June 18th, 2014

I Wish I Had A Burndown

Visibility is key to motivation and momentum

One of the most under-rated elements of Scrum, and other agile approaches, is the sprint burndown chart. It is so under-rated that it is often derided and there has been so much stick for this artefact over recent years that it is no longer a formal part of the Scrum guide. Almost every course that I run there is a conversation about how the team doesn't like it, doesn't use it or can't be convinced to keep this up to date. I'm not going to re-hash my views on these points, not least of which as I dedicated a whole chapter of my book to this point.

I do want to bring some attention to the good old burndown chart as the principle behind it has become evident in another aspect of my life recently. I wish I had a burndown chart for my current physic regime. For the last couple of years I have suffered with a bad back, aggravated greatly by standing at the front of a training room or travelling for long periods - both of which I tend to have to do a lot of in my job.

I have tried all sorts of therapy to ease the pain and identify the underlying cause, none of which have ultimately been successful so far but the one common theme from all the people who I have seen about this problem have all recommended that I build up the muscles in my core. My wife is keen on this - the only six-pack she's ever seen me with in our near-20 years together has been of the beer variety! I've never been keen on exercise, let alone muscle development but the prospect of reducing the pain is incentive enough for me to give it a go.

I am heartened by the fact that I have recently lost about 35 pounds in weight in roughly a nine month period - this proves to me that I can be disciplined and can be healthy. While I didn't have a burndown chart per se I did have confidence that by sticking to a mathematically calculated target (2,300 calories a day) I would lose weight and I also had the visibility of my progress by weighing myself on a daily basis. This regular encouragement gave me the motivation to keep going over a prolonged period of time.

I don't have the same resources in my current challenge and it is affecting me. I have no confidence that, for example, if I do 50 sit-ups every day then I will achieve my goal. Nor do I have the ability to see my progress on a daily basis. Thus, one month in to my challenge I don't know if I am close to my goal or if my efforts so far have been totally in vain. I have to keep going purely on faith that, if I keep going, it will ultimately be OK.

For an agile team, the burndown chart should be part mathematical calculation (if we do x amount of hours' work every day then we will achieve our goal for the sprint), part motivational (on day 6 we are on track), and part managerial (we may do less than planned work one day but we can catch up the next day).  Many teams drop the burndown chart or lose faith in this artefact which is a shame because of the power that it can have. Like I say, I go into in the reasons why in much more detail in my book and I would heartily encourage anyone who knows a team that is reluctant to use a burndown chart to explore these reasons because they are really missing a trick.

For me, though, I wish I had something I could use to keep my plan on track and my motivation going.


Burndown / Fitness / Momentum / Motivation

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February 24th, 2014

Blamestorming - Who's Accountable In Scrum?

One of the things about Scrum that many organisations find uncomfortable is the concept of accountability. Who do we hold accountable for this piece of work if things don't go well? Because Scrum doesn't have the role of project manager, there is no single point of failure upon whose shoulders responsibility will ultimately rest, which is inconvenient. There is an underpinning philosophy to Scrum which is that "people are good, they want to do a good job and nobody screws up deliberately". Not everybody agrees with this view of human nature and some are quite explicit in their distrust of other human beings. For these people, Scrum will never work as it is so heavily built on trust. Management who operate at a distance find it har... read more



Accountability / Blame / Motivation / Responsibility / Scrummaster / Single Point Of Failure

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December 5th, 2011

The Angelina Jolie Blog Post

I think one of the most glossed-over parts of Scrum in teams is the concept of a Sprint goal. My main concern with this is not that people aren't doing Scrum properly but that they are missing out on something that could give their teams, projects and products a massive boost. "After the Development Team forecasts the Product Backlog items it will deliver in the Sprint, the Scrum Team crafts a Sprint Goal. The Sprint Goal is an objective that will be met within the Sprint through the implementation of the Product Backlog, and it provides guidance to the Development Team on why it is building the Increment" - The Scrum Guide, Schwaber & Sutherland Most Scrum teams, in my experience, take as much of the highest priority Product Backlog ... read more





Cancelled Sprints / Focus / Motivation / Roi / Sprint Goals / Synergy / Themes

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November 8th, 2011

An Autumnal Father-Son Scrum(ish) Story

So here's the situation; the leaves are turning beautiful shades of red, purple, brown and orange, you can hear them crunching under your feet as you take a walk. Yeah...Autumn is my LEAST favourite time of year! I HATE clearing up leaves! When I bought this house, the fact that it had a fair-sized garden was not a plus point for me, and the fact that it was surrounded by huge trees was a very definite negative for this very reason. Anyway, the gutters were full and causing leaks outside the front door so the alert had been triggered. I needed to get my butt in gear and clear them up. I was also looking after my 5 year old son as my wife was taking my daughter to her dancing practice. Could I actually get anything done w... read more



Autumn / Backlog / Experimentation / Motivation / Multi-task / Non-software / Planning / Prioritisation / Quality / Slack / Technical Debt / Tools / Vertical Slices

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