Managing Your Teams Work

Recently, I have been doing a lot of research into running effective retrospectives, but lately there has been something nagging me about a related topic, allocating work during sprint planning. So I done a bit of research on this as well to find out how other people do this, which ultimately lead me to discover two main paths.

One For You, One For You & One For You

The first way is the one which I am most familiar with and involves the team lead allocating the work to the team members. Now in most teams, you will have the people who are always willing to do whatever work is given to them, and you know they will get it done. Lets call those people the "dependables". On the other hand, you also have the people who complain, and make it clearly known to you, when they don't want to do a task. They either always come up with reasons why it can't be done or just try to be as uncooperative as possible. We'll call those people the "grouches".

In my experience, team leads will often give the "dependables" the "ugly" work as they know it will be easier to deal with than the grumpiness and the job will get done. However, this can lead to some severe problems in the long run, such as:

  • The "dependables" becoming frustrated & eventually leave the company
  • The "grouches" learn that if they complain enough, the "dependables" will land up with the work
  • More than likely, the "dependable" will have a passive-aggressive nature, as most developers do, so they won't say anything to you but keep it bottled up inside.

The solution to this would be for the team lead to allocate work to each person and share the work equally, irrespective if they complain or not. If they do complain, talk to them after the meeting and explain to them why you are doing it like this. You can even use some of the feedback techniques to assist you.

Let Them Decide

The other school of thought is that you allow the team to allocate the tasks themselves, with the thinking behind this being that a group of people typically do a better job than a single person. My immediate reaction to this was that you are going to land up with the issues that was described above. However, in order to minimize the above side effects people suggested the following things:

  • Explain the rules & expectation
    Whenever someone it introduced to a new concept, or way of doing things, it is useful to explain what you expect of them. In this scenario, it would be that from now on you would like the team to allocate the work between themselves and that you want it to be divided fairly so that people don't land up with only easy/difficult tasks. You want them to find something challenging as well, so that they learn and grow. Be sure to also mention that if they find it difficult to do, you are there willing to help out.

  • Help them along
    Whenever something is new to a person, they will naturally struggle with it, so it is your job as a leader is to help them get there. You can do this by explaining how you think the tasks should be divided and show them how to balance out the work. It would be advisable to monitor the tasks on a task board, so that you can quickly see when someone is struggling with a task and assist them, or ask someone with experience in the task to help out.

Where To From Here?

Obviously, this choice will be different depending on your circumstances and team, but for me personally, I would like to try out the variation where you let the team decide. I have never tried it before so I'm looking forward to how it goes. If I find taht after a while it isn't working I'll go back to the old way of doing things, or try come up with another variation.

If you have any other ideas or ways in which you allocate work, I would love to hear them in the comments section below.

Until next time...keep learning!

Mauro Da Silva

Learning everyday about software development, leadership & self improvement

South Africa