Some developers don’t contribute enough? What shall I do?

I heard this problem from a fellow coach — Imagine that you are the scrum master and you observe during Sprint Planning some members do not collaborate/self-organize. Some team members become overloaded due to this situation. What can ScrumMaster do in this situation as a Servant Leader, Facilitator, Impediment Remover? What Can the PO do in this situation as the PO also cannot enforce a number of Product Backlog items team select?

What would you do in this situation to resolve?

You should focus on the team result and try the following approach: Try to identify the root cause. Although it may look obvious, you will be surprised to find out the real reason for such behavior. You should come up with the actions to resolve the root cause identified.

Sprint Planning: Do a capacity calculation and go for capacity-based sprint commitments. Talk about the workload assigned to each member (you may want to guide on the assignments until the team collaborate and self-organize). Let the people pick but, watch if everyone has picked a sufficient amount of work. When it’s not the case, bring that up as a general concern — no finger pointing! Ensure, your sprint commitment is matched with the team’s capacity. This is where you start to resolve this issue, but, you shall continue to work on the resolution.

What shall we do during the sprint execution and the daily scrum?

Make the information radiators such as Burndown, Scrum Board, etc. visible to everyone. Discuss the daily priorities and progress made by individuals. See if Burndown is a flat line.

Initially, Scrum Master may observe individual contribution and one’s progress against the planned commitments. Find out general and individuals lessons for the team members with regards to the planned work and the work completed. When you find that certain members have not contributed a lot, question about the productivity of the team. Ask, can we improve the work done? Your constant attention will help the team to improve!

What could you do during your sprint retrospective?

Make it an agenda item for the retro discussion. Ask everyone to think of their individual contribution during the sprint. Evaluate the overall achievements and stress on optimizing the value delivery, yet, no finger pointing!

Coach the team using the following two levels of coaching:

01 Team Coaching: In the above meetings, be sure to pick up generic areas to teach and coach people on common learnings.

02 Individual Coaching: In this scenario, schedule individual discussions, be emphatic to understand his/her case, identify the root cause and act at the individual level

Also, remember that no shortcuts to making the team self-organizing or collaborative — observe the team closely and facilitate, coach and provide the right leadership for the team to reach its optimum level.

Self-Organization

Self-organization is hard to achieve but, teams can surely achieve gradually. As the SM, you must be aware of this and coach and lead the team using ‘Shu-Ha-Ri’ that is working for me personally. Most of the team members are not able to understand what ‘Self-organization’ would means😊! Initially, keep a close eye, teach and guide the team to get used to associated habits. Bring the right questions in the right situations, give them some room to try out.

As and when you observe similar behaviors from your team members, invest your time in the following level of coaching

Individual Coaching: This is to pick up individual specific issues and areas of improvement

Collaboration

In terms of improving collaboration, please observe the behavior of the team for some time, discuss with the team and try to take the team through the following stages towards the ideal level:

Impeded

The team is impeded on collaboration if, there is an unpleasant atmosphere often in the team due to conflicts

In a transition to Agile Way of collaborating

Team members trust each other. When we disagree there’s a healthy conflict: the passionate debate of ideas.

Sustainable Collaboration

Because of our healthy conflicts, we can commit to following a consolidated direction together, even if we debated on the best course to follow. Although we don’t hold each other accountable to commitments all the time.

Agile Collaboration

We hold each other accountable to commitments we made as a group, but we still tend to have a focus on individual results.

The ideal way of Collaboration

The ideal way is we focus on team results instead of on our individual discipline results because we trust each other, we openly debate our ideas, we commit to a clear direction as a group and hold each other accountable to this commitment.

What can the PO do in the above situation?

Not much that PO can do to help the above situation, but, PO may collaborate in giving constructive feedback, identifying and evaluating the value delivered. In case, any specific feedback available, PO may share that in a constructive way. Other than that, the PO just needs to ensure, he/she is on the mandated responsibilities to support the team and provide the product leadership.

What do you think? Do you have any suggestions to improve the above situation?

Source: The question is from my colleague Janani Liyanage who is an enterprise agile coach.

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Niroshan Madampitige

Niroshan Madampitige

“Changing the world starts with you…” | Co-founder, Scrum Meetups in Colombo | Agile Coach @ Vetstoria | Speaker