The Problems with Overachievers on Agile Teams

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Conclusion
Overachievers are the team heroes—those who come to the rescue when the project is in trouble. They feel the need to pull the project single-handedly from the brink of failure. This may seem like the type of person you need on your team, and it may produce short-term results. However, it has a disastrous effect on the dynamics and well being of the team. Incorrect management reinforcement can set up a feedback loop that kills team productivity, which in turn makes the overachiever seem necessary.

You must mold the overachiever into a catalyst for whole-team productivity. Redirect the overachiever toward teamwork. Reward collaboration, take advantage of the overachiever’s tendencies in helpful ways, or directly challenge the overachiever to change. By doing this, you will be on the way to promoting whole-team effectiveness.

References

  1. Goleman, D. “Leadership That Gets Results,” Harvard Business Review, March-April 2000.
  2. McBride, Patricia and Maitland, Susan. EI Advantage: Putting Emotional Intelligence Into Practice, McGraw Hill, 2001.
  3. Chynoweth, Carly. “Do it my way and stay in tune”, The Sunday Times, accessed 4/2/2011 at http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/career_and_jobs/senior_ex...
  4. Beedle, M. et al. “The Agile Manifesto,” 2001, accessed 10/2/2010 at www.agilemanifesto.org/principles
  5. Larman, C. Agile and Iterative Development: a Manager's Guide, Addison-Wesley: Boston; 2004.
  6. Adkins, Lyssa. Coaching Agile Teams, Addison-Wesley, 2010, p. 39.
  7. Suscheck, Ford. “Jazz improvisation as a learning metaphor for the scrum software development methodology,” Software Process: Improvement and Practice, Volume 13. Issue 5.
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pair_programming
  9. Heath, Chip and Heath, Dan. “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard”, Crown Business, 2010.
  10. Deming, W. Edwards. Out of the Crisis, MIT Press, 2000.

User Comments

1 comment
Dave Maschek's picture

The key to this article was that the overachiever "secretly felt insecure". The authors make a good case how overachievers can subvert an Agile team by trying to do everything and thus not allowing others to function as full team members. However, I have seen insecure underachievers cause trouble on a team also. The corporate world has insecure people who can subvert a team by not sharing information, playing safe by always painting a rosy picture, putting up unnecessary roadblocks, giving outdated advice, stubbornly acting against Agile principles, insisting they are always right and so on.  

August 14, 2014 - 12:25pm

About the author

Charles Suscheck's picture Charles Suscheck

Dr. Charles Suscheck is a nationally recognized agile leader who specializes in agile software development adoption at the enterprise level. He is one of only 11 trainers worldwide and 3 in the US certified to teach the entire Scrum.org cirriculum.  With over 25 years of professional experience, Dr. Suscheck has held positions of Process Architect, Director of Research, Principle Consultant, Professor, and Professional Trainer at some of the most recognized companies in America. He has spoken at national and international conferences such as Agile 200X, OOPSLA, and ECOOP on topics related to agile project management and is a frequent author in industry and academia. Dr. Suscheck has over 30 publications to his credit.

About the author

Andrew Fuqua's picture Andrew Fuqua

Andrew Fuqua is an agile coach with more than twenty-five years of experience programming, managing, and coaching. Much of his experience is with commercial software development at various independent software vendors, though he's had increasing experience with IT organizations for the the last seven years. Andrew has been using agile methods since 1999, including five years pair-programming in a test-driven environment.

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