1

I'm a technical lead who also line manages developers. One of the devs (lets call her Alice) I manage works in a separate scrum team to the ones I'm the tech lead for. The teams do all work on the same project. Alice was recently placed into a team which has not been performing very well and has begun to directly highlight ways they can improve. My equivalent in that team, lets call him Bob prefers a very top down technical lead style and has not taken well to this new arrival in the team. He also happens to think the team are performing well.

There has been quite a few disagreements, several times Bob has used his authority to silence Alice and prevent further discussions on ways to improve the team. I have also had feedback about Alice complaining that she is disrupting the team and that if she was a contractor "she would have been let go".

Conveniently we also have a consultant/coach in the team looking to improve their ways of working who I have been able to discuss this with to get a more balanced picture. Their view is that Alice is correct 90% of the time and that the team needs some healthy disruption, however Alice could look to make her points in a more diplomatic manner. I have also spoken with Alice and suggested she start to list down all of her points of where the team can improve, look to prioritise this list and then work with the coach to figure out the best way to communicate these one by one to the team rather than highlighting each issue as and when it comes up.

While Alice agrees with this approach for most things she does not feel she can fail to highlight and keep highlighting an issue when it is in her view a significant problem e.g. disabling failing tests or considering a ticket complete despite a failing Jenkins build. I completely agree with her view on this but Bob is continuing to be frustrated with Alice and I fear the situation is moving from a healthy disruption to simply disruption.

I have no authority over Bob because he is an equivalent and I do not think it would help for me to get directly involved with each and every point raised by Alice, I also do not have the time to do this. I have setup a sit down with Me, Alice, Bob, the teams scrum master and the coach to see if we can find a way forwards and to discuss some of the points Alice feels she can not fail to highlight. If this meeting does not go well and I have every reason to suspect it wont then I am slightly at a loss as to what to try next and am currently feeling very much caught in the middle. There is no real higher technical authority that this can be escalated to due to a quite flat technical management structure while a corporate re-organisation goes on.

  • Hi Sutty1000, and welcome to the site. As a friendly warning, questions without a clear goal (or that look like they're descriptions of a situation without a clear, actionable question) are likely to get closed here. You might want to edit your post to make your actual question clearer. – Player One Nov 27 '19 at 9:40
  • "several times Bob has used his authority to silence Alice and prevent further discussions on ways to improve the team." "separate scrum team". These two are in discordance. A scrum team is a team of developers, nothing more. This should be raised by the scrum master to the dev team on whether this is how they would like to operate. – paulj Nov 27 '19 at 12:42
7

That's a tricky situation to deal with.

I think the easiest way out of this (for now) would be to move Alive out of Bob's team back to yours or a place that's more compatible with her style & values. Maybe there is a swap that can be orchestrated.

In the long term, there needs to be a way to address the mismatch between Bob and you/Alice. You need to build a consistent culture and set of values or you will continuously have conflicts like this. That will be difficult without a higher authority but maybe this will change after the reorg. Until there is a unified culture, best you can do is to minimize the contact points.

|improve this answer|||||
  • you beat me to the answer :) 100% agree, when valuable resource is not a good fit in to the team, move it where it is a good fit – Strader Nov 26 '19 at 19:53
  • If Op doesn't move Alice, she will soon give up attempting to fix Bob and leave the company. She must hate being regularly over-ruled like this. – Robin Bennett Nov 27 '19 at 12:02
4

Bob wants to "fire" Alice, over what sounds to be disagreements of substance not just expression. Meanwhile you think Alice is accomplishing good work, but perhaps could use some coaching on communication.

Sounds like what you really need to do is move Alice off Bob's project team and onto yours.

Trying to force "help" where it isn't wanted just won't work. It doesn't even matter who is "right" in an objective technical sense, it's enough that there just is not a fit.

Ask Bob if he wants to release her. Then his team's problems or progress can be his problems or accomplishments, and you can help Alice be even more effective in presenting and applying her solutions in a context where their intent is generally welcome.

If your organization can't transfer Alice out of a situation where her help is not welcome and into one where it is, then it will probably lose her as a resource to some other organization where her contributions will be valued.

|improve this answer|||||
1

"several times Bob has used his authority to silence Alice and prevent further discussions on ways to improve the team."

"separate scrum team".`

A scrum team is a team of developers without roles. This should be raised by the scrum master to the dev team on whether this is how they would like to operate.

Talk to the scrum master for the dev team that Bob is part of and let him know of the current state of the dev team. On a different path, Alice would be best server by bringing this up with the scrum master as well and during the Sprint retrospective with the entire dev team.

|improve this answer|||||
0

According to the OP it's a scrum project, so my first hint is to use the scrum tag which allows to find the posting easier. The second critique is that the initial sentence doesn't make much sense.

quote: “I'm a technical lead who also line manages developers. One of the devs (lets call her Alice) I manage works in a separate scrum team to the ones I'm the tech lead for.“

In the scrum management technique, the manager is equal to the external customer, but in the OP it's claimed that he is a scrum manager within the company. The reason why Scrum is called agile is because the product owner isn't part of the team but he creates stress from outside the organization.

Instead of referencing to the team members by name, the better idea is to address the users with their social role. Each team member is located in the hierarchy according to the annual salary. And the guy how gets nothing is on top of the pyramid, while the person who earns most has to do all the work for the others.

One explanation for the confusion with matrix organization, social roles and missing hierarchy can be explained because scrum is a very new management concept. It's normal that at the beginning most classical managers struggle to find into their role. A recommended way to understand scrum during a practical project is to imagine that the team has to solve a task in the emergency operation center. Such an environment has the tendency to go alone into the direction of scrum, especially if the stress level to the user is increased, the number of resources is limited and conflicts become visible.

|improve this answer|||||
-1

If there's no higher authority, you could ask the other team leaders to help write some technical standards.

In the first place, that shows Bob (or possibly you ;-) the standard that everyone else wants.

If that fails, you can go to a non-technical authority with proof that Bob isn't a team player and is failing to uphold what is now 'company standards'.

|improve this answer|||||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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