Task: Improve Team Skills
  • Help the team members identify skills that need improvement and implement activities to improve those skills.
RolesPrimary Performer: Additional Performers:

Teams are made up of individuals with an imperfect balance of technical expertise, domain or customer awareness, and people skills. The team must continually identify and improve those skill areas that are lacking. The XP Coach helps ensure that this happens.

The coach must always be aware of what difficulties the team is having in succeeding on their project. Some of these will be evident, often communicated directly by the team. Some will be subtle with little awareness on the team that there is a problem. To maintain this awareness, the coach must balance time spent in the trenches with the team, observing specific use of the practices, with time spent reflecting on the team's capabilities, unencumbered by the direct pressures of the project.

With an awareness of where the team needs improvement, the coach must help the team integrate improvement activities into their work. Improvement activities need to be prioritized just as User Stories do. Different options will exist to address skill improvement needs. The coach should be familiar with a wide variety of activities, courses, and games to help people further their skills in a given practice. The coach acts as a conduit that connects the team with the expertise required to improve a skill whether that other resource is in the organization or is an external resource.

One of the most effective tools to help the team identify areas for improvement is the Retrospective, a form of project review. Techniques for this are described in Norm Kerth's book, Project Retrospectives [KER01]. Many teams have adapted the tools from the book to perform abbreviated retrospectives after each iteration in addition to the more comprehensive session held at the completion of a full project.