Team member with multiple commitments - how do you tackle that?

Last post 03:20 am May 18, 2020
by John Parsell
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08:51 pm May 17, 2020

So we're in a bit of flux with our product deliveries at the moment, and there's new work being requested from all angles.  Within the Scrum team working on delivering a website over the coming weeks, there's a couple of developers who are getting dragged here there and everywhere because of BAU requests coming in, and other projects that need a bit of their time.

I don't know how this is tackled though.  I understand that a Scrum Master is expected to allow the team to focus and stop these distractions from happening, but it's very difficult when the other work is for a director or a senior manager (it shouldn't be but it is). Through no fault of their own, the developers are having to stop work mid-sprint for half a day or a day, and no amount of "arguing" or discussion with the other people involved seems to make a difference.

What's the best way to approach this?  If a team member is being asked to attend planning meetings for other projects and/or asked to carry out development work but they still have work to complete what should be happening?  It's a fairly small team so this person needs to be available for both pieces of work and it can't be handed over to another, but they can't split themselves in two.  Is it simply a case of saying that they can only work on another project when they've completed the planned work, or am I missing a better (and less career-threatening) alternative?

11:11 pm May 17, 2020

Are Sprint Goals being put at risk because of this?

02:25 am May 18, 2020

In my opinion, it’s a really grey area, because implementing the Scrum Framework should empower all of the Scrum team. Yes, according to the Scrum guide, you should have the power to remove impediments, no matter if it’s a manager or the CEO. But I’ve been working around big projects for almost a decade, and I know that “practically speaking”, the CEO is also cutting you a check every 2 weeks. Most people aren’t willing to fall on the sword to uphold Scrum values when it could cost them their job.

I’m not sure how far into the project you are, but has this been brought up by the developer in the daily Scrum? Are you certain that it’s something they cannot resolve themselves? 

if this is an ongoing issue, then it’s the SMs responsibility to remove the impediment. If it’s not happening, the SM needs to escalate.

if there is nobody to escalate to (meaning the issue is with top leadership), then maybe it’s an issue of either:

1. Better promoting Scrum in the organization and showing top management the value of empowering development teams to self organize.

2. (If the “distractor” is a stakeholder in this project), you should have a discussion with the PO and ensure that the stakeholders in the project have transparency on the progress, that they’re attending the sprint reviews, etc.