#78: Scrum - The team is asking for more

Continuing my mini-series on the Scrum Framework, I take a look at the potential warning flag of the team asking for more.

While the team asking for more maybe a good thing, it can also be a sign of a problem in the team - and maybe in the management team.

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Published: Wed, 17 Mar 2021 16:13:56 GMT



Hello and welcome back to The Better ROI from Software Development podcast. In this episode, I'm going to continue my mini series on Scrum.

In Episode 73, I provided a primer on Scrum. In Episode 74, I talked about the theories and values behind it. In Episode 75, I talked about some of the common problems, Episode 76, The Definition of Dumb, and Episode 77, the last episode I talked about conflict and how conflict could be good for the team.

In this episode, I want to talk about the warning flag of the team asking for more work.

If the team were asking you for more work, surely that's a good thing, isn't it?

Picture the scene; you're set up, and your working scrum. You're working in a two week sprints and maybe a week in an individual comes asking for more work.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

They say they've "done their bit.", "what's next?", "what can I just make a start on?"

What could be possibly wrong if we have an individual asking that?

OK, it could be a good thing.

Let's not forget, this could be a good thing. Maybe the team have finished all their work. And this could be the indication that they want to try and take on more work. That might be good. They've managed to stretch themselves and achieve more than they expected.

However, what I'm talking about here in this episode is a warning flag when it's an individual.

And I'm taking this from personal experience. I want to talk to you about a team that I started working with that were doing just this.

I was asked to help out an existing team, they were already established and had been working for some time.

However, there were a couple of individuals on it that didn't really like working as a team. They much prefer working as individuals. They didn't enjoy being part of the team and they didn't really gel.

They're really happy with doing their bit - That was what they were working for.

They would be quite vocal about wanting to know what work was theirs. They would take that away and they'd work on it individually. And when it was done, it was done. And then when they run out of that, they'd be quite vocal in terms of asking for more work.

And in this instance, the individuals may have seen their bit as being done. But the work wasn't complete, it wasn't done to the standard the team needed it to be.

It hadn't been tested, it hadn't been integrated with other pieces of work - they had done what they considered to be done.

If you go back to the Definition of Done, I talked about in episode 76, that contract for what is considered done; they weren't meeting it, they were doing their Definition of Done.

And as such, the team had to pick up the slack.

They had to pick up the additional work to make that work right. They had to complete what hadn't been done.

Which meant the team having to do more work than they probably needed to to backfill for those individuals. And that caused some real team problems.

To management, it looked as if those those individuals were superstars. They were getting their work done before everyone else. They were always doing more. They were always asking to do more. They were admired. They were effectively put on a pedestal by management as "this is what we should be doing".

The rest of the team, however, they were fed up of having to pick up the slack left by those individuals. They were fed up of management lauding those individuals over them. And this obviously led to poor morale.

Eventually it led to a very slow failing delivery, effectively stagnant movement because a team just weren't gelling together - it resulted in a failing team.

The solution itself was adherence to that work done.

It was adherence to the Definition of Done I talked about in Episode 76 - that contract of what needs to be done to consider a piece of work complete.

And that was an education piece.

Not just to educate the team and those individuals, but also management so that they knew what good look like.

Previously, they'd thought "they've done a task - that's good. All I'm interesting in is the task".

That was wrong and the team was suffering for it.

And ultimately, the organisation was suffering for that incorrect view of what good looks like.

By making the management aware that for it to be completed, it had to meet that Definition of Done, they started to understand that no, the team itself was struggling because of these problems.

And this is why I highlight the idea of somebody asking for more work as a warning flag - because there's a real danger that they're not working as part of that team.

And in situations like that, we've got to make sure not to give them more work, certainly not to give them more work if they haven't completed the current Sprint Backlog to the Definition of Done.

The team and the individuals needed to be coached on making sure not to take more work, not to ask more for more work.

The team and management needed to be aware that there was commitment built from doing the Spring Planning, producing the sprint backlog, and it was that the team needed to focus on. And they needed to maintain focus on that until they completed what was in it.

They shouldn't be looking at anything outside of that during the sprint.

In this episode, I've talked about the warning sign of individuals within a team asking for more work.

It may be a sign the team have completed everything they needed to do. Maybe they have got everything they committed to during the Sprint Planning to the Definition of Done.

And that's good, and certainly may even seem desirable.

However, if it's an individual asking, then you have to start wondering if that individual is working outside of the team, if that individual isn't bought in to that team mentality and working as part of the team to meet their commitments.

So if we all get individuals coming to us asking for extra work, we probably do need to dig a little deeper.

We need to be talking to the team - understanding whether it's the team asking for more work or whether it's an individual.

If it's the team, great.

If the individual, as I say, that's a warning flag that you need to have a conversation about how the team worked together.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to this episode of the Better ROI from Software Development podcast. I look forward to speaking to you again next week.