A number of years ago, a client of mine had a new feature request come to one part of the company. It was a significant change that would touch quite a few teams to get done and when they asked those teams how long it would take, the answer was somewhere between 10 and 12 weeks.

One of the managers decided to try an experiment. Instead of just handing this work out to the teams who would have to make the changes, he assembled a new working group. He hand picked one person from this team and two from this team, and another from over here, and put them in a room with instructions to see how far they could get in two days. His goal was to assemble a single group that had all the skills to do the actual work.

He was under no misconception that they’d be able to actually finish anything. He just wanted to see how far they could get and what they could learn from the experiment.

Three hours later, they came out of the room to say the work was done. Not that they’d come up with a plan or they’d made some decisions. The work was done. Finished in three hours.

Work estimated at 10-12 weeks of work had been completed in three hours.

How was this possible?

When all the skills needed were actually in the room and those people actively collaborated, the work was fairly simple. The reason it had been estimated at 10 to 12 weeks was to account for all the hand-offs and waiting that would normally happen in this environment.

This is the power of having all the right people available to work on the problem. This is what can happen when we eliminate hand-offs.

When we talk about self-sufficient teams, this is what we mean. A team that can do all the work themselves without extensive hand-offs to and from other teams.