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Team composition and 50% occupancy of some team members

Last post 05:25 am March 25, 2016 by Niranjana Gangala
4 replies
08:11 am March 18, 2016

What strategy would you recommend for the following situation.

Web development domain. 7 members of Development Team. Team is Cross-functional, with T-shaped people. They have all it takes to build an Increment. There is a specialist whose work can't be done by anyone else - UX designer. He does everything in timely manner, good quality etc. His work consists of helping other team members implement visual designs as well preparing visuals for upcoming Sprint (part of backlog refinement activities). His occupancy reaches 50% of his time on average.

When I was in such situation, I struggled with:
– sense of team belonging from UX designer point of view. He didn't feel as part of the team.
– UX designer perception, that his potential is not fully used
– allegations that such team composition is too expensive

Have you ever met similar situation? Do you believe it's common?

One obvious solution is to teach UX designer to do things like testing, writing documentation etc. But let's assume he's not equipped with skills to perform such activities and there is no time to train him.

06:11 am March 22, 2016

I am working as Agile Coach, we are doing SCRUM in several teams (you could call it large scale SCRUM) and we face similar situations, e.g. with architecture support, UX support and documentation support. I would say it works fine as the teams accept the situation.

My proposal:
Ask yourself and most important ask the team including the UX designer (in a retrospective) how they judge the situation. If the team has suggestions to improve the situation try to follow up, e.g. by involving management.

09:26 am March 23, 2016

Bartek, you mentioned that your team is cross-functional with t-shaped skill sets, but your UX designer is still I-shaped? Is that correct?

I have had situations when starting out with Scrum where specialists "floated" from one team to another as needed. That could be one option, if the near-term goal is to leverage their expertise to complete work without taking on any learning activities.

I agree with Joerg that another option (and always an option!) is to turn the situation over to the team and ask what they feel about the situation and if it can be improved at all.

In addition, what does the UX Designer feel about the situation? Is he interested in moving out of his comfort zone to learn new skills? Is the team interested in learning some of his UX Design skills?

The one item that raises a flag to me is your ending comment that there is no time to train. Any product development effort that does not allow for slack to support learning/cross-training is an unhealthy approach, and will simply perpetuate existing issues and concerns without providing the availability to remedy them.

I am fond of a quote from Albert Einstein: "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” We need to experiment (try new approaches, inspect, adapt, etc), in order to address our issues.

04:32 am March 25, 2016

Thanks for your inputs guys.

Seems like you both lean towards turning this situation back to the team and UX designer, and ask about their perception. I included it in original question: he didn't feel like a member of the team, and thought his potential is not fully used.

For the slack time for learning, that was just an assumption to simplify the case. I intentionally put this in order not to consider it as an option. I know of some obvious solutions:
- I can ask him to learn other activities
- he can become a member of 2 teams
- he can leave the team and other team member would perform his tasks

None of them is satisfying. But seems like pushing the team even more to come with acceptable solution is the strategy to be taken here.

05:25 am March 25, 2016

I have one query, who picks the development team ?

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