Vote ‘Em Off The Island

Does anyone still watch the “reality tv” show Survivor? I can’t say that I ever really did watch Survivor but the concept of voting someone off the island has been burned into my memory for better or worse. In a way, I wish it was burned into the memory of every agile software development team member.Survivor Tribal Council

Agile software development teams are self-managed and one of the words of advice I’ve never hesitated to give to those teams is that you always have the option of voting someone off the team. People often look puzzled when I give this advice. The first question they almost always ask is, “We can do that?!” Yep, you can do that. One important guideline to remember is that the same “rules” used against one person to be voted off the team can and will be used against you if need be, so don’t make that decision lightly. This means that if Frank’s annoying rants about Smurfs being Communist propaganda are enough to get him kicked off the team, then don’t be surprised if you find yourself off the team for telling one too many knock-knock jokes. Or something like that.

The point is that self-managed team members have the power to say who is and isn’t on their team. It’s healthy for teams to get an unproductive member off the team after working with that person to address his or her problem(s). If improvements aren’t being made then it’s likely time to consider voting that team member off the island…errr…team. Management shouldn’t have an issue with this unless they observe the natives are being petty and unfair. Management should have an issue if their self-managed teams don’t feel they have the power to vote someone off their team and act as such. One sign of a healthy team is the ability to handle intra team issues in a professional manner, especially those issues that potentially require removing a member from the team.

  • Richard Baldwin

    Too many times people seem timid to take a stand on their views; whether it is a bully or incompetence. For failure to occur all it takes is team members to do nothing. It is easier to remain silent then to professionally state their misunderstanding or difference of opinion. Or what commonly happens, go complain to others instead of going to whomever and resolving the issue face to face. For scrum teams it is utmost important that team members recognize their responsibility in achieving the goals of the product roadmap. The project manager is no longer in place and the team becomes the incompetent project manager. The team members recognize who does or who does not get the job done. If their are team weaknesses then seek to fix them or bring on a team member with the necessary strengths. If a team member brings a greater tax then value; don’t pay the tax. Ask the resourcing manager to replace them with a better value. Stop waiting for someone else to fix your team problems; they aren’t coming.

  • Frank?