How to handle reluctant team member

Last post 11:28 am April 24, 2022
by Sivabalan Karuppannan
26 replies
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06:42 pm February 22, 2016

Hello,
I am a scrum master and have an issue with one of the team members. Actually with the whole team :)
The base:
9-member team, good spirit, members really like each other and fight for staying together. We go out together and drink something once in a week or two.
We are doing scrum for 2 years approx, 1 year basicly being a waste. The velocity of the group is ok, but not great.
So the problem:
This one guy says he hates scrum. He mentions this a few times a week in some context. It really bothers me, but not the others. Actually its kinda ok, because we make a joke of everything, so this must be included.
But he rejects formal parts as well: Doesnt participate in dailies, and sprint review. No way.
I tried to talk to him, it got worse. Stopped pressing for month, just tossing in some reasonings here and there, nothing. Tried to discuss it in retrospective, nothing. I asked if he would attend if the whole group thought it is useful, but no, he thinks that he shouldnt do something that he doesnt like. I even tried to remove daily at all, because i think the most important thing is for the group to have a common base of ceremonies and pronciples, but others didnt want to.
But he likes us, and wants to work with us. He likes to do pair program with us.
He gladly takes part in our social life, even told the manager that he quits if they try to remove him from the group.

Known problems:
1. He is 50% security expert, and its outside of the scope of scrum. He does not want that to include it into scrum (mainly because its mostly communication and its his job).
2. He doesnt care about what others are doing, only about those people he actually works with (usually only 1-2-3), but he says that he does not need a daily to communicate with them.

So... I need some advice, how could i help? I dont care if there is daily or not, but until the whole group is unable to decide about its life without problems, i feel they are week, and will not be able to be real productive.

02:21 am February 23, 2016

Is there a desire for improvement, and if so where is it coming from?

02:56 am February 23, 2016

Does your team have agreed on explicit team values? I guess it didn’t, for this behavior violates all common sense of professionalism and teamwork.

05:30 am February 23, 2016

Well, there is desire for improvement from team members, but i feel that it is not strong enough to go through conflicts for it.
And no explicit team values. I actually got to the point that am afraid of doing these things that feels like 'pushing' i do not want to make the spirit bad, i am trying to solve the problem in a manner that everyone feels that solving a problem is the point, not forcing something.
I fail in this actually sometimes because i am a passionate guy, and a dominant type, but always trying to be assertive. Please note that i am a beginner in being a scrum master, i started it 1 year ago, so i might have my part in this situation. not sure.

05:43 am February 23, 2016

Is the Product Owner satisfied with the value being delivered? What about the wider organization? It sounds like there is no sponsorship for agile practice, and no sense of necessity or urgency regarding its adoption.

05:55 am February 23, 2016

There is great sponsorship from PO and management as well (the whole agile change came from the top 2 years ago, thats one of the guys problems...), but they believe that teams should be allowed great freedom on solving their problems.
Our PO is the same as our Line Manager, and he tried to 1on1 a few times with the guy but failed as well :)
How should the organization help in this?

06:02 am February 23, 2016

> How should the organization help in this?

They need to establish a sense of urgency for agile adoption. Nobody else can be expected to do this. Sponsorship for organisational change cannot be delegated, and people cannot be expected to change their established practices without a clear reason to change.

02:13 pm February 24, 2016

Heckuva problem Zoltan.

On one hand, your problem child seems to be contributing; on the other, he is not much of a team player.

Also, your velocity is average and your team doesn't seem to mind the problem-child or the average velocity.

Given the team has been at it for 2 years ... maybe time to blow up the team? Are they getting bored?

Pat Riley (Hall of Fame Basketball Coach) once said ... "renewal comes through destruction."

11:41 am February 25, 2016

Thank you for all your answers.
@Ian: Yes, I can feel this necessity, however I am looking for ways to improve the group, to handle this situation inside the group. Maybe I could coach the management to try to build up more of this, but I am not sure.
@Edward: The team is not 2 years old, we are doing scrum for 2 years now, but this group is only 1 year old, with some later changes as well. They are not getting bored, they are just improvement-bottlenecked I think :)
But yes, you are right about destruction, but I am trying to avoid it for now.

09:39 am February 29, 2016

Hi Zoltan,

I think the key questions are here:
- is he indispensable for the team (or are there others that could do his job)?
- are the product owner and the team happy withe the performance?
- is the team annoyed by this behaviour? (are you sure there's no irritation behind the laughing?)
- why does het hate scrum?? Do you know ? What would he prefer instead of scrum?

If he is indispensible for the team then anyway, you should work on spreading the knowledge; otherwise he is still a single point of failure..
If everybody is ok with the situation and performance is ok, I would say: Leave it but keep an eye for irritation by others.

09:59 am February 29, 2016

Posted By Rik Pennartz on 29 Feb 2016 09:39 AM
Hi Zoltan,

I think the key questions are here:
- is he indispensable for the team (or are there others that could do his job)?
- are the product owner and the team happy withe the performance?
- is the team annoyed by this behaviour? (are you sure there's no irritation behind the laughing?)
- why does het hate scrum?? Do you know ? What would he prefer instead of scrum?

If he is indispensible for the team then anyway, you should work on spreading the knowledge; otherwise he is still a single point of failure..
If everybody is ok with the situation and performance is ok, I would say: Leave it but keep an eye for irritation by others.

Yes, these are the important questions.
After answering these, I am still unsure about the nexts steps.
Do sou think that it goes down to either sacrifice him or leaving it with "keeping an eye"?

01:14 pm February 29, 2016

Whenever in doubt, turn the "observation" over to the team, and allow them to manage it.

What does the team think? Have they made any mention of it? Is the team aware that the makeup and function of the team is under their control? Does your organization support self-managing teams?

Perhaps all you can do is make your observations known (very tactfully, of course), and then let it go. Be available to support the team in any way they need.

09:41 am March 16, 2016

Thank you guys, for now i am on the observation side and wait for signs.

03:43 pm May 26, 2017

 

I have been experiencing similar problems, and am relieved to find this blog. I was hired as a consulting Scrum Master over 3 months ago, for a large enterprise that wants to transition from Waterfall to Agile and Scrum. They've sent two Project Managers to Scrum Master training, but overall, the company is still following Waterfall practices, management is still saying that QA has the final approval for what can go into a production release. I am a scrum master for two teams, and one of those teams really tries to think outside the waterfall box, but lack the engineering practices that support the success of scrum, such as, continuous integration, automated testing, an automated build process. It almost seems like the Agile and Scrum initiative is futile, because the organization is divided and not all managers support Scrum. My direct manager does not and in fact told me that they were going to watch it fail, so they can go back to waterfall. Imagine how discouraged I was, especially when that was said on my second or third week?!

I feel like I'm fighting the good fight, and am only motivated by having at least one team of developers who don't flat out ignore me.

The other team I have makes this nearly impossible and very difficult. They come late to the standup or don't show up at all. They say things like I don't why we have to answer the three questions, all these meetings get in the way of our time. I try my best to stay positive and explain the purpose of the rules for the daily standup, but I'm just met with a lot of eye-rolling and dirty looks. The Product Owner also ignores me, and I feel like they are really trying to tell me, we don't want you here, go away. I try to talk to the Product Owner but he literally ignores me by not looking at me and walking away, and he's done this so much in front of the development team, that I think they now believe this is how they are allowed to treat me.

I find myself getting bored because I know I'm not being empowered to do my job. 

My question is - How do you motivate or inspire a team who is so negative? I've tried having one-on-one's with individuals to learn why the morale is so low, and all I get is, "nobody here wants this change"

I'm considering looking for a new job because it feels like my efforts are futile. I've talked to management about it and they don't really seem to care, it's like everyone in this department is just getting by to collect a paycheck. And it's hard for me to keep my spirits high.

Is this what it's like in an environment new to Agile and Scrum?

p.s - Not trying to make this all about me, with all the I's in my statements, but I'm trying to see what I can do to help this team embrace the benefits that Scrum has to offer and learn how to be a better servant-leader to the team.

 

07:16 am May 27, 2017

If I was you, I'd have a blunt talk with management, preferably including the person who hired me, and ask where the sponsorship for Scrum actually lies.

If genuine organizational sponsorship is there, it will be possible to come up with a change backlog for achieving a clear agile vision. Each change on the backlog would leverage good agile patterns and practices, and would have robust management backing. You should set a regular time-box, possibly the same length as team sprints, to inspect and adapt progress with the sponsors. This is in addition to any Scrum reviews and retrospectives which ought to happen with the teams. 

If the interest isn't there, or demonstrated to your satisfaction in such a time-boxed manner, then it may indeed be best to move on.

06:45 pm May 30, 2017

Along with Ian's comments, I would suggest that you remain firm regarding Scrum practices and ceremonies.   While it can be a long transition from waterfall to Scrum, you seem to be working in a difficult environment that appears destined for a Scrumbut practice, at best.

 

That said, another option is to try and make things as transparent and visible as possible.   Pose powerful questions when things don't go according to plan (as they almost always do in a traditional waterfall shop).   The typical reaction is to avoid such issues or write them off as "the way we do things".   Don't let them off the hook that way.   Engage them in conversations rooted in understanding and discovery, so that they can actually see the issues they continue to experience.   Sometimes, it takes that realization to be receptive to another way of doing things (i.e. - Scrum).

 

Good luck!

12:26 am June 1, 2017

Hi Zoltan,

You need to ask yourself a question:

Which role does this security SME take in a Scrum Team? A Scrum Master? A Product Owner? Or part of the Development Team? If he is not any of those, he may be a "key stakeholder".

If that's the case, as per Scrum Guide, he is only required to "participate" in Sprint Reviews and "attend" (as required) in Sprint Plannings. Your Development Team may engage him from time to time.

Without more visibility, my comment is only hypothetical. If you agree with my assumption, maybe it's your company's mistake to include him in the Scrum Team, let alone an expectation of him to attend all Daily Scrums.

Lawrence

12:53 pm December 20, 2017

If you see Scrum is not working you can mix waterfall + Agile practices which is Hybrid model as per PMI PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition 

Scrum for sake of Scrum is not required because the end goal is to reach milestones as early as possible, It is best possible with 100% Scrum and Agile but with Hybrid model adaption, you can facilitate  waterfall mind people in your organization. Roll out Scrum/Agile best practices once things will be good enough for you.

07:11 pm December 20, 2017

Ughh... 

I do not believe that if one notices Scrum not working as intended, the solution is found in a hybrid Scrum/waterfall approach.

What about having a discussion (retrospective, root-cause analysis, etc.) around what is working or not working with the current approach, and then experiment with different processes/practices to try and improve it?

08:39 pm December 20, 2017

...the end goal is to reach milestones as early as possible.

Shouldn’t the end goal be to reduce the leap-of-faith taken by evidencing value as early as possible?

09:30 pm December 20, 2017

@Ian - Using terms like Leap-of-faith will get you conflict from Human Centered Design people. 

 

@Zoltan - I think the guidance in LeSS is a little more helpful than Scrum in this case.  Foster job security, but not role security.  Agile is a volunteer venture if someone doesn't have their head and their heart in it, then it's not going to work for them or the tea.  Move them on and start the change management. 

Also, for the hybrid's out there, read the SrumButs article in resources. 

https://www.scrum.org/resources/what-scrumbut

Scrum is made for a complex environment.  If you're having trouble making it work, then you're more likely using Scrum in a less complicated environment or Scrum is showing you problems that you're not willing to solve.      

 

 

10:36 pm December 20, 2017

Using terms like Leap-of-faith will get you conflict from Human Centered Design people. 

It can also lead you into conflict with existentialist philosophers. My response is that you can take whatever leap-of-faith you want as long as it's with your own money.

Scrum is made for a complex environment.  If you're having trouble making it work, then you're more likely using Scrum in a less complicated environment or Scrum is showing you problems that you're not willing to solve.

That's right, and the smaller the leaps-of-faith which are taken, the more opportunity you will have to empirically validate assumptions and address problems.

01:57 pm December 29, 2017

Zoltan,

"He is 50% security expert, and its outside of the scope of scrum. He does not want that to include it into scrum (mainly because its mostly communication and its his job)." 

Since when is security out of the scope of Scrum? Meeting security requirements (non-functional requirements) are as important as functional requirements. Security add value to our customers. The most wanted functional requirement would be useless if is not design and coded securetetly. ]

"He doesnt care about what others are doing, only about those people he actually works with (usually only 1-2-3), but he says that he does not need a daily to communicate with them."

That's Ok, as long as he delivers his work as agreed in the definition of done. Moreover, we are all motivated by incentives. Here is an excellent book about this topic "Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations" .

If he is a member of the Scrum team, he must participate in the Daily Scrum. 

You mentioned that he told his manager that he will quit if removed from the team. Work with management to communicate to this individual that to stay in the team means becoming a team player and cleaning up his act. Also, start looking for someone that could do his job. 

Good luck

 

 

 

 

09:15 pm December 29, 2017

Not sure if this is still a valid problem, but some insight might help: What are his VALUES (aiming for influence/motivation)? What is his relation with you?

01:34 pm January 22, 2018

Hi Zoltan,

How did you go on with the problem? 

 

01:32 pm May 19, 2020

Hi Zoltan,

1. is all your scrum team member professionally trained in Scrum, there is a whole lot of difference into this. your company should first send a clear message in the adoption of agile. 

2. Avoiding the Daily, you are not practicing scrum, that will not the right approach just to satisfy one team member's perspective of the scrum as these are established and popular framework adopted in managing project, so is other framework like XP, TDD, Kanban and other.

3. Look at your organization management style, that's one important area you should look into too

4. Just looking at the Scrum process alone does not make the cut.

5. and finally you cannot take your team across a river in a boat with a hole, you need to take actions.

03:28 am April 24, 2022

Never compromise your believe on the framework. Continue to have your dailies with people who believe and trust it brings benefit. Word spreads and other's will start to notice when team are diligently doing it even without the push from Scrum Master. It creates curiosity and that will be the tipping point for the person who is reluctant.