Are You Brave Enough to Let Go?

Marcin Niebudek

Some time ago I wrote a post “Are You Brave Enough Not To Estimate Your Tasks“. Looks like we still need some bravery in another area… Task assignment.

Marcin Floryan posted a short statement on Twitter lately that if someone else is assigning your tasks it is not Scrum. I fully agreed with that, but just a few days after a question from one of our users came and it mentioned people being “overplanned”. The question wasn’t directly connected with task assignments but the word “overplanned” brought my attention.

Should I be “overplanned” or maybe “overcommitted”? Ok… You already know my answer, but think about it for a second.

Probably the most common path for many teams is to convert a PM into Scrum Master or alike. PM is usually used to assigning tasks to the team members. This is what she was doing for a couple of years. No we want her to surrender. Wouldn’t you be scared?

So why should you actually be brave enough to let go and let the team decide?

  • You already let the them discuss, estimate and plan how much they can do in the next iteration, did you? They will know what to do.
  • You will tend to assign same people for same kinds of tasks, but it does not help them to get a big picture and learn.
  • Why not leave the decision until the very last moment? Maybe others will finish their work earlier and will be able to take the task before the person assigned to it in the first place.
  • From the iteration/sprint perspective delivering done stories is more important than not who is doing what. Let the team find a way to make it best they can.
  • It’s like with code ownership. There is no my code and your code (right?). Same with stories or tasks that lead to creating that code.
  • There is that little chance that I may know better than you what I’m most capable of doing so please let me decide what I’ll do next to deliver what we promised.
  • You have lots of other things to do. There is this guy (they call him a Product Owner) waiting to slip through your doors ;-). Focus on facilitating, impediments and communication.

But not to leave you with an impression that self commitment is so glorious there is at least one thing that you need to be aware of at the beginning.

People not used to making a commitment will usually tend to chose the easiest task. After some time you will find that there is someone doing the dirty and hard work while others live their fantastic lives with their easy pieces.

This may happen if your team members are left alone with the tasks they work on. You should look for this kind of “bad smell” during retrospectives. But still taking the control back is not your best option. Instead try:

  • directing your team towards swarming on a single story together
  • some mentoring or pairing (maybe some of the team members have a difficulty with the system, technology or anything else)
  • working on better knowledge exchange

So are you brave enough to let go and not to assign the tasks to your team?

BTW. In tinyPM when you grab a task from pending state, it instantly becomes yours. This is a lot easier that to assign a task to somebody else (you need to go and edit the task). Now you know why :-)

The image for this post comes from a great siteĀ Pictofigo


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