CHOW #138 – Indispensable, but poor team player!

Coolsoft,  a product company, was in the process of transitioning to Scrum. Bobby was a team member in the critical Work Flow feature team. He was technically brilliant – team was heavily dependent on him for many things – in a sense he was indispensable to the management as well. However, he was anything but a team player. Treated Agile/Scrum values and principles with scant regard, missed stand-ups at times and even when he attended he would be invariably late – sometimes the team even waited for him to come to start the meeting. Bobby’s immediate manager, Sita was not sure how to deal with him – his behaviour had a negative impact on the team morale and productivity.

Sita asks you as the Agile coach to help her deal with the situation. How would you go about it?

Suggested Solution:

As an Agile coach, you really do not want to do what a manager like Sita should handle. To start with, it is better to coach Sita in managing Bobby.  If that does not work, you can pitch in for the good of the team. As a coach, certain principles are vital in such a situation.

  1. Your mind-set needs to be positive towards Bobby – you need to genuinely care for Bobby.
  2. Listen to Bobby without judging him.
  3. Seek to understand the reasons for his behaviour.
  4. Work on building rapport with Bobby and earn his trust. Without that foundation, you cannot influence change in Bobby’s behaviour.

Reasons for Bobby’s behaviour could be one of the following:

  1. He does not believe in agile.
  2. He feels that he may be expected to mentor the team which he does not like to do.
  3. He feels that meetings are a waste of his valuable time.
  4. Being technically inclined, he may be focused on the solution rather than the value that the solution will bring to the customers. Although he is very good, he may not realise that the whole team including product management need to work together to make the solution valuable.
  5. He is not motivated because his talents are not fully recognized and there is a lack of opportunity to express himself.
  6. <anything else>

While we have listed a few possibilities, the coach should not approach the situation with any pre-conceived notions. If the coach is able to help Bobby see the positive impact he could make on the team by working towards common goals, then half the battle is won. Finally, it is likely that there would need be multiple interactions over time. The coach needs to be patient and give time and space to Bobby to change his ways.

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