Being the new member of a team comes with lots to learn. There's a risk that Chip will interrupt the flow of the team while he catches up.

1 Answer

Helping the new team member learn what they need to while maintaining the pace of progress is a challenge.
If Chip is disruptive by needing help and assistance all the time, or if Chip just tries to struggle through and isn't able to actually accomplish anything, the result will be the same.

Asking for help is important, but knowing when and how to ask for help can make a difference.

By first understanding how the team operates, Chip can get a sense of when to seek immediate assistance and when to set his questions aside for later. Can his questions wait for a meeting or briefing? Can he ask someone to schedule some time to help him?

There's an archetype of a junior developer that asks "how do I do this?" without actually trying anything first. This type of hand-holding and solution seeking can be very destructive to the team dynamic. Either the other team member resent and reject this attitude of "just tell me how to do it" or they enable it by just, in essence, doing thier work for them.

On the other hand, there's a risk in trying to solve everything without relying on the team. The risk is wasted time and effort, frustration, and isolationism. The team is hurt by this "maverick" who refuses to use the knowledge and expertise of their teammates. When they encounter a problem they can't solve, they will waste time and effort and will probably wind up producing low-quality results.

The middle way means spending some time trying, searching, and tinkering before asking the team to step in, but also being humble enough to recognize the team already has the needed expertise and brave enough to admit you need help and ask for it.

There are a few reasons people don't ask for help:
  • Ego - they don't want to look stupid or weak
  • Fear - they think the team will ostracize or look down on them for not knowing

The structure and personality of the team can address these issues proactively. If senior members of the team model asking for help, it normalizes and encourages the behavior. If the routines of the team encourage collaboration, it offers a good timeframe in which to ask questions.

If the team is social-first, they may prefer that questions be raised as they occur. If the team parses out the work so people can put their heads down and deliver, it may be best to avoid interrupting them during these sprints.

This is a dual responsibility. The team needs to show, and the member needs to learn, how and when to ask questions.