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Ajit is a scrum master with some experience in leading an agile team. He has been assigned to a new team and he finds the team in the middle of their first sprint planning meeting. The product owner (PO) is relatively new to his role and has gone through the required training. He has prepared the backlog and prioritized it.

PO briefs the team that goal of the sprint would be to deliver a key feature that customers are waiting for. Team reviews the user stories for this feature, does the estimation and concludes that all of them cannot be completed in one sprint and some of them will need to be deferred to the next sprint. The PO is willing to push all the stories not related to the desired feature to the next sprint but insists that all the stories for that feature be completed in current sprint. He says that it is necessary to deliver this feature right in this sprint as competition has already introduced it in their products and unless we deliver this feature quickly, we might lose some customers and business. Ajit tries to convince the PO that team will deliver higher priority User Stories in the current sprint and remaining stories will be delivered in the next sprint. However, PO still urges the team to find out the way to deliver all the user stories of the desired feature. He is of the opinion that if required, team should work extra hours and on holidays to achieve this goal. How do you think Ajit should handle this situation?

Suggested Solution:

Agility means adapting quickly to the changes in the environment. So, agile teams are expected to deliver faster. However, very often, we come across situations where we have a big list of things that need to be delivered and of course, we may not be able to deliver everything that has been asked, in a short time. In a situation like this, agile advises that we prioritize and things that have higher priority be delivered first. We should use Pareto Principle here and find the 20% of the functionality that deliver 80% of the benefits that user gets. Our PO needs to be skilled in use of Pareto principle and should be properly trained for the same.  Also the team has to bear in mind that whatever they deliver has to be directly usable by the user. So, they can not compromise the quality of delivery. Usually, while attempting to deliver bigger scope than what they can reasonably manage, teams tend to compromise on testing and some other activities that ensure good quality. This defeats the purpose of the delivery and should be firmly avoided. There is no point in delivering something that the users are not able to use. So, the development team should have a realistic target agreed with the users and ensure its delivery with quality. Further, we should never plan for working extra hours and on holidays. Agile teams generate a good momentum and sustain that momentum in ongoing manner. Working additional hours and on weekends disrupt their momentum and prevents working at a constant pace. In the long run it demotivates the team and may even cause burn out of team members. Therefore, except for exceptional situation that calls for exceptional response, working outside normal working hours and normal working days is to be avoided by the agile team. Ajit has to communicate this effectively to the PO. I would advise him to do this in a personal, face to face meeting with PO and get him in sync with agile ways of execution. The PO has to understand that what he is asking for is neither good for the organization; nor good for the team. If required, Ajit may take help of his Agile Coach or Agile sponsor to influence the PO.