QnA with Josh about Scrum

Lots of questions sent my way of late. 🙂 This set of questions is from another team that’s been looking at leveraging scrum methodologies.  I can’t honestly say I’m the best person to be answering these questions. We only have 3 completed sprints under our belt, we’re a very well contained team without many interdependencies in the code with other groups, and I’d say we are still in the learning phase ourselves. 

• What’s the typical scrum times for your groups?
We meet at 10am.  It’s been a stretch for 1-2 people every now and then, but I think most of us generally prefer the “what I did yesterday, what I’ll do today” mentality you get from the morning meetings. 

• What metrics from the scrums/Sprints have you found to be successful/meaningful?
Having 4-6 specific goals that you track your sprint items towards has been very helpful in enabling people to focus and other teams to understand what our team is working on. 

We have also recently been looking once/week at each individuals “burn down” chart to see if there is a need to defer or load balance work items.  And of course the overall burndown chart is great to see progress against.

• Have you had success at having shippable code at the end of the Sprint?
Each sprint we’ve ended with one or more pieces of code that we’ve shipped to customers. 

• How much negotiation are you having with the dev organization on scrum (times, reporting, sprint planning, goals of each sprint)?

We honestly haven’t had much need for negotiation. But I think our team is pretty small and therefore it’s been easier to rally everyone around specific goals for each sprint and the general concepts of a methodology. 

Something else to keep in mind is that, IMO, like any methodology you have to consider to right balance for your products and the people you have.  Maybe you don’t need some components, but maybe you also want to pair it with something else like test driven development.  If there is a need for negotiation then perhaps you should split up your teams in such a way that it’s easier for the set of folks to agree on common goals.

I think it’s important to leverage the scrum not just for dev tasks, but also for PM, test, etc.  This way its not just something you do to keep track of developers, but something your team leverages to be successful overall.

• What are the normal team sizes in the scrums that are reporting daily status?

We’re in the 7 range. The goal of our daily meeting is to be done in less than 15 minutes.  We’ve had to do some things to achieve that. Namely we’ve banned laptops and cell phones from the meeting.  We’ve also all had to make commitments to each other to come prepared with the answers to the daily questions.  I worry that many more than this would make me want to have seperate meetings since the goals start to be less aligned.

• What’s your goal for % completion of committed tasks for the team per sprint?
We haven’t explicitly set a goal here.  We’ve found the retrospectives to be valuable in analyzing success/failures in each sprint.  I think we are also still learning to make sure we have enough data up front, before starting a sprint, to make the call about whether or not everything is costed well and aligned to the high level goals.  I’d say our goal is to ensure that we don’t compromise one of the 4-5 high level goals, but so far we’ve also tried to keep things extremely achievable. 

Comments (2)

  1. J.P. says:

    I have a few questions actually. I was on a team looking into scrum at one point and ran into some blocking issues. I have always wondered how teams are successful with the model, since we did nothing but argue about it for several weeks when we finally gave up and decided to just start working.

    1. How do you manage responsibilities that fall outside the sprint? Do you include them in the sprint? What if there are too many to complete any of them within the sprint timeline? (I ask because I was always told that its important that a sprint be a fixed size and NOT changed to match any external goals….which brings me to..) People normally are tracking more work than its possible to keep track of in 15 minutes aggregated among 7 people.

    2. How do you line up your sprints with various milestones set at different levels above/below you? (Do you even try?)

    3. How do you manage…YARM (yet another reporting mechanism)? We already drown in the multitudes of spreadsheets, websites, bugs, and project workbooks that various third parties require from our team.

    4. How do you properly track dependencies? We spent much time debating how to handle various other timelines and external dependencies and how it had to fit with our schedules and sprints.

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