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I work in the large Company, where Agile is in its core. Three years ago teams received autonomy to decide on how they work.

I have joined the team as a Scrum Master. Engineers in the team don't accept any help, they don't want to change their routines. They want to have a traditional manager, who will be like their father: the smartest among them, designing their schedules, protecting them, telling what to do and how.

Very often manager is busy and people have to wait for his decisions, directions, while doing nothing. I tried retrospectives, reviews, and people simply see it as a waste of time. They want their manager decide for them. They are not even interested in knowing the vision for their product. It looks like people are not willing to take responsibility for the value that they bring.

What is the first thing you would do to fix such team? Not necessarily as a Scrum Master.

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    What is the issue? What is the first thing I would do to fix what? What impact does this issue have on the team's ability to deliver? – Mark C. Wallace Sep 1 '17 at 15:36
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I believe that Mark's comment is the key that was overlooked on the question itself and on some answers - why the team needs to change?

In my experience, I learned that different cultures react to rules in a different way. There are some cultures where vertical structures are the rule (not only on a professional perspective, but on a social perspective as well), and anything out of this sounds like trying to move away from the comfort zone. Have you assessed if that's what's happening?

Very often manager is busy and people have to wait for his decisions, directions, while doing nothing.

It really, really looks like the kind of vertical culture where decisions are taken by some sort of leader, responsible for the success (and mainly and most importantly, for the failures).

You either have a team where

  1. the failures are strongly punished (and then, don't expect the team to take them proactively) or
  2. you have a team that needs someone to call the shots purely for cultural reasons

You might have three possible options:

  • Assess if a culture change on the company is possible, reducing the idea of punishment on bad decisions (unlikely IMHO, unless we're talking about a very small company)
  • Have a decision maker dedicated to the team (which may not be a bad idea, depending on how the team is structured)
  • Change the team

You'll only be able to see the best answer for your scenario once you answer Mark's comment - why the team needs to change?

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  1. First I would analyze if there are some tasks (components, streams, processes) which have some established employee to perform by (despite scrum implies cross-functioning, in real life it is hardly achievable).

  2. Having such the mapping I would mix it up so that people are getting into the objectives they do not feel comfortable and convinient however where they can ask for advice of a team mate that used to be responsible for that. Since every developer has its own vision on the best way how to implement a task, there will be a lot of opinion collisions and disputes and this would make people to prduce more effective code since a conceit is one of the strongest motivation factors among IT-crowd.

  3. I would set up a dashboard that I would use in scrum meetings where there would be highlighted some metrics and among those metrics (taking not the main place but nevertheless empesized among others) I would introduce a rating of the team members (like, number of fixes in a person's commits and some other depending on the project specific) that would push the person's self-conceit. I wouldn't even say a word about that rating, I'd just leave it there forever.

  4. I would establish a monthly one-to-one meating where a person would answer a question like "what would you change if you would a company owner", since people are often embarrassed to talk about problems or propose innopvations publicly.

There a lot of factors that could cause such the behavior and the proposals above imply your team members are not simply lazy ones.

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I see three possible solutions to your problem, each with varying degrees of difficulty and effectiveness.

The first option is probably the hardest. You would need to convince the Team of two things. First, that the way things are currently being run is detrimental to the company; that a more Agile methodology will be much better (this is the easy part). The second, harder part is convincing the Team that they should care. Convincing a Team which has been preconditioned to view a job as a nine-to-five source of income that they should instead view it as part of their own personal core values is... difficult. Worse still, the method needed for each person is different... but in (nearly) all cases just throwing money at them will hurt more than help.

The second option is to force the Team to become self-organizing, through managerial pressure. I see two obvious ways to go about this, and both require the immediate manager's buy-in and empowerment. The first is for the manager to simply tell the Team that they need to solve their own issues. The second is for the manager to simply become unavailable for such things ("Sorry, I'm swamped right now. Can you figure this out yourselves?") and inform the Team that if they don't get things ready somehow, the project is going to be in danger... along with their jobs.

The third option is to fire them and hire employees more in line with Agile values. Simple, effective, expensive, and probably bad for morale of other Teams... but possibly not any worse than option 2. It also might simply be impossible, given your organization's culture and other constraints.

  • I would advocate a variation of #1: keep getting to know the individuals on the team to start to figure out what actually interests them, gets them going. If there's really no overlap between their interests and the job, maybe it is time to part ways. In terms of #2, the trick is to be supportive while stopping the spoon-feeding. – yitznewton Aug 18 '17 at 14:22
  • Option 1 and 2 seem the way to go here. I will add that an agile team must have an agile organization ecosystem; i.e. you cannot have an agile team that has a "manager" like in your case. This simply is too great of an anti-pattern. You do not help an alcoholic quit by asking them to live in a bar. Try to fix the ecosystem, that will make things easier for everybody. – Muhammad Aug 19 '17 at 10:18
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Assuming that the you are painting an accurate picture, that the manager is aware of this, and that the bottlenecks you describe is happening and clear, then the manager is enabling the team dysfunction. Step one would probably be to ask the manager to change their behavior.

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