Friday, March 27, 2009

Sprint Committments...

This post is my response/summary to a thread on the Agile Alliance LinkedIn group related to the same topic. If you'd like to read all the details, click here.

The question asked by Rene Rosendal was:
I've seen teams who don't seem to take their sprint/iteration commitments very seriously. When a story is in jeopardy, they don't increase their work intensity in the attempt to finish it. Instead, the words "well, we'll just have to carry it over to the next sprint" pass their lips very easily. Obviously the Scrum Master or Product Owner cannot "force" the team to work harder and make things happen. ...
My response was three fold:
  • Assuming they made the commitment, you have a team / culture problem... lack of caring or motivation
  • Or you have an empowerment problem. The team is not actually committing, but someone else is declaring commitment for them. I've seen management assign the sprint goal and work. How can the team commit to something they know is not possible just because someone said it? The team should own the sprint planning session of work.
  • Or you have a communication problem. Maybe the team is committed and they selected the work. But the point of agile is that things change. Maybe they found things during the sprint that made them realize the commitment was not obtainable. Did the team go back to the Product Owner/customer and clearly communicate this? Did they negotiate? Did they make sure that the work they were pursuing was still correct in light of this new knowledge?
Other great points:
If the team puts in extra work to complete a story are they penalized by having the organization expect that they will do the same number of points in the next iteration? - Rob Scott

Most sprints my team fails to complete everything on the Sprint backlog. We do not consider this a Sprint failure. Instead, we remind ourselves to focus on getting the topmost things on the backlog completed first, so the items of greatest priority are done by Sprint review. I think this is extremely common. - Dan Greening

Is the product owner easily accessible to the team and actively involved during the sprint? - David Sallet
Fundamentally, commitment is like trust... you can't make it happen, it is chosen by the holder.

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