Agile Roadblocks: Man Overboard!

By Magnus Nord

Agile roadblockIn the series about agile roadblocks: obstructions for implementing agile processes, the time has come to “Man Overboard!”. (Also read the previous posts: stray team members, drowned by waterfalls and lost in translation.)

Scrum teams are supposed to consist of highly motivated, cross-functional and self-organizing people. What if someone is not on board? How do you deal with people that are not motivated and don’t want to adopt agile processes and team practices?

You might find yourself in situations where you are asked to use Scrum and have people on your team that are used to working alone, or using other methodologies, and simply don’t want to change.


Most of us aspire to be part of the perfect team: cross functional, motivated, productive. The reality is sometimes quite the opposite.

If one or more members of the team fail to attend meetings and don’t participate in processes and practices agreed upon – what do you do?

People can be unmotivated of many reasons. Personal circumstances, stress, feeling overlooked, and so on. Maybe they just feel this is something they don’t want to do.

I think this is one of the most difficult things to handle as a leader. It affects me personally when people I work with don’t show the same enthusiasm for the job or don’t appreciate others efforts.

Some agile evangelists say that the team should have the power to choose its own members. In my experience this is often not true. In large corporations people are moved around based on other factors. And, when you as a team are empowered with the decision to select your members, it is still no easy decision kicking someone from the team.


  • Negative impact on other team members’ motivation and performance.
  • Failure by individuals or the team to produce results.
  • Makes planning difficult.


  • Most important of all: communicate. Talk to persons one-to-one. Find out the reasons behind the lack of motivation. Is there anything you can do to help? What would motivate them?
  • Assign tasks and give the person responsibilities.
  • Give people the recognition and attention they deserve.
  • Talk to management. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice on how to handle the situation.
  • Don’t let it get to you. Don’t take it personally. You’re bound to come across people that spread negative energy. Try to focus on other things.


  1. Perry Joel6/19/14, 9:16 AM

    An agile process tends to focus on iterations, and client feedback, to allow for the inevitability of changing requirements whereas a waterfall process tries to define all requirements up front, and tends to be inflexible to changing requirements. You can learn more about agile and scrum by referring to some free resources ( provided by scrumstudy or by attending any agile scrum certification courses. I would personally suggest Agile Expert Certified course or a Scrum Master Certification to you.

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