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In my opinion, this should not be overlooked, and I say this because what happens when the team jumping in to assist is out? Project work might halt as now, that resource either has to catch up and figure out where things were left off, or cannot complete it at all. It might not be a problem now, but is a huge risk that should be managed and averted if possible.
I agree with you. Even more, the "weak link" might affect the team performance as a whole. Thank you for your comments Kimberly.
Funny you should mention this as I wrote about it recently in the context of self-organized teams. Here's a copy & paste of the article:
"One of the learners in a class I taught asked me how self-organizing teams would handle the situation where a single team member is not performing a fair share of the work.
In a traditional, push-based work assignment model, this issue can also occur. Usually whoever has pushed the work onto the low performer will follow up with them in a timely manner and take direct steps to ensure that performance improves, the work gets re-balanced or the team member is replaced.
But with a pull-based approach where individual team members sign up for work items as capacity frees up and where the focus is on how much is getting completed by the team as a whole, the concern is that someone could take advantage of this by letting their peers take on the more challenging work items leaving them with a relatively lighter work load. From the outside, it would appear that the work is getting done but the contribution imbalance will be less evident.
On a mature self-organized team this is not likely to be an ongoing concern. Team members recognize the importance of demonstrating courage and showing respect for the team and will exert the necessary social pressure on the low performer so that they will either feel embarrassed and start to improve or will be transferred out of the team. If the team uses agile ceremonies such as sprint planning, daily standups or retrospectives, these provide an opportunity to provide feedback with radical candor to the low performer.
But on those teams which are relatively new to working in this manner, the team members might not possess the confidence to openly discuss or challenge such dysfunctions. Passive aggressive behavior might occur such as remaining silent during a retrospective and complaining around the water cooler afterwards.
In such cases, the agile lead or Scrum Master might need to get involved to eliminate the impediment. This intervention could start in a subtle manner such as asking the individual at a daily standup if they feel comfortable with their workload for the day compared with their team members, or “seeding” the conversation during a retrospective when the topic turns to what could be improved. They might encourage other team members to ask the individual to give them a hand with their work items or to conduct a non-solo work experiment (e.g. pair programming).
If this soft approach doesn’t work, the Scrum Master may have to more drastic steps such as confronting the individual one-on-one, speaking with their manager or some other type of escalation.
Deferring decision making to the Last Responsible Moment is a lean principle. While a Scrum Master shouldn’t intervene if the rest of the team can address an issue for themselves, they should have the judgment to know when they will need to take a more direct approach."
Thank you Kiron for your insights and reinforcement. In any scenario there is a need to promote fairness and honesty and to remember that the team members are watching you as a leader to manage low performers.
It seem to me there is two problem in your case, not assuming the proper work load and « taking credit for the team success ».
On the first part Kimberly and Kiron are to the point it is about fairness.
The second point is about honesty, it is one of the most disturbing action to a team spirit.
It should be addressed. There is a team dynamic that is off and while the team may be performing, this is most definitely a risk.
Unfortunately this seems to be a common experience in most major projects. Its important to understand that not everyone is a superstar but everyone has a role to get the job done. However if I observe a non-contributor, I work to engage that person to change behavior or remove them from the task... not changing behavior will eventually lead to some type of reaction from the rest of the team....
Thank you Enrique for posting this interesting question. Thanks also to all the contributions and wise advice from Kimberly, Kiron, Vincent, Charles and Jochen.
my 5 cents addition is that sometimes, we have a new junior person within the team who are yet to learn so as to be able to contribute. Hence, this team member might ride the wave and either excel and contribute at a later stage, or take other team members contribution for granted. This is something to watch for and the strategies/approach described above could take care of the situation. However, if that team member has been hired based on experience and skills. However, they are not pulling their weight, it's time for an honest and frank discussion.
Like always this kind of issues are for functional managers to resolve or for team leads and technical leads.
People that are not from the same line of work as the team members can't understand their work in detail an can't tell for sure who is the best performing team member and who is not doing his/her share of the work.
If you are a PM that previously did the work of that team member then yes you may try to do something about this issues if not you should either stay away or at most you could escalate the issue to the functional manager. This however can backfire as the functional manager may say that the employee is very good and is doing a very good job on the project.
Since projects are temporary you may not even work with that employee in the future and I don't think is worth risking your relationship with the functional manager for this potential issue.
I remember taking a team dynamics course where all the work had to be done within a team of students. Part of our final grade was a set amount of points each student could attribute to each member of their team, as they saw fit. It's amazing what happens when your performance measurement is in the hands of your team mates.
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