Help, some team members are out of tasks and want to start with future sprints topics

Last post 08:38 am January 30, 2015
by Fernando Moyano
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01:23 pm December 22, 2014

I have this problem, a team with 4 members, with specific skills each one of them:

Person A) DBA with reporting skills
Person B) DBA with stored procedure skills and a very deep knowledge of the business
Person C) Developer
Person D) Tester

Problem 1
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Right now, we're at the end of sprint 6, Person A has ran out of tasks, and he wants to start working on sprint 7 issues. I have explained to the whole team that we must focus on finish sprint 6 functionalities, and not to think about independent tasks, but it is not being really accepted. On despite off they team is not working on sprint 7, they're not really convinced about it.

Problem 2
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We will have the sprint 7 planning meeting on wednesday, and the team wants to talk separately to the PO in order to ask him questions about the User Stories, Person C argues that listening to "person A" talk with the PO is a waste of time for him, and he prefers to start working in other tasks that he knows he can start working and has enough information

I want to convince them, but I'm running out of arguments and I need help to get the team back in focus.

Any advice?

04:36 pm December 22, 2014

Problem #1:

Why is this a problem? Why are you blocking the team from accepting more work in the sprint if they are telling you that they have additional capacity?

Problem #2:

Are you saying that Person C doesn't find value in the Sprint Planning meeting and would rather not attend? If Person C isn't see any value in the planning meeting, it might be beneficial to inspect on why during the next retro.

As servant leaders there is no "convincing". Being agile is about fostering empirical experimentation. Let the team decide how best to deliver working software while making sure that their choices are transparent and inspected upon afterwards.

03:52 am December 23, 2014

> I have this problem, a team with 4 members, with specific skills

If team members cannot collaborate towards the attainment of a Sprint Goal then the efficient delivery of the increment will be compromised. It sounds as though this is the case. You must now illustrate it with evidence. Identify situations where team members worked in silos instead of helping each other to finish Work in Progress. Work out the cost of delay to that WIP. There may be other evidence of waste.

This may build a case for improved cross-skilling within the team.

06:40 am December 23, 2014

Posted By Randy Ho on 22 Dec 2014 04:36 PM
Problem #1:

Why is this a problem? Why are you blocking the team from accepting more work in the sprint if they are telling you that they have additional capacity?

What I understand so far is that the team should not start with tasks belonging to a different sprint because it would lead to loose the focus on the current sprint goal, the whole team should be involved on getting the work done as a team and not as separate members. We're not playing tetris trying to accommodate tasks as if they were shapes that could be arranged, we're delivering a specific set of functionalities.

Am I wrong about it?

08:10 am December 23, 2014

I guess you are right. If Person A works on task for Sprint #7 instead of helping his co-worker on task for Sprint #6, he is actually working on less priorized task. He is not working on what is of the most importance for the PO, but just on what he likes the more. It is not a team mind-set.

Idem for problem 2, Person C is actullay saying "I don't care about the whole product, I just care about the tasks I like to do".
He need to care about the whole because maybe he will actually have to work or to give some advice on every item.
He need to care because if the team can't reach the Sprint goal, he is responsible for that.
It reminds me the "5 dysfunctions of a team" from Patrick Lencioni.

08:28 am December 23, 2014

Posted By Olivier LEDRU on 23 Dec 2014 08:10 AM

It reminds me the "5 dysfunctions of a team" from Patrick Lencioni.

Thanks Olivier, I didn't know this book, I've been reading some summaries and it is very helpful.

06:52 am December 25, 2014

What I have understood so far that team members are taking up task on individual skills base and completing them.
This is very basic problem when team is new to scrum. that is how we all are been grown up grooming our skills.
I suggest you discuss with whole team and discuss Agile principals and Values thoroughly and agreed upon when you all have understood every bit of it.

Another you ask team to try pair programming , in this way every other person will get chance to learn knowledge from other person and it will also help in bonding team together

01:21 pm January 8, 2015

Thanks Krushna, I agree with you. In fact, we could finally had that discussion and agree how we can add value, and a copule of persons said that they really need that all the team should be involved with the whole project and no just with specific tasks.

I'll take your advice about pair programming, it is a goog one!

08:38 am January 30, 2015

A good approach for this is in the Henrik Kniberg book (scrum and xp from the trenches). Particularly in the section:
"How we do daily scrums", right into "Dealing with 'I don’t know what to do today'"

He gives a very good approach to take, starting with basic questions:
- Finish the daily meeting, review the board again and ask to these people again if they could find something to do
- And if that doesn’t work, try asking who can make the demo (obviously if the sprint is not done, then the demo can't be done) and this should make them realize that there is still work to do
- if the team has not yet achieved the print goal and they still refuse to come up with something useful to do we should consider one of the following :
Shame: “Well if you have no idea how you can help the team, I suggest you go home, or read a book or something. Or just sit around until someone calls for your help.”.

Old-school: Simply assign them a task.

Peer pressure: Say “feel free to take your time, we’ll all just stand here and take it easy until you come up with something to do that will help us reach the goal.”

Servitude: Say “Well you can help the team indirectly by being butlers today. Fetch coffee, give people massage, clean up some trash, cook us some lunch, and whatever else we may ask for during the day.” You may be surprised by how fast Joe and Lisa manage to come up with useful technical tasks :o)

I find these usefull. Maybe you can have some other good ideas.