9

I'm a member of a Scrum team in a matrix managed organisation (as a QA, my actual boss is the QA Manager who has other QAs in other scrum teams as well, but day-to-day I report progress/blockers etc to the Scrum team with its own Scrum Master for this particular project). Our stand-ups happen in our "team pod" as that's where the scrum board is etc.

One of the other members - Anne - of this Scrum team is my peer in that we have a similar level of expertise, seniority etc but report to different managers. We carry out similar but parallel (QA and business analyst) functions on this team. (I believe Anne has worked primarily in 'traditional' e.g. waterfall based projects before this.)

Anne has made many negative comments about Agile/Scrum e.g. it's "too much talking and not enough doing", "process at the expense of results" etc. I actually can't really disagree with Anne, but I recognise that we have to work within the Agile/Scrum framework even so. And from my subjective assessment Anne seeks to do as little as reasonably possible.

My problem: as the daily stand up (and other ad-hoc team meetings etc) is held in our team area, Anne doesn't stand up with the rest of us -- she sort of appears in the circle of people, but just by swiveling a chair round. Then she actively disengages with the stand-up e.g. looking at her screen and typing a response to emails whilst other people are giving their updates. Occasionally she does stand up and 'engage' but making it clear that she looks down on the whole process e.g. examining fingernails during someone's update or brushing dirt off her jeans etc!

Essentially it's clear that Anne is skeptical and dismissive of the whole Scrum process, and lets that show.

I know the Scrum Master must have observed this, because it's obvious 3/5 days a week at least.

As a member of this team what can I do from this point? I am finding it really demotivating from at least 2 points of view i.e.:

  1. The scrum master seems ineffective
  2. why should I care (I'm also a Scrum-cynic) if Anne doesn't and faces no consequences, maybe just because I'm newer to the org than Anne?
  • 13
    How exactly is Anne's behavior your problem? – sf02 Mar 26 at 20:20
  • 2
    How long do your stand-ups last? Are they to the point? I find myself distracted sometimes when others drift off in some technical discussion about a certain task. Ideally, it should take only 10-15, otherwise it's indeed 'too much talking'. – Berend Mar 26 at 20:24
  • 1
    You say that there are no disabilities in this situation, but how do you know? Are you privy to Anne's health and personal history? Has anyone asked her why she doesn't stand? Has it ever been considered or discussed that maybe you don't need to stand? I know that if it were me I would get pretty tired of standing up every day for 10-15 minutes for the daily stand up. At some point I'd probably stop standing up for it and would sit in my chair. Maybe her disengagement is nothing more than a reluctance to stand there for 10-15 minutes every day. Why do you stand instead of sit? – joeqwerty Mar 26 at 21:14
  • 2
    Did you talk to the scrum master about it? This also feels like your scrum master isn't that involved. – Xander Mar 27 at 8:48
  • 3
    Do you also do sprint retrospectives? This sound like very much the thing they are used for dealing with. – rath Mar 27 at 10:41
25

Generally, if the following are true about an employee you observe performing unsatisfactorily:

  • the employee doesn't report to you; you have no supervisory or performance responsibility for them,
  • the employee's performance is not directly impacting your own deliverables,
  • Others who do have responsibility for the employee are already aware of their actions or issues,

then the best thing you can do is nothing. Focus on your own work and your own performance. Let the management staff responsible for Anne take the actions they deem appropriate.

This may seem like an unfortunately passive approach, but in reality, there will often be poor performers on any team, it's a valuable skill to be able to focus on your own work despite their outcomes.

  • It's so frustrating as the "management staff responsible for Anne" don't see her performance (Anne's boss isn't involved in this team) and probably continue to see her performance as 'good' in annual reviews etc just based on a lack of knowledge or understanding. – BogInMyLeftAndRightShoe Mar 26 at 21:03
  • 3
    Nothing has been said so far to indicate that Anne's performance is poor. She's not inclined to jump through unnecessary hoops, but her actual performance hasn't been mentioned at all. – BittermanAndy Mar 27 at 10:45
  • @user102003 - see Joe's comment directly above yours. You need to be responsible for your own motivation. If you allow yourself to be frustrated because of others, you'll go through life frustrated. If you're not responsible for defining or measuring her performance, don't take on the burden of letting that frustrate you or influence your own motivation. – dwizum Mar 27 at 12:41
  • @BittermanAndy - I don't see this the way you do. If participation in certain processes is part of her job, then deliberately not participating in that process in the way that has been described here means she's "performing" poorly. Not liking or not understanding a process doesn't make it not part of performing your job. But - again - I don't think the focus here should be on Anne. It should be on user102003. – dwizum Mar 27 at 12:44
  • @dwizum - fair enough, but the Agile manifesto says "people over processes"; it does not say "...unless that process is Scrum, in which case the process is more important than people". Is Anne's reluctance/refusal to participate in the standups actually causing a problem, to anyone? We've heard nothing to indicate that it is. user102003 doesn't like it, and in that respect I agree with your answer - they should concentrate on their own performance; I just don't see anywhere on this question any indication that Anne is a "poor performer". – BittermanAndy Mar 27 at 13:34
4

I know the Scrum Master must have observed this, because it's obvious 3/5 days a week at least.

As a member of this team what can I do from this point?

You should keep doing your good work and performing professionally during stand-ups (as you are already doing).

As you are not this person's manager nor scrum master there is nothing you should be trying to fix or correct on them. In fact, this doesn't seem to prevent you from doing your work at all, and is "just" something that demotivates you a bit.

You say your Scrum Master most likely has noticed this attitude, so on that matter I would leave it be and let your Scrum Master determine how to handle or approach this person's attitude (unless this starts to physically prevent you from doing your job).

why should I care (I'm also a Scrum-cynic) if Anne doesn't and faces no consequences, maybe just because I'm newer to the org than Anne?

You should care because you value your job, as well as the level of professionalism and quality of the work you deliver.

I know this person's attitude may be a bit demotivating, but I suggest you don't compare to others in terms of the quality of the work you have to do. Instead, try focusing on your own professional development, and chose to keep doing a good job.

  • @DarkCygnus I think you are on to something that I'm too motivated (or otherwise) by 'external' factors e.g. what are other people doing? and need to be more 'internally' motivated. I am guilty of that type of thing in general, I think... I do have a bit of a lack of trust in 'managers' (or authority figures in general) to notice or take action about things and hence the immature "it's not FAIR!" that sometimes gets out... – BogInMyLeftAndRightShoe Mar 28 at 19:37
3

I'm going to set aside good/bad scrum and answer in the context of workplace health. If you want the "Scrum" answer, I can add that. There are two questions you can ask:

1) Why DO you care? If it bugs you enough to post on StackExchange, it clearly has some effect on you. If you understand that, you can express to your team members your concern more effectively. I'd look at approaches like Non-Violent Communication for raising concerns like this.

2) Why does she feel like that is the way to act? Often times people act out like that because they feel powerless to do anything else. Sometimes empathizing with their circumstances can lead to actions that improve the situation.

Is this something that could be raised at the retrospective? Has anything like it been brought up before?

  • I can't put my finger on exactly why I care, but it's something like: why do we introduce a process or practice -- whatever it consists of (stand-ups, saying the Pledge of Allegiance every day, doing the official company fist bump, or whatever) -- and it is part of our regular practice even though we don't necessarily like it or think it's needed, except for some particular person who decides to act for want of a better word 'bratty' because they don't see the need for this either, but express that openly with no consequences. – BogInMyLeftAndRightShoe Mar 28 at 19:43
  • ... I wondered if there are 'political' factors in play, so did a little experiment and disengaged from the stand-up myself a couple of days during the last couple of weeks (I don't sit exactly in the 'circle' but nearby) and turned back to my computer a few times etc. Nothing has been said to me... – BogInMyLeftAndRightShoe Mar 28 at 19:45
2

Anne doesn't stand up with the rest of us -- she sort of appears in the circle of people, but just by swiveling a chair round.

Why does it matter whether she stands or sits? The point of the stand-up isn't to stand in a circle, it's to briefly tell your team where you are at.

looking at her screen and typing a response to emails whilst other people are giving their updates. examining fingernails during someone's update or brushing dirt off her jeans etc!

So what? It doesn't mean she isn't listening. Perhaps what's being told isn't news to her, or isn't related to what she's working on.

I know the Scrum Master must have observed this, because it's obvious 3/5 days a week at least.

The task of the Scrum Master is to facilitate; he/she should work on getting blockages removed. The Scrum Master isn't a manager (although sometimes the roles of Scrum Master and manager are merged). If Anne's behaviour is bothering you, it's up to you to take it up with Anne; the Scrum Master may mediate, but you shouldn't just expect the Scrum Master to solve the problems for you.

Is there anything she does (or doesn't do) which actually hurts the velocity of the team (there's nothing in the question which suggest that this is the case)? If so, then you either discuss it with her, or bring it up in your next retrospective. If not, well, then it just may be you.

  • 1
    slightly disagree w/ the first point - the point of standing is to (ideally) ensure that the standup doesn't go longer than 15mn because nobody wants to stand for longer than that :) – NKCampbell Mar 27 at 13:58
  • Body language shows repect or disrespect. Staying seated is disrepectful – Bernhard Döbler Mar 27 at 22:15
  • Thanks, I understand that the point of the stand-up isn't "to stand in a circle" as such, but is part of the established process/format for the 'daily update within the team' (I don't know if "purist" Scrum mandates actually standing up, hmm..) but it seems like a flagrant "refusal" or "ignoring" of the convention, even literally turning one's back which is quite a powerful gesture! – BogInMyLeftAndRightShoe Mar 28 at 19:39
  • I disagree. It's clearly stated that everyone should engage and be as active as possible in the stand-up. Additionally this attitude is disrespectful and demotivates the team which reflects badly on team performance and that is indeed an issue the scrum master should solve! – Fuzzyma Mar 28 at 19:46
  • 1
    Bill/Fuzzy: you're both saying it's essential to be actively engaged in the scrum, but there has been no suggestion anywhere that Anne's disengagement has caused her to miss any crucial information and do bad work as a result. It sounds much more like the stand-up is not delivering value for the team, and forcing everyone to pretend to be attentive during a worthless meeting is the exact antithesis of Agile. People over process. People over process. People over process. People over process. People over process. People over process. People over process. People over process. PEOPLE OVER PROCESS. – BittermanAndy Mar 29 at 9:04
2

Scrum-cynicism is a pretty common initial reaction, but Scrum actually does work pretty well for incrementally improving the team's process. Done right, Agile's emphasis should be on continuous improvement. Retrospectives are a critical part of that; they're where the team reflects on where the process is working and where it's not, and tries to find solutions to the places where it's not working. If this is something that you feel is standing in the way of the team's work, you should bring it up at the next retrospective. If you aren't comfortable doing that, you should broach the topic with your Scrum Master in advance of the next retrospective, and ask them to guide the conversation towards this topic; that's part of their facilitation and mediation job.

Anne has made many negative comments about Agile/Scrum e.g. it's "too much talking and not enough doing", "process at the expense of results" etc. I actually can't really disagree with Anne,

This certainly sounds like an issue worthy of discussing amongst the team - at least two people on a team of 7 feel like the agile methodology is providing worse results than your previous process. Assuming you've been doing scrum for more than a few sprints, and have actually gotten a reasonable feel for the process and rituals, this absolutely seems like something that justifies a group discussion.

Anne doesn't stand up with the rest of us ... she actively disengages ... looking at her screen and typing a response to emails whilst other people are giving their updates. Occasionally she does stand up and 'engage' but ... examining fingernails during someone's update or brushing dirt off her jeans etc!

These seem, to an outsider not involved in the situation, to be much less of an issue than the scrum-cynicism itself is. I personally have trouble not fidgeting during stand-ups, and have certainly picked things off my pants. When we've done stand-ups at our desks over conference calls or the like, I also have trouble separating from my other work. I think many other people are in that boat. If the team agrees that this is a problem that prevents people from properly engaging during Scrum, it should be relatively easy to create a new policy that everyone must stand up for stand-up, or something like that.

2

I think if the scrum master is aware of this and you are not directly impacted for your work, the best thing to is absolutely nothing. Take it as a joke but women are multithreaded, they can answer to e-mails, while listening to a conversation with an ear and the other ear listen if somebody is coming in. I have made scrum meting where I listened, explained in two minutes what I have done and if I had some problem and than stay silent. Because, you know, I'm not talkative and a bit shy. I prefer to eat lunch in a park near the workplace, alone, not because colleagues are awful people or I don't get along, but I need silence to work and make my ideas.

On the other hand if she is causing problem for your work directly, you could explain her the problem and try to find some solutions, undersanding why she has that behaviour.

1

and welcome to The Workplace!

Now, here is the issue with any SCRUM situation, you are going to get outliers no matter how well intentioned the SCRUM and meetings are. Let me ask you this, do you notice that Anne does any of these actions you mentioned while in meetings outside of them? (Spinning of the chair, etc?)

I ask this because it may be a larger issue that you may not be aware of such as a disability such as Autism. Some people don't feel comfortable in meetings and do better one on one.

If you want to find out the answers, ask if you and she would like to go out to lunch just to talk, get to know each other better, etc. If they say no, fine, but you attempted. Sometimes people are just standoffish, others they just don't know how to handle group situations.

If she says yes, don't bring up disabilities in the conversation, just ask her what she thinks of the SCRUMs and see if there is a way to get her involved, perhaps she feels like an outsider?

Don't take it personally, or take offense to this, it is the work environment as a whole, there are always people who are "odd ducks" in every group.

If they do their jobs correctly, then just let them be them and let the Management take actions if they deem it necessary.

My suggestion, don't get involved unless asked, it will save you headaches in the future, just do your job well, and if they think she needs a mentor, volunteer if offered. Otherwise, nose to the grindstone and don't bankrupt the company. ;)

1

In SCRUM technically it's the scrum master's responsibility to make sure everyone is participating in the process as they should. He will ultimatly have to answer if something goes wrong because of one team member's behavior.

Having said that, SCRUM also emphasizes the participation of the team as an important element of delivering good results. And obviously, Anne's behavor seems to bother you, so I think you should speak out.

I am finding it really demotivating from at least 2 points of view i.e.: 1) scrum master seems ineffective and 2) why should I care (I'm also a Scrum-cynic) if Anne doesn't and faces no consequences, maybe just because I'm newer to the org than Anne?

Whose behavior is bothering you, Anne's or the scrum master's? If Anne's behavior is bothering you, talk to her. If it's the scrum master's, talk to him. If it's both, talk to both. Eventually though, someone will have to talk to Anne.

The motivator behind people's actions is either that they want to gain something or that they are afraid to lose something. Anne's behavior might not be even rational, so understanding her motivations is necessary to adress her behavior.

Since you share her scepticism of the SCRUM methodology it would not be a bad idea if you talk with Anne instead of the scrum master, since you can start on a common ground which would make the conversation much less confrontational. Once you have established a conntection through your shared scepticism, you can start exploring the reasons for her behavior, which will help you to find a way to get your point across.

After you figured out her motivation, you might want to leave the conversation at that to give you time to think about your approach to the next conversation with her.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.