Should I use hours to estimate my tasks in Scrum?

My new recommended “starter” “complementary practice” for new Scrum teams is to simply create tasks and use the “number of tasks remaining” for a burndown.  I encourage them more to focus on PRI (potentially releasable increments), Sprint Goals, and achieving a moderately consistent level of skill at meeting their Sprint forecasts (used to be called “Sprint commitment,” it’s been re-named in the Scrum Guide).  I also caution heavily against trying to achieve perfect forecast accuracy as that’s a fool’s errand in complex domains.

Using hours for tasks can lead down some really bad roads, most notably:  Former PM’s turned SM’s and other organizational members who try to apply PMI tactics (100% utilization, tracking actuals, etc) tactics to complex software development.  By preferring “sticking to the plan” over “responding to change”, they are completely violating Agile and Scrum.

This same bad road can also lead companies into think that “schedule/scope/cost” is an optimum model for software development.  As far as I’m concerned, schedule/scope/cost is a dead, failed model for software.  

Now, using hours for tasks doesn’t have to lead down those bad roads — but in my experiences, they usually do.  Let’s not forget, Scrum used to require hours for task estimation, many years ago, but the Scrum experiences of the wider community over 20 years has spoken on the topic — hours is not always optimum.  I would go farther than that and say, at the Sprint task level, it’s usually NOT optimum.

Given the above, I’ll leave it as an exercise to others to describe where using task hours might not lead down those bad roads.

_____
Charles Bradley
Professional Scrum Trainer
Scrum Coach-in-Chief
http://ScrumCrazy.com

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Scrum of Scrums is an event *of* the Development Team, *by* the Development Teams, and *for* the Development Teams!

Hello ScrumCrazy readers,

I’m proud to announce that my article on the “Scrum of Scrums” practice got posted on Scrum.org.

In the article I give some advice on excellence in execution of the Scrum of Scrums practice, and how the Scrum of Scrums has been misinterpreted my many to be a status meeting. It’s an event of the Development Teams, by the Development Teams, and for the Development Teams!

Please give it a look and give me feedback here or there. Feedback welcome!

New and Improved User Story Lifeycle Diagram — Free Creative Commons PDF download!

I had a designer friend update my User Story Lifecycle diagram, and she did a fantastic job!  You can download the PDF here:  http://www.scrumcrazy.com/lifecycle

New and Improved Diagram:

UserStoryLifeCycle_final_lg

The Older Diagram(also still available at the above link):

UserStoryLifecyclexm

Other Good User Story Links

Daily Scrum Patterns: The Sprint Backlog at the Daily Scrum

This blog post is part of a series of blog posts on Daily Scrum patterns.  For some background, you might find it useful to read my previous article on a simple Scrum Patterns framework.  Daily Scrum Patterns fall under the category of “Scrum Technique Patterns”, as introduced in that article.

Today we’ll talk about “Obstacle Resolution Patterns”

Notes:

“The Sprint Backlog at the Daily Scrum” Patterns

While it’s a popular and proven practice to <View the Sprint Backlog at the Daily Scrum>, it’s a controversial practice to <Update the Sprint Backlog at the Daily Scrum>, as the updating can detract from the true objectives and focus of the Daily Scrum in some situations.

Also, don’t forget to be creative and <Create Your Own Pattern>, and don’t ever hesitate to use a technique that is not described by a documented pattern.

The Sprint Backlog at the Daily Scrum Patterns:

Daily Scrum Patterns: Who Attends the Daily Scrum?

This blog post is part of a series of blog posts on Daily Scrum patterns.  For some background, you might find it useful to read my previous article on a simple Scrum Patterns framework.  Daily Scrum Patterns fall under the category of “Scrum Technique Patterns”, as introduced in that article.

Today we’ll talk about “Obstacle Resolution Patterns”

Notes:

Who Attends? Patterns

According to the Scrum Guide, the Development Team must attend. With many teams, and especially Shu level teams, the <Scrum Master Attends>. It’s usually a good practice if the <Product Owner Attends> so that they can help the Development Team if needed, often times at <The After Party>. It’s usually not good if an <Authority Figure Attends> on a regular basis.

Also, don’t forget to be creative and <Create Your Own Pattern>, and don’t ever hesitate to use a technique that is not described by a documented pattern.

Who Attends? Patterns:

Daily Scrum Patterns: Who Participates in the Daily Scrum?

This blog post is part of a series of blog posts on Daily Scrum patterns.  For some background, you might find it useful to read my previous article on a simple Scrum Patterns framework.  Daily Scrum Patterns fall under the category of “Scrum Technique Patterns”, as introduced in that article.

Today we’ll talk about “Obstacle Resolution Patterns”

Notes:

Who Participates? Patterns

The Scrum Guide says that “the Scrum Master enforces the rule that only Development Team members participate in the Daily Scrum.” However, some practitioners think it might be ok if the <Product Owner Participates> in the Daily Scrum. Having said that, it is incorrect Scrum if a <Non Scrum Team Member Participates> in the Daily Scrum, so consider using <The After Party> to let non Scrum Team Members communicate with the Scrum Team.

Also, don’t forget to be creative and <Create Your Own Pattern>, and don’t ever hesitate to use a technique that is not described by a documented pattern.

Who Participates? Patterns:

Daily Scrum Patterns: Facilitation Patterns

This blog post is part of a series of blog posts on Daily Scrum patterns.  (More coming in future posts over the next weeks).  For some background, you might find it useful to read my previous article on a simple Scrum Patterns framework.  Daily Scrum Patterns fall under the category of “Scrum Technique Patterns”, as introduced in that article.

Notes:

Facilitation Patterns

Most teams hold the Daily Scrum as a <Standup Meeting>, but this is not required in Scrum, and some teams that are distributed feel like it’s ok to hold a <Sit Down Meeting> so long as they are faithfully executing the objectives of the Daily Scrum.

Teams just starting with Scrum might benefit from a <Close Facilitator>, so long as that doesn’t turn into a <Controlling Facilitator>. A bad practice is facilitating a Daily Scrum such that it <Turns into a Waterfall Status Meeting>.

Also, don’t forget to be creative and <Create Your Own Pattern>, and don’t ever hesitate to use a technique that is not described by a documented pattern.

Facilitation Patterns:

Bradley Bug Chart Referenced in Awesome New Scrum Book

The Bradley Bug Chart was referenced in an awesome new Scrum Book that is now on the market.

Background

I got an email from this guy named Rich one day who wanted to talk by phone and ask me some questions about the Bradley Bug Chart. A great collaboration ensued, and I incorporated some of his suggestions into my chart. A couple of weeks later, he asked me to review Chapter 1 of this book he was writing. I have some of the highest standards around, and I’m not easily impressed, but that first chapter was extraordinary! Through that one chapter, and the conversations with Rich, I realized this guy knew Scrum inside and out. I then reviewed and commented on a few more chapters. I get asked to do unpaid reviews often, but I only spend my time on things that I think are excellent for the Agile community. I’ve spent some time reviewing another book that hasn’t been published yet, and it too, is a great one for the industry in my opinion. More on that one when it gets published.

The Bradley Bug Chart Gets Called Out

A little while later, Rich asked me if he could refer to my Bradley Bug Chart in his book(see page 277), in a section on how to handle bugs in Scrum. I was ecstatic, in part just having my work get recognition, but it was also recognition from someone I highly respected myself. It was great. I also re-wrote some of the praise that I gave Rich on that Chapter 1 review as a quote for his book. Rich also ended up quoting me a few times in other parts of the book, particularly in the chapter on “Continuous Improvement.” I’m not trying to brag here, just sharing the satisfaction of seeing some of my hard work and learning as being objectively recognized in the community.

About the Book

Here is the quote I wrote for his book:

  • “Finally a book about Scrum from the Development Team’s point of view. Richard’s description of the best and worst ways to implement Scrum is priceless. The first chapter alone is one of the best descriptions of ‘Scrum done well’ that I’ve ever seen.” — Charles Bradley

I highly recommend his book for anyone working with Scrum and Microsoft Visual Studio/.Net technologies.

Here is the book:

PSDBook_Small

Small Caveat: Rich is and was a trainer with Scrum.org, and since our initial collaboration, Rich inspired me to become a trainer for Scrum.org as well. So, while none of this was true at the time of the above events, I wanted to mention that we are now both trainers for Scrum.org. I have no financial interests in his book, whatsoever, and my journey to become a Scrum.org trainer came after my review of his book. Thanks Rich!

Daily Scrum Patterns: Talk Order

This blog post is part of a series of blog posts on Daily Scrum patterns.  (More coming in future posts over the next weeks).  For some background, you might find it useful to read my previous article on a simple Scrum Patterns framework.  Daily Scrum Patterns fall under the category of “Scrum Technique Patterns”, as introduced in that article.

Notes:

Talk Order

Most teams start out with a <Round Robin> approach. Teams that are distributed or are highly self organizing might use the <Talking Stick> approach. Some teams become better at getting work done if they <Walk The Items> instead, but use caution as that approach can lead to a Daily Scrum that <Turns Into Waterfall Status Meeting>.

Also, don’t forget to be creative and <Create Your Own Pattern>, and don’t ever hesitate to use a technique that is not described by a documented pattern.

Talk Order Patterns:

Dealing with Hard to Find Bugs (Sprint Killers) in Scrum

This question was asked in an online forum(I’m paraphrasing):

> How do people here handle the impact of difficult errors/bugs (but not legacy bugs) on sprint progress?  Like ones that take weeks to solve?

In my professional opinion, the answer is: we make them transparent and try to improve upon them — at Daily Scrums, Sprint Reviews, and Sprint Retrospectives.

I tend to coach teams to handle bugs in Scrum using the Bradley Bug Chart.

One of the aspects of the Bradley Bug Chart is that bugs like the one mentioned (i.e. non legacy bugs) end up on the Sprint Backlog.  Because they end up on the sprint backlog, if one is using Story points and velocity, no story points are assigned and no velocity is gained from fixing bugs.  This, once again, helps provide transparency on to the lack of progress that the team might be making due to bug fixing.  The truth can be a hard pill to swallow, but the truth will also help set you free from these mistakes in the future.

The transparency should help all involved understand that there is something that needs improving, that is dragging down the team’s ability to produce new features and working software.  I would argue that this is not a sprint killer.  It is simply a fact of complex software development.

The real issue comes down to this:  Scrum transparency is trying to tell your team something.  What is it trying to tell your team?  What is your team going to do about it?

Related Articles

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