CHOW #59– Dysfunctional TechLead in Agile Transformation

Divya, a Scrum Master for a Scrum Team, is looking for improving Agile maturity in her team. However she has a challenge in dealing with the TechLead, Surya, in the team. Surya, a long timer in the company, is a very critical member needed for the success of the project. But he doesn’t believe in Agile and often opposes many of the practices; He is non-cooperative and dysfunctional at times in the team. He not only skips most of the Scrum ceremonies but also influences other team members to do the same. Divya is looking for help from the Agile Coach on how to deal with Surya.

How can you help Divya?

Suggested Solution

Here are some possible approaches Divya can consider:

First & foremost, Divya should try to understand the possible reasons for Surya’s behavior. There are many possibilities – it may be lack of understanding of the rationale behind Agile practices, or it could be resistance to change or it could be due to mismatch of aspirations/goals or it could be due to insecurity or fear of losing individual prominence etc.

Depending on different reasons, Divya will have to take different approaches. If Surya is not aware of the rationale behind Agile practices, she should enable him to attend a workshop like ‘The Whys of Agile’ and follow up with some coaching so that the principles of Agile are manifested in his work context. On the other hand, if it’s because of his resistance to change from the old ways of doing things, she should see what motivating factors, ‘what’s in it for me’ aspects would help.

In many such cases I have observed that behavior of people like Surya is due to fear of losing control or insecurity of losing the ‘hero’ status. If Divya senses such a possibility, she should help him to overcome that by creating awareness that his growth to next levels is really in influencing larger set of teams instead of individual contribution and in developing more people like him.

I have used techniques like ‘Five dysfunctions of a Team’ by Patric Lenchioni or Johari Windows, with the whole team. It helps to bring reflections on the team and individuals’ behavior & culture. Divya can use some of these approaches with the whole team through which Surya gets the right messages. It’s like holding a mirror.

I would like Divya to consider two more possibilities depending on the situation.
It’s possible that Surya’s goals and objectives are not aligned with the new Agile ways – it may be still individual contribution oriented. Divya can facilitate a meeting with Surya and his manager to refine the goals to include more team oriented and development oriented goals beyond the individual contribution.

Finally, if none of these are yielding sufficient results, Divya can leverage the Agile Coaches, who might have more experience in dealing with such situations, to directly engage with Surya and use this as another channel to influence.

What do you think?

Leave a Reply

What to read next