How To Handle A Crippled Development Team


Let’s just say you have a self organized team and you are very satisfied with the team, but one day one of the development team member is not available for quite some time, that would make your team become ‘crippled’, right? 

missing team

In this article I want to share an analogy taken from my day to day life in handling that kind of situation. 

The story I will share might not related with Scrum in general, but definitely reflects how Scrum team works…or at least how it should works.

Someone Is Missing

So here is the story.

I’m a mother of two daughters and I’m also an IT professional who works 9 to 6 (sometimes even more) every working day.

In order to keep things going well at house, I have a team:

  • one for helping my kids (the Nanny),
  • one for dealing with laundry and households (the Washer),
  • one for taking and picking up my kids to and from school (the Driver)

One day, the Nanny is not available for one week. That is a problem for me since I’m in the middle of a project and taking leave to take over her job is not an option.

How Is It Related With Scrum?

In this case, if we relate this to Scrum Team,
I’m the Scrum Master,
my kids are the Product Owners (well a little bit against the scrum guide which PO supposed to be sole person) and
the helpers are the Development Team.

In the situation where one of the Development Team member is unavailable (let’s say sick, leave or resignation), the maturity of the team in self organizing is accountable.

However, increasing the maturity level is something that you – as a Scrum Master – needs to do before the situation like above happens.

In my case, the level of maturity in my house’s squad is not high enough. Which means this is an impediments and it’s time to say “Scrum Master is on her way! Into the night to save the day!” (PJ masks’ tagline, red)

Helping The Crippled Team

Cross Functional

In my “missing Nanny” case, I arranged to have the Washer to do extra work to help my kids after they’re back from school until they’re ready to take a nap.

This is where cross functional is taking place.
The Washer needs to be able to do what The Nanny used to do. Maybe not as handy as The Nanny, but at least the tasks are done correctly.

In the Scrum Team, when a member of Development Team is not available (let’s say the tester is on leave), other member(s) is(are) expected to be able to handle his/her job to make the Sprint Backlogs running and Sprint Goal satisfied.

Getting External Help


Sometime, in this kind of situation, external help is also important.
Then again, in my “missing Nanny” case, since The Washer is going home after the kids are taking nap, I requested the help from my mother in law to keep an eye for the kids after they’re awake from nap until I (or my husband) reach home in the afternoon.

Same goes to your Scrum Team, in some case you might need to engage external people to help the team satisfying the Sprint Goal, usually the external people will act as a Subject Matter Expert.

Moral Support and Communication

During the absence of The Nanny, I told my kids to understand the situation and told them that some things might get uncomfortable and they need to cope with that and show cooperative behavior.

I told them that they’re big kids now and handing day to day chores is not hard and they can help each other without the help from their Grandmother or The Washer.

In real life, Scrum Master’s moral support to the team is important.
The team might experience some hard times, overload work or even doubt for achieving Sprint Goal when they lost a Development Team member.
Give them moral support, tell them that they will do just fine as long as they keep stick together as a team.

Communication with Product Owner (which will convey the message to the stakeholders) is also important.
The Product Owner must aware that some delays might happen and he need to understand that. He might need to revise some planning and communicate with stakeholders about the delay.

Replacing The Missing Piece

replaceAfter a week, I got a news that The Nanny is not coming back… for good… without any previous notice.
She just…well…disappear! Unreachable! Block my whatsapp and rejecting my calls!

One thing for sure, no one is irreplaceable.
Finding the right replacement is not easy, especially after Eid al-Fitr holiday. But we finally get one.

In your Scrum Team, when the “missing” Development Team member is not coming back and the existing Development Team cannot handle all the work without any additional member, the best thing to do is to find the replacement as soon as possible.


Loosing someone is never easy.
Especially if that person is the important one.
The most important thing is to know how to handle that situation.

Indonesian proverb says

Sedia payung sebelum hujan

which means “be ready before bad things happen”

In this case, prepare your team to deal with this situation.
Prepare them to be “Self Organized” and “Cross Functional” team.
Encourage them to increase their maturity level when the team are still in full formation.
When they’re mature enough, this kind of thing will be just like a mosquito in the night 🙂

6 thoughts on “How To Handle A Crippled Development Team

  1. Wow.. nice ‘Anna’logy. I like reading it since easy to understand probably because of less technical and closely related to daily basis.
    Thank you


  2. Good story Anna. Analogies are hard to articulate. Your analogy shows your level of experience you have in this corp world.

    Every project is different and every circumstance is different. In your case, How did you manage the loss? Curious to know what happened in the workplace 🙂


    1. Thanks Maili

      For me loss is part of risk and every project (either in life or workplace) must be ready to face the risk, which loss is part of it.

      Don’t focus on the loss, but focus on how you handle the loss.
      Mastering the process is more important than recovering the loss at one time.

      Once you master the process, next time it happens again, you will be able to handle it well.
      The 1st loss caused by the 1st issue will be recovered soon.
      The loss caused by the 2nd issue will be less because you’ve had the experience and you’ve mastered the process.

      IMHO 🙂


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