Dealing with a Different Team( I dont want to call them difficult)

Last post 03:08 pm October 22, 2018
by Larry Blankenship
9 replies
08:53 am October 17, 2018

I just started my career as Scrum master one month back. Before i joined the team was reorganized into two teams. First group is productive programmers and the second one is unproductive, lazy and totally negative ones with whom nobody else want to work with. So my question is how can i drive this second team ? 

08:27 pm October 17, 2018

You can't.  What you can do is let them know that they are responsible for delivering a usable increment and that you will help them organize themselves to do that, but you won't cover for them.  Make sure they do a Sprint Review meeting with the customer even if they aren't ready.  They'll either have the good sense to not want to be embarrassed or they'll figure it out the second or third time they have to do a sprint review with nothing to show.

09:36 pm October 17, 2018

+1 Larry.   Important to keep in mind as a Scrum Master - you are only in complete charge of one thing, and that is the Scrum Process.   You basically have no authority over anything else, and you certainly cannot drive teams into better behavior.

Your skills as a Scrum Master are around influencing, suggesting, and making things transparent and visible.   You will grow these skills as you get experience as a SM.   For now, maybe some empathy will help you influence this 2nd team to behave better.   Put yourself into their shoes - why do they behave this way?

I learned a valuable lesson early in my career, which is that people who act as jerks are rarely 100% jerks.   Almost always, their bad behavior is a means to an end.   Your assignment is to try and understand why members of this team behave in such a manner (what goal are they trying to achieve?), and then think of ways you may be able to influence them into more collaborative ways of working.

Good luck!

08:34 am October 18, 2018

The above two comments are within top 10 advice on this forum

03:30 pm October 18, 2018

I just started my career as Scrum master one month back. Before i joined the team was reorganized into two teams. First group is productive programmers and the second one is unproductive, lazy and totally negative ones with whom nobody else want to work with.

Were people deliberately separated into "productive" and "unproductive" groups? How did that happen? How did this arrangement arise?

03:45 pm October 18, 2018

Do the second group know they are seen as "unproductive, lazy and totally negative" and that "nobody else want to work with" them?

If yes, what effect do you believe that has on their motivation and behaviour?

If not, what do you think is preventing them from understanding how they are perceived by the rest of the organization?

03:46 pm October 18, 2018

Timothy - I think transparency or sunshine would be the best disinfectant in this case.  That's what I meant by not covering.  I think Ian is right on target as well in terms of needing to understand a little more about why one team is labeled one way and another is labeled a different way.  

It may be that the teams need to be reorganized so that the the top performers have an opportunity to rub off on the underperformers.  That does run the risk of having the underperformers rub off on the performers, though.

The other thing you didn't tell us is whether you have looked into why one group is negative and hard to work with and the other group is easier to work with.  Is it a matter of skills and experience?  Perceived office politics which favor one group over another? Find out what is demotivating the lesser performing group (this is an impediment which is keeping work from getting done, and that's our main job, removing impediments)

07:14 pm October 18, 2018

+1 to everyone that has already responded!!!!  All those responses brought a tear to my eye. 

Let me throw in my opinion and hope it lives up to everyone else's. 

There is something making that team under-perform.  You, as a Scrum Master, have been tasked to figure it out.  Sorry for that.  But some ways I've been able to do that is through constant communication and coaching on the purpose of each item described in Scrum.  For example, I'm going to bet that a few of them are complaining about too many meetings (at least that was one of the complaints I encountered last time I dealt with this).  What I did was quit calling them meetings.  Call them Events like in the Scrum Guide.  Start each event by spending a couple of minutes explaining to them the purpose of the Event.  Then be extremely vigilant and keep them focused on that purpose during the Event.  Don't let it stray into something that it shouldn't.  Help them learn to appreciate the purposes. 

Do a few team building exercises that can help you discover why they all feel the need to under-perform. Then coach them on why it is important to rely on each other to get work done.  I really like the suggestion that you do Reviews with nothing to show. But remember that as a Scrum Master, your only responsibility in the Review is to make sure it happens.  It is up to the Dev Team and PO to run the meeting. If the PO is sharing your feelings that the team is under-performing, you should talk to him and make sure he is inviting the stakeholders to the Review, even if there is nothing to show. Maybe even stretch the definition of Stakeholder to find a way to make the Development Director a stakeholder. 

Above all, listen to the team. Their verbal communication and the non-verbal.  Don't force them to do a Retrospective that is planned to the minute like you find on some of the do-it-yourself retro sites.  Do a Retrospective that fits the team's dynamic. But again, make sure that they understand the purpose of it and then be hyper-vigilant to help them achieve the purpose. 

Good luck with this one. It is one of the most challenging things a Scrum Master encounters.  If you can help that team turn around then you have proven why you are a Scrum Master. 

10:31 am October 22, 2018

Thank you so much for the replies. Ian The company is working on a new version of the existing app which they want to launch as early as possible. As per my research the programmers in the now team 2 were standing in the way of the progress with their low productivity, no/less understanding of basic programming concepts, negetive attitude etc. I sat with each and every developer, management, admin , support etc and from everywhere it was the same feedback. 


Yes they are aware of this feedback. And as a result they are even more demotivated and seeing things negetive. To make matters worst all of them are short tempered as well. 

A little bit more to the back ground. The company started using Scrum around 6 months back. Their first Scrum master was the boss him self. And one of the members in this team2 is a close relative of the boss and they have family issues. It is a family business. 

We just started a sprint with this team 5 days back and i have been observing their working pattern. The first feeling i had was that they are lacking in Scrum core values. So I have planned scrum coaching with them  and  doing some teambuilding activities with them. I am positive that i can influence them and motivate them. 

Thank you once again Larry, Timothy, Eugene and Daniel. 



03:08 pm October 22, 2018

Best of luck.  Worked in family companies before and the family dynamics can sometimes be an impediment.  I had to finally tell the two family members that I charged double for family counseling.  (this wasn't as a scrum master, this was a contract IT person)