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Dev Team - when dev team members have nothing to do

Last post 08:16 pm February 6, 2020 by Doug Doine
10 replies
01:45 pm February 1, 2020

I've been watching Scrum being implemened in several companies over the years, especially from the point of view of Dev team members. It's happened many times that I would deal with testers complaining they had nothing to test. Ideally it seems to me testers have skills that should allow them to collaborate on all items, but two problems arose every time: dev team members assigned to other project than their Scrum project, dev team members unwilling to let go of the "title" (in this case tester) they've worked towards all their life, and therefore to do what is outside the title. I understand that it's the Scrum master's job to coach, educate and so on. But still.: what do you do about "idle time"?

06:19 pm February 2, 2020

but two problems arose every time: dev team members assigned to other project than their Scrum project

What is this other project & why dev team members are assigned on that ? Do you have a dedicated scrum team at all ? 

dev team members unwilling to let go of the "title" (in this case tester) they've worked towards all their life, and therefore to do what is outside the title

As the guide states - Scrum recognizes no titles for Development Team members, regardless of the work being performed by the person. Do you think the team is well on boarded with scrum ? 

But still.: what do you do about "idle time"?

If in case this idle time is referred for testers during the start of the Sprint then - does the team reach their Sprint Goal ? if later then , What do the team think about how to utilize this idle time ? 

09:31 pm February 2, 2020

I should have been more specific - this is not a team I'm a Scrum Master for, it's a situation that I have seen while watching how Scrum was implemented in certain companies. I was often in touch with Dev Team members and was really astonished to hear what they said. 

From what they said, they were only part time on the Scrum team - if that makes sense at all. Say there were three projects - and for one the company decided to implement Scrum. They didn't even talk about the Product. 

I agree with your remarks - but I was puzzled to find there was no initiative at all on the part of the dev team members, and it seemed the scrum master was one of them and not guiding them at all either.

To be honest watching Scrum being implemented badly is actually what got me interested in it all. 

But thank you for your time, I should have taken more time rephrasing my question

08:00 am February 3, 2020

But still.: what do you do about "idle time"?

What would happen if you simply focused on exposing it? What if you maximized transparency to team members and stakeholders over waste and its impact on value delivery? What would happen then?

09:12 am February 3, 2020

Ian, I think I would first focus on coaching the DT members on Scrum values before thinking of "exposing" anything. But like I said it's the info I got while working in some companies as a totally unrelated job and so I had no access to anything but one-on-one chats with people. 

It's really how I got interested in Scrum. When I first heard about it I thought it was a scam, because of what the dev team members had to say about it. I looked into it to try and understand what was going on and help some of then and thought "but I understand it, it makes sense!".

And after that I spent a lot of time (still in my unrelated job) wondering why it turns out that way...until I got to wondering what and how I would work as a scrum master. That's when I decided to get certified.

The situation above was so pervasive I wondered if there was something I didn't know that others might. But the two answers received confirm that it's all about Scrum.


Thank you for your time!


09:35 am February 3, 2020

This situation is comes up when a scrum team is formed and sampling is done with couple of projects using agile. The  team formed will be having pending tasks already when they moved to scrum team....

The problem will be solved only when entire company moves to agile.....




01:26 pm February 3, 2020

I think I would first focus on coaching the DT members on Scrum values before thinking of "exposing" anything.

Might the situation be used to help coach openness and courage?

01:53 pm February 3, 2020

Absolutely. I feel that in both cases, the Dev Team members didn't feel comfortable expressing any concern or doubt about what was going on. That might also be a sign of a lack of respect in the team, and I'm surprised they never mentioned their Scrum Master. But then again I wasn't in a position where I could delve more deeply. 

(You see, what really puzzles me is that this was a company that had - alledgedly - been using Scrum for several years. And this tester - and another one, kept referring to themselves as tester, not as, I don't know, "I work on Product X".) 



06:58 pm February 5, 2020

There are two things I noticed as I read through.

One is the environment not exactly expecting or requiring the Scrum Values to be treated as the recipe for success, but rather something that is nice to have. There's a difference between a Team and a group of Temporary Alliance members. There is also a difference between a Team and a Pseudo-Team. The first is a lack of Common Goal shared amongst each person, the latter is a lack of actually 'needing' each other for success to be achieved.

The other thought (or sets of thoughts) is about the bottleneck being the development. How long does it take before something can be tested?

In retro, does the team spend time trying to improve themselves and how they work? How do the developers feel? Are they being pressured to get work into testing because they are responsible for the idle time? What things prevent the Dev of taking advantage of their testers? Why not get something written that day, tested that day or the first half of the next day?

07:50 pm February 5, 2020

There are 5 Scrum values that most issues related to Scrum practice can be traced to:

  • Focus
  • Openness
  • Respect
  • Courage
  • Commitment

In consideration of your initial example, where a Development Team is assigned to other initiatives outside of Scrum, and where Development Team members attempted to maintain their title and preference for certain types of work (i.e. - testers/testing), which of the above 5 values do you believe are being compromised by such practices/behavior? 

08:09 pm February 6, 2020

Is this question more of a "what should they be doing?"

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