Monday, September 29, 2014

The Sick, Lame and Lazy Blocking Your Team.

Building a team is hard.
The hardest job for a scrum master is building a team. I spend most of my time acting as a coach encouraging people to work together.  It is not easy.   This week on the blog I want to talk about team building and my misadventures with it.  

The gold standard for all software development teams is Bruce Tuckman’s 1965 article “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups” which outlined the four stages of team development; forming, storming, norming, and performing.  According to Tuckman, a team moves through these four stages as they grow and develop.  My personal experience is that these groups of people can get stuck at certain stages and it is next to impossible to get them to move to the next state.  This is the biggest burden for a scrum master is nudging the team along so they can get to a performing state.  

The biggest obstacle for a building an effective team is what a former mentor of mine referred to as the sick, lame and the lazy.  These are the people who are going to make team building a chore.  When I refer to the “sick” I am talking about people who do not take care of themselves because it is not a priority.  These are developers who think they can come into wok hung over from a weekend revelry thinking they can use Monday morning to sober up.  Developers who refuse to get proper sleep also qualify as the “sick” because their mental fatigue is an obstacle solving the problems they encounter during the course of their day.  You also have to deal with developers being petri dishes of illness coming into the office.  With VPN’s and work from home strategies, there is no excuse that developers should be martyrs coming into the office to get the rest of the staff sick.  

The “lame” members of your development team are the people who lack the skills to succeed.  This means that other developers are going to have to work harder just to be successful.  In many cases this comes down to training.  More senior members of the team will have to take time out to train the more junior members of the team.  If this hurts velocity so be it because the short term hit will translate into long term gain.  A team member can also be “lame” if they do not share the same commitment to the project that the other team members do.  This is going to be the primary job of the scrum master to educate the “lame” team member as what is expected of team members.  Then they need to let the other team members use peer pressure to keep the lame member in line.  

Finally, you have the “lazy” team member.  These are people who think writing unit tests is someone else’s work.  They copy and paste code on a regular basis and when asked to refactor code respond with “It is working why do we need to fix it?”  These are the most frustrating members of your team and if they will not respond to peer pressure or your direct coaching they need to be managed out of the team – immediately.  This is because if other developers see this “lazy” person in the team not being disciplined they will think they do not have to work hard either.  This will create a cascading effect of laziness which will wreck your team.  You can forget about performing you are going to have a bunch of developers storming and eventually leaving because of your toleration of laziness.  

So if you want to be a successful scrum master be on the lookout for the sick, lame and lazy.  They are the unholy trinity of personalities who will wreck your scrum team.  

Until next time.