Ensure Sprint Success with Stories that are Ready
"Never pull anything into a sprint that is not ready, and never let anything out of a sprint that is not done.”
Creating a comprehensive "Definition of Done (DoD)" is a widely accepted Agile practice that fosters a culture of accountability, minimizes rework, and reduces team conflict. However, when a team first establishes a DoD, things often get worse before they get better. Why? Because the team no longer gets credit for incomplete work. Committed stories are started but not finished, multiple stories are carried over to the next sprint, and the team's velocity decreases. So what can be done to overcome this common problem?
An important tool to ensuring that stories are completed is an unambiguous Definition of Ready (DoR). Many Scrum-team issues are rooted in misunderstood and poorly prepared stories. In fact, I believe that stories that are NOT ready, but have been COMMITTED to a Sprint, are the root of all Scrum evil. Stories that are "ready" need to be clear, concise, and actionable.
In this hands-on presentation and workshop, I will demonstrate the methods that I have used with multiple organizations to create stories that are truly ready for a Sprint, including:
- Learn my three-touch refinement technique (speed refining, sprint refining, and sprint planning) that requires teams to "touch" a story three times before the sprint
- Cultivate stories slowly and methodically to build shared vision
- Use Story Mapping to visualize the backlog, find missing stories, and understand customer journeys
- Write test cases before the sprint as a technique to decompose stories and uncover hidden questions
- Establishing a team-level "Definition of Ready (DoR)"
Outline/structure of the Session
This talk is divided into three sections:
In the Thinking section, I talk lay the context for the whole talk and make the case for having an Effectiveness (rather than Efficiency) mindset. I show a short video clip which I use as the centerpiece for my discussion and argument for creating an Effectiveness mindset. I will reference the book Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal, and talk about how companies like Blockbuster went out of business despite being highly efficient operations. This section takes about 20 minutes.
Next, in the Visioning section, I demonstrate on-screen how to build a story map, and why it's a critical component for building a shared team consciousness.. This is the cornerstone concept of "getting ready". I want the audience to understand how story mapping is a highly effective, albeit inefficient, technique, that must occur before a product backlog is created and should live on throughout the course of the software's lifecycle. This section lasts about 20 minutes.
In the final section, Refining, I implement a hands-on workshop so that participants can work with other team members to experience my three-step refinement process and ultimately create their own definition of ready. Participants will create stories based upon the story map that I provide, and will refine each story three times to experience the effective inefficiency of cultivating stories. At each step of refinement, participants will add to their own definition of ready, and will ultimately walkaway from the session with a practical team definition of ready that they can put to use in their own organizations.
- Articulate the difference between having an Effectiveness and an Efficiency mindset, and why Effectiveness is the cornerstone of Agility
- Appreciate why stories that are not ready for a Sprint are the root of Scrum evil
- Understand the value and purpose of creating story maps to build a shared team consciousness
- Participate in my three-step backlog refinement process to learn how to truly cultivate stories
- Walk away with their own Definition of Ready
Teams that have adopted agile but are struggling to complete successful sprints
An attendee of this session should have a strong working understanding of an iterative framework like Scrum. He/she should know the basic concepts of Scrum, like "sprints", "user stories", and "product backlogs". Although it is not required, having some experience either creating of consuming story maps would be beneficial. Finally, most participants should have already participated on a team that attempted to use Scrum to organize its work.