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One team member is elusive in describing the work they've done in the past day during our standup, or the work reported doesn't justify the lack of progress on the work they've been assigned.

Is it reasonable to ask them to report their work at the end of the day? Alternatives? Have you done something similar in they past? What was the impact?

4 Answers 4

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It's not reasonable to ask a team member to give a report on their work at the end of every day. This is micromanaging, especially since you already have a standup where people can communicate progress, impediments, and next steps.

There are better options in a situation like this.

The whole team should use information radiators and make sure that they can correctly communicate the status of work using those information radiators. If it becomes too difficult to tell the difference between work that is naturally taking longer to progress through a workflow and work that is blocked or impeded, then that is a sign to look at things like how the work is being decomposed, the defined workflow steps, and how the workflow is represented on the information radiator.

On an individual basis, understanding why they don't describe the work done or expressing concerns about the rate at which they are making progress is a conversation for a 1-on-1 between the employee and their manager. You would need to get to the root cause for these behaviors and address those directly.

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It is reasonable when you have to track performance on such a tight period. The key is the words "have to." The period you have to take a measurement is based on what is necessary to track and control your project. If you choose to track using this tight of a period and it is NOT necessary, then you will likely have adverse consequences.

Another reason is when you are having performance issues with an individual. Micromanagement is not bad when it is necessary. It is terrible when it is not necessary. It is part of the spectrum of oversight.

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A standup is designed to provide visibility on progress, identify impediments, and foster collaboration within the team. It’s meant to inspect progress toward the sprint goal and adjust the upcoming work as needed. For it to be properly useful, it relies on people being transparent and on sharing clear information.

If you have one team member that is elusive in describing what they are working on, then that can impact the team's ability to work effectively, and/or can endanger the sprint goal. So you need to figure out what's going on.

You don't do that by asking them to report their work at the end of the day. You already have a daily standup, so this will be redundant. Also, am I right to assume that you want just this person to report work at the end of the day? If yes, then that can get you into trouble down the road, because you basically single them out. That's not fair. Fair would be for everyone to do the same. But like I said, it's redundant, so you will annoy everyone else that is already communicating clearly. This can also get you into trouble down the road, but in a different way.

You need to have an informal 1-on-1 discussion with this person and clearly state the observation.

Try going in prepared into this talk. With examples. Then ask what’s going on. You need to avoid this turning into a blame game. So genuinely try to understand what’s happening. Maybe the person is not skilled enough for the tasks and they might be afraid to ask for help during the daily, worried that it might reflect bad on them. Or they might try to push through obstacles by their own power. Or they might not be good at communicating or understanding what kind of information they should share. Discuss whatever it is, and make it clear that the team is there to help. Discuss ways to improve things, mention what the expectation is, and then monitor things as you go along (*).

Then adjust as needed.


(*) I’m assuming here that this person is not just lazy, or otherwise doing something else with their time, and in the daily trying to avoid discussing the lack of progress. If that’s the case, then this is a more severe issue that goes beyond your question of asking to report their work at the end of the day. That will require formal discussions, involving HR, keeping an extensive documentation trail, formal PIPs, etc., and if all fails, removing the person from the team.
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One team member is elusive in describing the work they've done in the past day during our standup, or the work reported doesn't justify the lack of progress on the work they've been assigned.

I assume we're talking software development here. Is the work sufficiently straightforward that you'd expect someone to make clear progress daily and be able to talk coherently?

The purpose of daily standups, where they exist, is to give people the opportunity to speak and be heard daily. It doesn't necessarily mean there always has to be clearly reportable progress on a task every single day - we have all had days where the plot has only thickened by the end of the day, or things are more confused than when the day began, and there's nothing really to say except that the work is still ongoing.

Is your staff member permanently elusive in a way that nothing ever seems to get done and time is never accounted for, or just occasionally unclear? Are others ever unclear?

Is it reasonable to ask them to report their work at the end of the day? Alternatives? Have you done something similar in they past? What was the impact?

It may be reasonable to allocate more time for discussion if you are simply struggling to get a grasp on what the person is even working on.

But if you're already asking them once a day and they're unclear, then why expect different answers the second time?

And since you are assigning the tasks, is there suspicion that the person is somehow deviating onto irrelevant work? What is the evidence for that suspicion?

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