How to Vastly Improve Your Scrum Team in an Hour

One of the services we provide is doing an assessment and subsequent coaching for Scrum teams that others have trained. We've recently formalized our service into Scrum Clinic Coaching Workshop because we've seen so many patterns of Scrum stagnation and challenge. Some of the symptoms that many Scrum teams exhibit are:

  • testers falling behind developers
  • frustration at the time it takes to do estimation
  • many stories open at the end of a sprint

You can take a big step towards eliminating these symptoms by learning just a few things we've outlined below. It'll only take an hour to review all of this material, but the return should be fairly dramatic.

Quick Lesson On Acceptance Testing Learn the basics of Acceptance Test-Driven Development in 30 minutes. Even just creating test specifications without automating them will get you big benefits. It's not very hard to do this. We've had people say they've experienced their "best sprint ever" after just answering the question "how will I know I've done that" for each story in a sprint.

Estimation
While Planning Poker is very popular, our experience is that it often takes a lot longer to do estimation than other methods that provide just as good results.  While Planning Poker is often a good place to start, if you want to shorten the time it takes for estimation, try out Steve Bockman's Team Estimation. Many teams report similar results in  1/10th to 1/4th the time it takes to do Planning Poker.  It also takes only about 10 minutes to learn.  An alternative to this approach, and really good for larger groups is James Grenning's Planning Poker Party (from which Planning Poker gets its name).   It's based on the same principles of Team Estimation but is done differently.

Focus on eliminating Delays Certain delays literally create extra work. You are too busy to be making more work for yourselves. A 10 minute read combined with a 10 minute webinar on How Delays Cause Waste: A Main Tenet of Lean will give you much greater clarity on how delays cause problems and why you need to minimize them. One of the reasons Scrum works is that its time-boxing implicitly eliminates many delays. However, when the reason for this is understood explicitly, you'll find guidance in making decisions more effectively. One example in Scrum is to have have as few stories open as possible at any one time. Remember the mantra - "stop starting and start finishing." More and more Scrum teams are discovering that managing their work-in-progress a la Kanban makes them more effective.

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