A Scrum Master from the financial industry shared a gnarly retrospective problem with me:
My gnarly problem is that I have one member of my team that doesn’t like to participate in our ceremonies. Her body language shows it, but her words never do. She doesn’t really talk during any of the ceremonies, just tells our manager that she thinks they are a waste of time.
I keep trying to play games and spice things up and I’ve tried the boring, to the point method of: works well, not so well, and needs improvement …
I just can’t get her to engage! Any help on this?
This seems to be a very common problem. I’ve certainly had it. That’s why I want to share an edited version of my answer here. I try to keep a focus on retrospectives although it seems to be a larger problems.
In a live coaching situation there are loads of good questions to ask: How does the team react? Was there ever a retrospective during which she was engaged? What is she like outside of the retros?
Without knowing many of the specifics, here is some generic advice.
Prologue: We can’t force agile on people
In general, I’ve stopped forcing people. As Marshall Rosenberg said, you cannot make people do anything. We certainly can’t make them “be agile”. If she doesn’t want to be there, she won’t engage. What would happen if she didn’t have to come? How would that affect the team? How does it affect the team now that she’s not engaging?
I’ve often seen teams invest a lot of energy trying to include someone who didn’t really want to be part of it. Not everybody is cut out for agile. Not everybody can be won over. That’s okay. Time will tell if she wants to work in an agile team or not. Sometimes it’s best for everyone if someone leaves the team – As graciously as possible: Let everyone save face. Certainly no mobbing!
But we’re not there yet. Everybody deserves a fair chance and we’re trying to include someone.
Make it worth her time
She gave a reason for her disengagement, at least to the manager. And it’s a valid reason. Veronika Kotrba and Ralph Miarka taught me: “Everybody is the expert for their own situation”. If she thinks it’s a waste of her time, then it’s a waste of her time. Period. The question is: What would make it worth her while?