That's not my job

That’s not my job!

This is a story from a colleague who was providing technical coaching at a client.

He was one of the technical coaches working with 40 Scrum Teams to improve on their technical, development practices and bring them on a par with 21st century standards.

At one of these sessions, the technical coaches provided training, mentoring and coaching about modern development concepts like test-driven development (TDD) and acceptance-level TDD (ATDD). One of the involved developers went to his desk, opened his drawer, pulled out his working contract, pointed at it, and said: “It does not say ‘testing’ in here.”

Clearly, that developer was heavily relying on his paper contract. If it didn’t state to wash his hands after he went to the toilet, maybe he wouldn’t have done so. Who knows?

But, seriously. Does it help if an idle team member points out that something is not his or her job, while the work needs to get done, and all the other people involved are too busy to do it? Not really.

Taking a closer look at companies large and small, we see a particular pattern. In smaller companies, it seems to be more like an accepted behavior to take overwork, even though it may not be part of your job description. In larger companies though, people are more hesitant to do so as the likelihood of stepping onto someone else’s toes might cause problems, not to mention that it often doesn’t help them advance their career.

Regardless, we don’t think the latter attitude is helpful to solve the complex problems we typically intend to solve with Scrum.

As humans, we are born with little skills. One of the core things the human brain is capable of learning new things, continuously and life-long. We learned to crawl, to step up, and to eventually walk and run. This freed us from the perceived problems when we grew up. Just because something is not your job should not keep you from learning the necessary skills to perform the work if it has to be done.

What if that work does not have to be done? Well, why then do it at all?

As humans, we learn all our lives long. That’s what distinguishes us from other species. Use that one thing that makes you human to contribute to your team’s efforts, meanwhile also developing yourself.

“That’s not my job” really is a pretty cheap excuse for not doing the related work. Don’t go there as it undermines team morale and your self-development.

(taken, and adapted from Save our Scrum)

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