Skip to content

Category Archives: Scrum

Agile Scrum | Three Things That Cause Scrum Backlash (And How to Fix Them)

Most people hear the word “Scrum” and think of something that’s stuck to the bottom of their shoe. Au contraire. Scrum is an agile software development methodology designed to foster iterative and incremental development. Scrum projects are broken down into 24-hour development cycles contained within 30 day sprints. Team members agree upon which work items […]

Continue Reading: Agile Scrum | Three Things That Cause Scrum Backlash (And How to Fix Them) →
What’s the ideal Sprint length

Introduction

I may have blogged about this previously. I have written so many blogs, I can’t recall any more. However questions regarding Sprint length surface on the forums regularly.

As per usual, the answers one must give always depends on the context and every context is different than the next. So let me start with the context – this is an excerpt of a post on the scrum development group on Yahoo. Incidentally, Yahoo groups is a good place to hang out. You learn a lot from all the questions and the different contexts facing teams around the world.

The Context

A team of 5 members currently working with 10-day sprints. They haven’t managed in the previous 5 sprints to have 100% of the User Stories completed. It is typically around 60-70% completeness.

There is proposal to increase the sprint duration to 15 days “because doing review meetings and planning every 10 days is a lot of overhead” according to the team.

My thoughts

Let me start out by stating some facts …

The official Scrum sprint length is 30 days. However I don’t think (I don’t have facts to back me up on this but it’s the sense I get from all the communications on all the forums) there are many teams working to 30 days any more.

Much of the Agile community agrees that shorter Sprints are better. So 2 week Sprints and even 1 week Sprints are becoming more the norm.

Why are shorter Sprints better?

1. Well we have learned from the Lean folks that shorter Sprints means less work-in-progress which means shorter cycle times and overall less waste.

2. Additionally, shorter Sprints tends to stress your process, revealing any flaws. Like no automated build process, automated test harnesses our unit test frameworks. Fixing these flaws has a tendency to provide leaps in productivity gains for your organization.

So assuming you buy the argument that shorter Sprints are better. My initial quick answer to the question is don’t try to lengthen the Sprint. Rather try to figure out why you’re only hitting 60% – 70% of your originally committed goals.

By the way, 60% – 70% may not be that bad, after all you have a team that is currently demonstrating a consistent output Sprint after Sprint.

So that leads me to think that either the story point estimation is not consistent, or the team is just over-committing. So I would suggest that they do the following.

Try to really assess what is going on in the retrospective. Let team members speak freely about their thoughts on the matter.

I would definitely spend a little bit of time re-assessing the size of a few completed items i.e. if the story was 10 points originally, what would they estimate the size now, after the fact. Re-assessing the relative size may well fix the problem.

Some folks, most notably Ron Jefferies, would argue why do you need to get your estimation down pat. Well in my opinion for one, predictability goes a long way to help remove team stress. So its great for a team to say we can commit to say 100 points and deliver between 90 and 110 each Sprint. The business will love you for this.

Whats good about this problem in and of itself is that Scrum is doing what it’s supposed to do; surface issues for the team to resolve. And if the team feels that going to 15 day Sprints is the right thing to do, so be it – it might well be. But I would try to first figure out why 2 weeks is not cutting it. Many teams make it work so it should be doable.

Hope this helps if you’re in the same boat. If not at least if it provides food for thought!

Jack
agilebuddy


Continue Reading: What’s the ideal Sprint length →
Switching stories mid sprint

Introduction

I blogged about this some time ago and then posted the blog on various agile forums to judge peoples responses.

Most of the responses were well reasoned, however, one of the responses I received shocked me somewhat and so I feel that it’s worth blogging about this particular situation once more.

The response I received was “You’re not serious you’re going to ignore the PO” and “You can’t be a slave to the process”

In all fairness, there are many situations under which the need to switch stories arise. And the specifics were not really provided. For example:

How long are the sprints?
How far into the current sprint are you?
Are there stories that have yet to start that is of similar size that you can switch it out with?
Is this a critical issue that needs to be fixed ASAP as customers are complaining and may negatively impact revenues?

Those are some of the questions that need to be asked when making that decision.

In response to being a slave to the process…

Well you’re either a slave to the process or the team is a slave to any chicken in the company who shouts the loudest. Lets go back to basics and why the Sprint is there in the first place. It’s designed to provide stability for the team to get stuff done. Hopefully you’re doing short sprints so it’s not a lot of time before the team pops it’s head up again and asks for more direction.

If the team listens to whatever the next flavor of the month is, then we’re back to square one where there’s just chaos and nothing gets done. Seriously, smart people figured out why we need to do it this way. There is strong evidence to support that this makes a difference, a really positive difference. So lets not willy nilly and go changing plans whenever someone in the organization feels like there’s something more important to do.

Moreover, in this situation, I think it’s important the team asks some serious questions as to why suddenly there’s a story that’s so super urgent that it calls for a change in plan. Lets say you’re doing 2 weeks sprints and lets say you’re midway. This means in reality that 5 days ago, nothing was more important (top priority items get selected to go into the sprint). Why all of sudden is their a need to change direction so soon after. Additionally can’t it wait another 5 days?

Now I am sure there are times where such a situation arises and that’s fine. I would never be so hard-line to suggest that the team doesn’t collaborate over this and decide what are the best options. And in such a case, it’s important that the team does this.

But lets be very careful how we deal with this. Because once you do this once, it’s a slippery slope after that.

So what would I do. As already mentioned above, I would sit down with the team. Have the PO explain the dilemma. Thereafter, it’s up to the team to decide if there is an easy swap out that doesn’t impact the Sprint goals and productivity. Ultimately if it is possible, I am sure most teams would do it any ways. Level heads should prevail.


Continue Reading: Switching stories mid sprint →
State of Agile

Introduction

Seems like there’s lots going on in the agile world right now. Lots of talk about Lean and it’s impact on Agile. Lots of attacks going on at the CSM certification. Kanban is all over the news these days. And just last week, I read about a new Agile methodology called Stride.

So how do we make sense of this all?

My opinion is that there is value in each of the methodologies (for the purposes of this blog I’ll refer to them all as methodologies even though some of you might not think of them as such). It’s real important to read about them all so that you are armed with enough knowledge to know what’s out there. I see this as a toolset from which you can choose for your specific situation.

In order to illustrate ….

Scrum is a methodology and process that provides the mechanisms for teams to learn and adapt. Scrum however doesn’t say much about the meaning of DONE and how to accomplish that. That’s where XP comes in. XP has great practices around engineering discipline. It teaches us all about craftsmanship and producing quality work. I personally cannot see anyone practicing Scrum without at least some elements of the XP toolset. Be it pair programming, TDD, ruthless refactoring, emergent architectures etc.

Lean on the other hand is way more philosophical, but they have great teachings. For example, recognizing that work-in-progress is a liability is huge. If you start to think like this, you’re going to minimize work-in-progress and as a result you will improve overall cycle time. With Lean, people come first. What effect does this have on your organization? Well happy teams make happy customers, better quality software, improved work culture.

And Kanban? Well Kanban helps teams with flow (i.e. cycle time, throughput etc) and almost eliminates the need for traditional sprints which I won’t get into here (subject for another discussion). So many teams are using kanban boards for controlling the workflow of tasks or stories, or both.

Scrum has also been said to have problems with scalability and cross site development shops. Well Stride in it’s infancy (not even sure you can call it an accepted methodology yet) has adapted Scrum to provide capabilities for better handling these sort of situations.

So what do you do?

Well in my opinion Scrum provides the best overall process or mechanism to manage agile project. It’s a good base to start with and I would definitely start with Scrum. But you can’t go it alone with Scrum. You have to pick and pack from other methodologies till you get what works for you.

I think Agile is evolving and most likely wont stop. And why should it. I want us to get better at it. And there’s so many smart people thinking about how to make software development better. I can’t wait to see what it will be like in 5 years from now.


Continue Reading: State of Agile →