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Negative Sentiments Toward your SCRUM Team and How to Deal with Them

Have you ever been told your Scrum team is not as good as you think it is? I am the Product Owner of a team that is responsible for a system that sends emails and text messages to our insurance policyholders. My team excels at estimating the time needed to complete stories/tech tasks/etc. and we finish most, if not all sprints with no carryover to a subsequent sprint. Recently, each scrum team in my organization was assigned an Agile Coach and during my first interaction with this coach I informed him that he was selected to represent a highly functional team that finishes most, if not all sprints on time with 100% completion. I thought he would appreciate this information and be glad that he was assigned an easy team to work with. Instead, his response was “that is not possible.” The coach went on to say that if we are finishing every sprint without any carryover, it is because we are not accurately story pointing our stories, not accurately estimating the time it will take to finish stories or we are just flat out lying. I was SHOCKED! If you have encountered the same or a similar situation toward your team, here are my top tips for dealing with those people who want to bring your team down:

  1. Put your team’s success on display: When people are negative toward your team and it is undeserved, display your success to show that their opinion is wrong. There are numerous ways you can do this such as invite them to your sprint demos so they can see the features that have been created, invite them to view your sprint and team reports, and share any recognition your team has received in public forums for all to hear.
  2. Stand up for your team: As a product owner it is my responsible to stand up for my team and consistently be at their defense. I have always been fond of the leadership principle that says Pass the Credit and Take the Blame. Good leaders take the credit on behalf of their team and give others credit when things go well and take the blame on behalf of their team when things go awry. This brings up to tip number 3.
  3. Consistently praise your team: When your team members go the extra mile, step up to the plate or just do a good job, make sure you praise them. This could be a simple recognition in a stand-up meeting, a recognition through a corporate recognition program, a praise in Microsoft teams, or a virtual happy hour dedicated to celebrating the teams wins.

Bottom line is there will always be negative people who want to project their negativity on to you, but you can do everything in your power to project a positive image and that will go a long way in making your team look good! I love this saying; “I love haters. They keep me motivated!” My challenge to each of you is to do one thing in the next week to make your team look good! 

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10 comments

Good one @Summer_Hogan 

In fact your tips are just as it is for a winning team. It seems simple 3 points, but it takes the real confidence, trust to live on those Scrum values. And when the teams or members breathe in the Scrum Values, Agile principles strictly, that will be a sure shot example for best practices.

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Summer.Hogan Community Leader Sep 16, 2022

Thank you @G subramanyam! That means a lot since it is my first one! 

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Jimmy Seddon Community Leader Sep 16, 2022

Great article @Summer_Hogan!  My first response to that Agile Coach is a very deep sigh.  I have worked at companies where the goal isn't delivering on your estimates with zero carry over, but who can commit to and complete the most number of story points before the end of the sprint.

I have tried to use logic and data to explain how that doesn't work, but some people just don't seem to understand what a high functioning team should look like.

Now, a very long time ago I was a part of a high functioning team where after about 5 sprints we at figured out our velocity, we had an amazing PO & Scrum Master and our sprint planning meetings were simply a quick review of all the stories we had groomed and committing to no more than our velocity.  It was an extremely amazing and rewarding experience and it sounds like you have a team that gets to live that every day which is wonderful!

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Great article, and well stated, @Summer_Hogan 

One yes, and...to your list might be: share how your team "wins" to help and learn from other teams feedback/approaches.

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Agree with all of your three points 👍

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@Summer_Hogan you sound like the coach for your team that is motivating AND realistic. Very supportive of your approach!

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Hi @Summer_Hogan , thanks for sharing your thoughts. We are still trying to to a point where we wouldn't have any or only a little carry over into the next sprint. What is the key to your success? Is it the methods you are using? Is it the size of the stories? My biggest challenge is always to create small stories, not too big, not too small. A day of work. I would be interested what makes your success. 

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Summer.Hogan Community Leader Sep 19, 2022

Thank you @Jimmy Seddon@Bill Sheboy@Sakina@Christine P_ Dela Rosa, and @Dominik Boreham! I'm glad you found it helpful!

@Jimmy Seddon - yes, I agree! It is all about delivering value to your customers! It is not a race! You are correct; our sprint meetings are so simple. We alternate meetings where one week we have backlog refinement where we review all the stories and add story points and the next week we do planning the day before the sprint starts. My team adds their sub-tasks to all the stories prior to the planning meeting so all we have do to is briefly review the stories and any changes that were made since the refinement meeting, look at capacity planner and determine our capacity as compared to our velocity and we are done! It is a great experience and very rewarding to know I work on on a highly functional team! 

@Bill Sheboy - good point!

@Dominik Boreham - What might help is establishing a good velocity over 3-5 sprints and then using that as a guideline and compare that to the work included in each sprint. Only put the amount of work in each sprint that you have velocity for and add some buffer. The other method I find useful is allowing a planning day in between the sprints where you give your team time to not only take a breather, but also to add sub-tasks and hours for the stories before planning. I also always tell them to add at least a 10% buffer to their estimates for unknown things that might come up during the sprint. About the story sizes, I create stories with all the information needed for an effort and then if it requires "slicing and dicing" I determine that during backlog refinement. I typically do not include any story that is over 5 story points in a sprint. The last thing I will say is, Jimmy is right that you need an amazing PO and Scrum Master to feed work into the team and deal with impediments during the sprints. 

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Paul Stallworth Community Leader Sep 21, 2022

If the coach doesn't find anything wrong, why keep them at the company?  Unfortunately some people focus on keeping themselves employed and looking for things going wrong instead of things going right. We recently heard a similar message from a Scrum evangelist telling a high-performing team that's been together for 6 years they weren't "doing Agile right".

If your team is GTD and delivering value, you're way ahead of many teams, imho.

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Summer.Hogan Community Leader Sep 21, 2022

Fully agree @Paul Stallworth 

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