One of the parts of self-organization in agile (but this is not necessarily related only to agile) is that we look at the team's performance and focus on supporting the team doing their job the best they can.

Self-organized team may decide on many thing on their own to achieve better results. One of them may sometimes be the need to remove a team member.

So my question is how in practice do you achieve that? Have you been in such situation? What can be done at the team level, so that the team can actually be sure and even encouraged to do that (start the team member removal process)? How can the Scrum Master (or anybody in the similar position) support that process? What about the upper management?

Sometimes teams just talk on the side about it or there is a tension inside the team that you can feel, but I've never seen the next step taking place.

  • I like both @pawelbordzinski and @jmort253 suggestions on solving the problem without taking it personally as well as trying to grow the person in the first place. Commented Feb 27, 2011 at 21:31

5 Answers 5


The first question here is: whether the team should have power to remove one of its team members. Usually trash talking on one of team members at the water-cooler is a combination of frustration and no power to do anything about the issue.

Anyway, considering there's some power delegated to the team, I think that's still a problem of management. It's manager who built the team in the first place. It's manager whose is paid to resolve such organizational and/or people issues. For me, what a team member should do here is to raise the manager's awareness of the problem. If it doesn't work with a direct superior one might try to go further up through the hierarchy, depending on the organization of course. Either way it should be management decision to remove someone from the team.

As the supporting behavior I'd look for actions aimed to remove a problem, not the person from the team, e.g. trying to discuss it through, find the source of the issue, try to find generally accepted way to improve things around.

By the way: there's a good Mike Cohn's post and even better discussion in comment section on removing team members.

  • 2
    I agree with Pawel. The composition of a team is management responsibility. Otherwise you'll open the door to bullying!
    – Stephan
    Commented Feb 27, 2011 at 15:12

The ability to remove a team member from a team depends entirely on the structure of the team. In more flat organizations, decisions such as these can be taken by the team with a unanimous vote.

In other situations, there could be a more hybrid model where the team approaches the manager first.

In all situations, the goal of the team and manager should be to coach the team member to resolve the conflict. Teams that demonstrate a good tract record for taking bad team members and turning them around should ideally earn more autonomy than teams that do not have enough seasoned experience to handle ineptness.

In many cases, investing some time in a person can turn them around.

In my experience, we removed team members after a 100% unanimous decision by myself, the development manager, and a team leader. The decision to remove has occurred in maybe 15% of cases while in the other 85% cases, the team member removed him or herself. In 100% of cases, we put our best efforts into helping this person grow. Either they realized this job was not for them and moved on, or we realized it was just dragging out and we removed them ourselves.

In the end, these people moved on knowing that we all tried, and our goal has always been that we all learn something from the experience and grow. Many of the people that left our organization may have found a better fit somewhere else after changing their work ethic, finding a company that fits them better, or taking the plunge into a new career where they can excel.


I'm not sure it needs to be a fully formal ability of the team.

Once the organization does some sort of 360 degree feedback and Listens to the team, it can drive the the right decision.

I saw teams that raised the issue to their management consistently, and the end result was that the relevant team member was removed.

My recommendation - don't jump too fast to changes in HR policy around this, but be attentive to the teams and team members, and use 360 degree feedback as well as MeasureUP (people are measured and compensated based on the results of the teams/groups they are members of as well as individual performance). good things will happen.


I think that "adding and/or removing members" decision shall be objectively motivated by a Human Resource Plan established in the team. It means that every team member shall know upfront when and how he/she may be removed from the team.


Teams that form with a clear definition of working agreements and norms have a leg up on most teams. If you repeatedly violate the working agreements and norms of the team the team should make that obvious to you, the team member.

In that scenario, I have seen the team member who is not living inside those working agreements will change their behavior or actually help the team remove them.

If you have not established these things up front, you run into the swamp described in all the answers.

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