Situation: - there is a specific team member who is not giving all his\her contribution - it has been communicated multiple times on the team level that we need to take initiative because we are responsible for picking up and finishing tasks. More we do, more respect (and therefore salaries eventually) is earned.

Given the fact that giving suggestion on team level is not working, neither is 1 on 1 discussions, in a scrum team, what kind of questions are allowed and who can ask them directly to the person in question? For example:

  • What is taking so long to complete this kind of task every time?
  • what you are not taking initiative?
  • ...


To answer @yitznewton comment. This person unfortunately is from other department (QA) and we have strict policy not to interfere with other departments even though we have agile and work in scrum team. I can see that

  • The task that would take about two hours almost every time goes to next day

  • Even though I have suggested to the team that if you have other tasks we do should do them as per priority. I can see that still lower priority tasks are worked on first (I have started getting answers such as "I worked on other things so I didn't work on task I was supposed to." without any explanation about what "other things" are. but due to policy mentioned above, I cannot interfere much.)

  • Even if there are enough tasks (so that we don't have to pull anything from next backlog), many times tasks spill over but since I cannot ask pointed questions, all I do is advise team in general what we should do as per agile process.

  • When the task is finished, and there is free time, instead of pulling other tasks into the sprint (for example we usually have lot of studies to do), time is spent on anything but work.

  • Every time, I need to assign work which I have explained multiple times that they can do that by themselves.

  • Every time I miss to do that, it is taken as a chance not to work. While my mistakes are pointed out (and there are few) quite visibly, my help is not acknowledged at all.

  • I can see that (even though I don't want to) inordinate amount of time is being spent on chatting to spouse, facebook, blogs, instagram.

When this person does work, it's a quality work, that's the only reason why I have been bearing this for long time.

Thanks in advance!

  • What data points lead you to the idea that this person isn't giving their fullest contribution; what is different about them vs. the other team members?
    – yitznewton
    Aug 13, 2017 at 1:36
  • scrumguides.org/scrum-guide.html for the definition of Scrum Aug 17, 2017 at 17:40

2 Answers 2


Alright, to start with, Scrum has 3 roles - Scrum Master, Product Owner and Development Team. Further, it has 4 or 5 events, depending on how you treat backlog refinement. Finally, it has a handful of rules and responsibilities. I mean, if your team doesn't have these in place, how do you conclude you have a Scrum Team?

Now, had this QA person been part of the development team, you would have found out what is troubling him or her during the Daily Scrum and the whole team could have helped accordingly.

However, you do not have a Scrum Team. It seems like you have a BDUF project manager bossing the staff around. When you boss smart people around, they get demotivated, they fight back, they don't feel committed to their work and they just resist.

I can see that: The task that would take about two hours almost every time goes to next day

So if you are so sure it would take just 2 hours, why don't you just do the task yourself? Why send it outside the team to someone you are having so much trouble with? I mean common, 2 hours is nothing!

Every time, I need to assign work which I have explained multiple times that they can do that by themselves.

That is tell-tale sign of what you have is anything but a Scrum Team. In Scrum, you don't assign tasks. Period. Now, one could still suggest some traditional project management ways to deal with this awful situation but you don't even have real authority on a person working in a different team. Do you?

I can see that (even though I don't want to) inordinate amount of time is being spent on chatting to spouse, facebook, blogs, instagram.

Why do you have time looking at what others are doing?

At the end of the day, assuming you are a project manager, I would strongly recommend you get some help from an experienced agile coach or scrum master and try to put your foot down if your management is forcing you to divide the QA team out.

If you are a developer who is supposedly acting like a Scrum Master (just a guess based on what I gathered from your question), then obviously this is not working and is creating problems between you and rest of your team. Again, maybe its better to go back to development and get help from a Scrum Master?

Either way, something's got to change big time. I hope you find this helpful. Take it easy. Take a day off and think about it. Read more about Scrum. I hope things work out for you.

  • 2
    In lieu of analyzing the whole situation here, I'll just agree with Muhammad that what you have is firstly a tire fire, and secondly not a situation in which Scrum is going to function.
    – yitznewton
    Aug 13, 2017 at 17:33
  • Thanks. First comment: I would love to do all those tasks myself but our process will not allow it in long run and when question "why you did it?" (& it will) is raised it will be blame game. Third Comment: I don't. But if the person sits right next to you, you notice even if you don't want to (and I don't want to). I do agree with both of you that this is not where scrum will succeed but we are supposed to follow it. There won't be any help. I have tried many times. Based on your replies, should I take it that I should continue with my current approach, basically, ignore it and live with it? Aug 20, 2017 at 3:41
  • 1
    Your current situation isn't sustainable. I started by saying what you have is not Scrum as it ignores its basic rules and doesn't have the proper roles or setup. Sometimes it helps to bring in an agile coach to asses the situation and help through such stalemate. There needs to be a business need though so talk to management unhappy with the situation and the team's performance.
    – Muhammad
    Aug 20, 2017 at 5:17

You've answered your own question in a way.

This person unfortunately is from other department... "I worked on other things so I didn't work on task I was supposed to."

For all practical purposes, QA is an off team dependency for your team. This person has competing priorities and isn't really a member of your team. I am 100% positive that this person has a manager who is asking them to do work that is not related to your team or project. Put yourself in their shoes, you're "on a team", but your manager comes and asks you to do some unrelated work. Which work do you do, the work for the team or the work your manager asked you to do?

There are a few ways to solve this, but the best, in my opinion would be to get this person, or at least a person, whose time is actually dedicated to your team. Make them a part of the team. Otherwise, you'll be forced to treat QA as an external dependency to your team and your team's ability to deliver will remain at the mercy of things out of their control.

The rest of this is a people management problem, not a project management problem. If this person was a team member, the team should be empowered to request a different team mate from management though.

  • I think I could not explain correctly. we have scrum team i.e. for all intents and purposes, the QA is part of the scrum team but with very strict rule that QA is not answerable to anyone in the team. Their free time is their own and they may choose to do what they want, any work assigned to them by anyone else or anything else for that matter. I know it's not how scrum should be but at least we do respect sprint commitment with exceptions I described above. Aug 21, 2017 at 10:38

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