How to handle non serious attitude in scrum events

Last post 01:38 pm November 10, 2017
by azhar osman
9 replies
09:23 am November 9, 2017

If some of the team members are showing un-professional attitude in scrum meetings specially grooming and planning so how to handle and who to handle this situation?

PO, SM or dev team?



10:15 am November 9, 2017

Instead of thinking in terms of one role or another handling this, for each role can you outline what you think their responsibilities might be?

10:40 am November 9, 2017

There is not a lot of context to start from, but generally, to me it, ideally the Scrum Master facilitates these meetings and teaches about the proper use of this meeting time. But there is only so much they can do, of course, especially if the team members in question don't listen. At the same time, the development team should be autonomous enough to deal with outliers. 

Of course it also depends a little on what you call un-professional attitude - are they playing with their phones, launching paper planes, or simply not staying on topic? And when you say team, who is having that attitude, half of the dev team? all of them? the Scrum Master? the Product Owner? 

From my experience it always helps to try to see their point of view, why are they behaving "un-professional"? Do they think these meetings are a waste of time? If so, how could the efficiency be improved, could maybe the Scrum Master focus more on staying on topic? Or maybe they have an issue with the transparency promoted by Scrum? What I mean is, if management is part of the Scrum team I often find people are holding back with voicing their opinions, and so instead of participating to the cause they try to avoid discussions and... well... pass the time with other things instead.

In that case it might help to really make sure everyone (including management) is aware of the dev teams right and responsibility to make their own decisions on how to implement a task.

It might help to get an Agile / Scrum Coach to assist these meetings a few times.

10:46 am November 9, 2017

Also, define "unprofessional". In the headline you said "non serious". I don't think non serious behaviour is necessarily unprofessional.

11:06 am November 9, 2017

I don't think non serious behaviour is necessarily unprofessional.

You're joking?


02:35 pm November 9, 2017

@Julian, let me explain non serious behaviour.

-If someone is not paying attention and not participating (although he is physically there:)) in grooming and planning.

-If some one is playing games on mobile during grooming and planning meetings:)

-Team, SM and PO are discussing requirements and possible scenarios but he is less interested in all this.

I think this much explanation will be enough for you:)

02:56 pm November 9, 2017

he first and the third one are almost certainly issues with how the events are run. Out of those three, I'd say the second one is the only truly unprofessional one and even that is likely rooted in the way your events are run. That kind of thing tends to happen when team members are unengaged. It's the Scrum Masters job to make sure everyone's voice is heard and everyone gets to (and does) participate in the debate. That's the facilitator stance the Scrum Master should have. For more on the Scrum Master's different stances, see "The 8 Stances of the Scrum Master".

I suggest two things to be done:

First, talk to your Scrum Master. Tell him you noticed this problem. Bear in mind that the SM only facilitates Scrum Events when asked to do so. Ask him to facilitate those events (if he doesn't already), see if participation increases. If it does, learn from him how he did it.

If that doesn't help, it's time for another healthy course of Root-Cause-Analysis. Get the team together and offer them your observations. Make sure to do so without judgement. For example, I would advice against using the word "unprofessional". Just tell them that you've observed people being unengaged and not paying attention to the events. Then have the Scrum Master facilitate a Root-Cause-Analysis to find out why people aren't paying attention. The answer will not be that your developers are unprofessional. The problem is probably somewhere in the system, not in the people. Be open and be prepared for surprises. Once you found the problem, collaborate on how to fix it. The Sprint Retrospective is a good opportunity to do all of this.


We had a similar problem in my team. Our Estimation Meetings were just mind-numbingly boring. Funnily enough it wasn't the developers that complained. It was me. All our other events were highly energetic and collaborative. But somehow that one wasn't. The Dev Team agreed with me after thinking about it. We ended up changing the format of the meeting and things got better.

Hope that helps. :-)

10:04 pm November 9, 2017

About a year ago, I attended a great meet-up session that was actually titled "How to deal with A-holes".   One lesson from that meetup has really stuck with me ever since.


It is extremely rare for a person to be a jerk just to be a jerk.   Almost always, their behavior is a means to an end.   It is important for the SM to focus not on the behavior, but to try and understand the motivation behind the behavior.   


Is the person trying to sabotage the Scrum meetings?   What, if anything, are they trying to protect?   Do they have a vested interest in the status quo?   Put yourself in that person's shoes, and try to identify with what their motivation is for acting unprofessional or non-serious.   Then you will be in a much better position to engage that person and empathize with where they are, and hopefully begin building a good professional relationship that can be leveraged to help them begin to see things differently.


Good luck!

10:25 pm November 9, 2017

I think Eva's quite on the ball. When in doubt refer to agile of the principles is "The most effective and efficient method of conveying information is through face to face conversation" 

It's no use assuming this or that or thinking of any reasons. If you are bothered by it...just talk to them. Show "openness". I find there is no scientific method when it comes to people....just talk to them, understand their point of view and help them be better. 

While I agree that "non serious" does not always equate to "unprofessional", I also don't agree that it is one role responsibility to seek improvement...and let us not get hung-up on a word or misstatement. 

When it comes to people there is no one solution...a person could have any number of reason for acting in a certain way. I did this so it should work for you does not always to them first and help them be better.


01:38 pm November 10, 2017

Thanks a lot everyone or your valuable comments.