The Problems with Overachievers on Agile Teams


Present personal growth toward a collaborative team as a challenge. Tell the overachiever that he must be able to turn over his work to his team mates and it’s his responsibility to see those team mates grow in their skills and knowledge.  People with a driven personality respond positively to a difficult goal. They thrive on the recognition that comes with successfully pulling off the “impossible.”

Remove Opportunities for Bad Behavior
Deming writes that productivity is largely dictated by the environment, which management is responsible for [10]. Therefore, make sure teams can have success without personal heroics. Remove pressure to overcommit. Make good use of early delivery in the sprint, continuous integration, unit testing, and burndown charts to avoid end-of-sprint rushes.

Prevent hoarding and encourage swarming. Make work visible through a task board. Make sure it is clear who is signed up for what and for how much. Limit the allowable size of tasks and the total work in progress as well as the amount of work per person.

As a last resort, redirect the overachiever’s get-it-done attitude away from specific development and towards removing impediments or address continuous process improvement. Redirect him away from always completing stories and ensure that the team completes them.

Andy Pearson, the CEO of PepsiCo once named one of the ten toughest bosses in America, said,

“If the need for recognition and approval is a fundamental human drive, then the willingness to give it is not a sign of weakness. Great leaders find a balance between getting results and how they get them. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that getting results is all there is to the job. Your real job is to get results and to do it in a way that makes your organization a great place to work—a place where people enjoy coming to work, instead of just taking orders and hitting this month’s numbers.” [11]

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

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