Unhappy team.. What do I do?!

Last post 09:22 pm September 21, 2020
by Steve Matthew
5 replies
05:26 pm September 21, 2020

I have been noticing the last few weeks that my team is not on the normal spirit level that they are usually at. Here's a little recap of what has happened in 2020 so far..

1. My team formed with another team in February leaving us at 8 developers, 2 testers, 2 BAs, 1 PO, 1 SM

2. We went remote 

3. In the last month we have made a lot of changes with our meetings (review, refinement, daily stand up)

  • Review: From 1 hour to 2 hours because we are now having each team member discuss what they did this sprint, what they didn't do, a recap on any blockers, and a demo if applicable (this now includes testers too). After the demo, we look at the sprint report to review velocity. 
  • Refinement: We have focused sizing based on relativity and not time. We have also tried to make sure the team stays focused on what's being refined and if we spend more than 5 minutes on a story, it most likely needs a separate conversation or more information to be gathered beforehand.
  • Stand up: Instead of having each member say yesterday, today, blockers, I have changed the sprint backlog view to group stories related to sprint goals together and if a team member. I open up each sprint goal and any team member working on that goal talks about progress being made and any blockers. At the end, I ask if there is anything else to be shared outside of sprint goals.

4. We have a new manager - Previously devs, testers, and SMs had different managers, but now we are all aligned and have one person we all report to

5. We do not finish dev and test in one sprint. This is something we are working on. One idea for improvement was maybe we aren't sizing correctly and we need to work on that. Thus, subtasks were created so people could track time on each of the subtasks and then we could look at total time spent on it and see if the size was accurate or not. I know the team DOES NOT like this. A team member suggested this, we all agreed to it, and I made sure it was being done. Our manager thinks it's a good idea and has now asked the team to create more subtasks for work that needs to be done and size each one - The team does not see value in this. I was OOO during our retro and team meeting, but from what I have heard that is what was discussed and that is the change we are moving forward with for the next 2 sprints.


Now... We have had a lot of changes. Team members feel that. Some team members feel like it's too much change but also not enough because nothing is really changing and the same pain points are still the same pain points.

I am not sure if there is more to this story or if there is more that is bothering the team.

What do I do? A couple ideas were

  1.  Wait until retro and have the team fill out our 'healthy team check in' and use that to start the conversation 
  2. Send out a survey now to ask the team about how they are feeling and either wait until retro to discuss the results?
  3. Have a one on one with each member to see how they are feeling
  4. At the next retro, only have the development team there (no PO or SM). I only say this because I feel the team has pain points they want to talk about and may want to do that without us.. I would set the expectation that notes need to be taken and action items noted
  5. Any other idea or suggestion?!
06:23 pm September 21, 2020

I have changed the sprint backlog view to group stories related to sprint goals together and if a team member. I open up each sprint goal and any team member working on that goal talks about progress being made and any blockers. 

What is going on here? Isn't there one clear, agreed Sprint Goal which team members commit to?

06:46 pm September 21, 2020

@Ian Mitchell

Yes. We have multiple sprint goals. So say one sprint goal is to "make a cake"... All stories related to that goal would be grouped together. If the next sprint goal was to "bake brownies", all stories related to that would be grouped together.

We work in Jira so I am able to tweak what the sprint view looks like. I have it set up so it lists out the sprint goal and then I can expand it to see all related stories.

I don't think that is the issue..

08:11 pm September 21, 2020

@Molly Brewer, You have 1 Scrum Team with multiple Sprint Goals?

see if the size was accurate or not.

Why estimate if you seek accuracy? Can you really be accurate in a complex environment?

My overall observation and opinion is that the focus is on the wrong things.

I am however interested to know about how you added a Sprint Goal in Jira.

08:34 pm September 21, 2020

@Steve Matthew

Sprint Goal - Active Sprint > Board Settings > Swimlanes > 'Base Swimlanes on' = Queries > And then you're able to add a 'name' and 'JQL'. For the name, I entered the sprint goal.

I also enter the sprint goal in Backlog > Edit Sprint > And then enter it into the sprint description. 


Estimation - I agree. I don't think we need to add time to see if it's "accurate" since it should be based on relativity. My team agrees as well. The manager disagrees. I think this is a separate conversation I need to have with him to get his reasoning and then explain my (and the teams) side.


Sprint goals - Yes we have many sprint goals. Are you supposed to only have one? We work on 1-3 different features at a time, so we have a separate sprint goal for each. Sometimes a sprint goal is around automation or things outside of that as well. 

09:22 pm September 21, 2020

@Molly B, Thanks for the how-to on adding Sprint Goals in Jira. I need to go try that out.

Regarding estimation, and I hope I don't confuse you, there is no mandate that you have to use relative sizing or story points. In fact, you can use hours if you want, you can even use the practice of ideal days, however, the reason why story points (which is based on relative estimation) became so popular and widely used is because it does not force the team into a contract if they use let's say hours or days for example. For example, a conversation along the lines of "You guys said it would be done in x days but now you want more time?"

Sprint goals - Yes we have many sprint goals. Are you supposed to only have one?

Yes, one Sprint Goal for a Sprint. Consider which goal the Development Team should truly focus on in a Sprint if there are multiple Sprint Goals. Can they truly commit to multiple Sprint Goals? That's what Ian Mitchell was alluding to. A Sprint Goal should answer, "What do we want to accomplish in the given timebox (Sprint) that will result in a "Done" Increment, and which will cause us to work together as a team?"

As an analogy, consider how a person might feel if they were asked to chew and swallow and drink at the same time? :)

Hope this helps and gives some clarity.