoping for. The Acceptance Criteria may be either ambiguous or well-defined; they may be documented or undocumented; the idea is that the Stakeholders have some idea about what the end result should be. Here are some examples:

  • “Large sirloin, medium-rare, substitute broccoli for the asparagus, blue cheese dressing on the side”
  • “I need a retaining wall set up right over here…”
  • “My brakes don’t work! Fix them!”
  • “My dad is sick… please help him…”
  • “Just mow the grass and clean up those two garden beds today…”

Doing its due diligence to meet the appropriate Standard of Care often requires the WFT to do Chores, which (like Improvements) are internally-generated Items or Tasks that are not directly involved with completing an Item. For example, painters must clean their brushes, mechanics must clean their tools and dispose of old oil appropriately, workers in a kitchen must clean the dishes and equipment, and so on. In my book (Exploring Scrum: the Fundamentals), I refer to Improvements and Chores, collectively, as simply Chores.

The fact that the WFT is Self-Contained implies that the WFT has the knowledge to understand and refine the Acceptance Criteria as needed. Part of the Team’s Standard of Care could be to ask questions and carry on a dialogue with the Stakeholders in order to refine the Acceptance Criteria along the way.

On the other hand, the Standard of Care is supplied by the WFT — they are the experts on how to do the work… and they have the Integrity to do it the right way every time. The Standard of Care influences and defines how the WFT will do the work — what their internal process looks like. The Standard of Care could define what the end result has to look like, it could require certain process steps, whatever. A WFT‘s Standard of Care could be highly personalized, or it could be determined by their Industry/Profession, or both.

In many Industries/Professions the notion of a minimum Standard of Care is enforced through laws, standards, inspections, or codes of ethics. For example:

  • a Medical Professional will lose his/her license to practice medicine if it is determined that he or she did not meet the appropriate Standard of Care when practicing medicine;
  • an electrician will lose his/her license if his/her work consistently fails inspections;
  • a Restaurant Kitchen will be shut down if the staff does not meet the standards for cleanliness and food preparation;
  • a mechanic will lose his/her certifications if the work is consistently done incorrectly;
  • and so on…

As you can see, the Well-Formed Team is an powerful thing.

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