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How Job Hopping Affects Agile Teams

14 September 2015

At a recent conference, I had the good fortune to interact with many talented developers who work in product and services organizations. These are folks who develop cutting-edge software and help their organizations deliver great value to their customers.

Although listening to them was exciting, what I learned about many of them caught my attention. Most of these developers had switched jobs at least every two years.

Reasons for job hopping

Everyone has a reason to change jobs; however, changing jobs frequently will hinder both the employer's and the employee's ability to deliver value. Most often, I hear better salary as the primary reason. Enough has been said about attaching too much importance to money. It does not help one achieve excellence.

When I steered the conversation away from compensation, I uncovered other reasons for switching jobs:
  • Growth opportunities
  • Organization's culture
  • Organization's vision
  • Peers
Teams can influence the first three reasons. Truly Agile organizations trust their team members to get the job done. So growth opportunities (by proving talent), the organization's culture (directly proportional to team culture) and the organization's vision (dependent on how successfully teams deliver and attract new projects) can be driven by individual team members. Well, they can at least try!

Unfortunately, the team cannot influence the peer group. We are assigned to teams that include the peers we work with. Most of the issues within an Agile team stem from this peer group.


In her excellent article "Unjust Desserts," Mary Poppendieck writes about the factors that help build successful team performance over time. She says, "Treat monetary rewards like explosives. . . ."

The quote accurately captures the problem with building truly Agile teams. The greater the differences in compensation, the more team members compete against rather than collaborate with each other. This results in a demotivated team, which goes against one of the core Agile principles: Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

Unsustainable effort

Given the demand in the IT industry for new products, one can move to a different organization for any of the above-mentioned reasons. However, it takes a lot of effort to integrate with the new team and organization. Delivering true value to the customers in a new setup is never easy, however exciting it may be. I know few people who have done this successfully, and I also know how much of their personal time went toward that success. Spending personal time to deliver success will lead to burnout, and the effort is unsustainable -- which underscores another one of the core Agile principles: Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.


Given that the IT industry is maturing in India, it is time that developers take an educated guess at the value of work and equate it to compensation. More money = quality of work.

Organizations, too, have an important role to play: I hope that compensation is rationed and occasional promotions are handed out to keep teams motivated.

Do you think changing jobs too frequently affects Agile teams negatively? How much, do you think, compensation affects the success of Agile teams?

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 4.5 (6 ratings)


Tim Baffa, CSM, 9/14/2015 10:32:39 AM
Good article. I especially appreciate the relating of practices to Agile Principles.

Organizations need to learn that the carrot/stick model no longer applies when trying to grow high-performing teams.

Daniel Pink summed up this dynamic very well in his book Drive. To truly motivate individuals, an organization needs to provide a work environment that promotes Autonomy (control of your work), Mastery (opportunity to get better at your work), and Purpose (identification of your work to organizational goals).

When these three items are provided, employees are happy, and compensation becomes a low priority. In fact, the recommended approach is to pay people just enough so that they are not thinking about how much they are making when they are working.

Read up on Theory X and Theory Y approaches to employee management practices for more information (and even Theory Z).
Santosh Shaastry, CSP,CSPO, 9/15/2015 10:42:23 AM
Tim, I will look up the book "Drive" by Daniel Pink to deep dive in to the lesser thought about aspect (majority of employers in IT industry). Thank you!
Robert Day, CSM, 9/15/2015 11:31:05 AM
Tim, when you say "pay people just enough so that they are not thinking about how much they are making when they are working", do you mean 'just enough for them not to have to worry about how little they are making', or 'just enough so that they don't obsess over making more money at the expense of the quality of the work'?

Or in other words, so that they neither ask themselves "How will I make ends meet this month?" nor "This job really is money for old rope."
Tim Baffa, CSM, 9/16/2015 3:17:00 PM
Robert, I stand behind my statement, and unsure if your question was in jest or not. If it was not in jest, I unfortunately cannot accept the premise of your inquiry.

Certainly there are other options besides either being underpaid, or being overpaid based on the quality of their work?

How about creating a work environment where people don't obsess about their compensation at all, and actually feel rewarded through the fruits of their work?
Arvind Kaul, CSM, 9/17/2015 12:13:00 PM
The way you have related practices to Agile principles makes it an interesting read. However, I am not sure if we are doing a right comparison here... Generally compensation driven job hopping stops after 1, 2 or 3 this phase the main reason of hopping is that work is not challenging enough
Santosh Shaastry, CSP,CSPO, 9/18/2015 2:41:59 PM
@Tim, well said.

@Arvind, my thoughts are about the effects of job hopping on the teams, not the team members. Also, think of a seven member team in which there is a continuous churn - by the time the churn stops the product/feature might already be labelled as a failure - it just might!
Robert Day, CSM, 11/11/2015 8:55:50 AM
Tim, I wrote only partly in jest. I have been in organisations where the pay was so poor that people were more concerned over making ends meet than in meeting their work target commitments. Naturally, the work suffered, but the organisation could not figure out why they could never retain anyone with any talent.

I have also seen organisations where people were paid way beyond their competency levels and people were more concerned with racking up unproductive overtime than actually getting the job done and finished and working properly.

You are right, though: the ideal is for people to feel rewarded by the work they do as well as the compensation they receive. And if compensation is 'merely' adequate but enough to meet people's needs, having a rewarding work environment where people stay with the job because it gives them fulfillment and they feel useful and appreciated is good.

The problem starts when an organisation feels that staff can live on fulfillment alone.

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