The Dog Food Diet: Sprint 2

We scrambled for Sprint 1 and it ended up looking ugly.  In reality, we moved the product forward as reflected in the PO’s blessing of the sprint goal.  Still, we started without a sized backlog, as a result we overcommitted by 2X, and ended up with a burndown that screamed “FIRE ME”.

Sprint Goal: Physical elements in-place, able to accommodate the mechanical elements though with potentially large, ongoing manual intervention plus at least one monitoring function running (i.e. with at least one sensor in-place and communicating, somehow to the world outside).





Velocity:  We achieved 18 points in Sprint 1 so what should we commit to in Sprint 2?  If you guessed 18 points, you’re right.

So what did we actually commit to in Sprint 2?  If you guessed some multiple of 18 points, you’re right again.  67 to be exact.  #ScrumFail

Review: We showed the physical space with one sensor mounted and continuously uploading two values to a PHP page on an accessible web site.  Sprint goal was achieved. We recorded a velocity of 50 points.

Retrospective: We fixed some things from Sprint 1.  Product backlog was ready, we didn’t add scope mid-sprint.  We over-committed, big-time again.  50 points is an improvement from the 18 we got in Sprint 1, but it’s not 67 which is what we committed to.  Scrum Pattern: Teams that finish early accelerate faster.  That’s what the data shows, and it makes sense even in this incredibly undersized data set.  We achieved way more velocity in this sprint than Sprint 1, but because we committed to even more than that, not only is our PO pushing work to the next sprint, but we feel bad about it when we should feel good.

In other news, the new technology is a little easier to work with than we expected.  And the stories were more consistent technically, allowing us to minimize context switching and increase focus.  We talk about keeping this consistency bonus in mind when making up the sprint backlog but decide not to do anything official about it … yet.

How did our kaizen from Sprint 1 work out?  Having the backlog ready for Sprint Planning definitely made the sprint ‘feel cleaner’ but it’s not clear to anyone that this had any relationship to the bump from 18 to 50 points.

Our kaizen for the next sprint?  We took two 13 point stories into this sprint.  One of those definitely should have been split further, and 13 in general seems too risky for a team of this velocity, so our kaizen for next sprint is to not take in anything larger than an 8.

Note on sprint length.  We over-committed this sprint, same as Sprint 1, so post-retrospective we’re four weeks into this “Scrum” project and we haven’t built a proper sprint backlog.  With 1 week sprints we probably would have fixed this after week 2.

Further notes on sprint length, wherein I Praise A Tool For Expressing An Agile Principle

When I train Scrum and people ask me which tool they should use, I tell them I hate all tools equally but deign to use some of them.  Below is a Jira burndown chart from a sprint in progress (not this sprint as you can tell).  The red line is our progress, the gray line is the slope we need to meet to land this Sprint on-time.

wekendsNow this is a very small thing, but I absolutely love it to death.  Note how the gray line flattens out on that first weekend?  We configured Jira to use a standard 5 day work*** week and it’s smart enough to flatten the glide path on days when we’re not supposed to be working.

The Agile principle?  Sustainable pace. If people work the weekend on their own, that’s fine, you’ll take it.  But don’t setup any expectation that they do so, whether it’s the blatant act of over-committing, which we’re now struggling with, or the subtle pressure of a glide path that doesn’t include downtime.  Don’t be these guys!

*** If you configure your tool such that you have 7 day work weeks, turn in your Agile card now and go reflect upon your sins.

About JR
Software guy, startup guy, non-fiction glutton, south shore inhabitant

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