This week we held our first full blown scrum planning meeting. This was a 4 hour meeting with almost the entire team (Dev, PM, Test, UE, and UX). I say almost because test wasn’t fully represented. See we now utilize a centralized test group – resources are partitioned to my team, but right now they are all diverted to other projects. It was absolutely an amazing experience on all levels.

First, we went through the product backlog that’s spread across 4 or 5 projects. We decided that since we couldn’t dedicate the team to a single project and nor could we dedicate each resource to a single project that we’d have to run a combined sprint across multiple projects. I was skeptical this would work. I was wrong – it couldn’t have worked better. Project by project we selected items off the backlog and broke them down as much as we could. The goal was no task bigger than 2 days. In some cases we didn’t have enough information so we left the task large (10 days) with the understanding that it would need to be further broken down once the design was finalized. We also assigned tentative resources to each task.

Once we made it through all of the projects and had the full sprint backlog we looped around and looked at team assignments. We determined the appropriate load for the sprint and compared each person’s load compared to the appropriate load. This showed us that we had to cut some tasks and rebalance others. Since everything was prioritized (projects and tasks) the cutting was very easy. A couple of team member’s were still overloaded but they agreed to sign up for the commitment – note, they weren’t horribly overloaded, just a couple of hours.

So what was so great about this exercise?
1) The team came together and collaborated – it was awesome to see the transformation.
2) People stepped up to the plate – as I mentioned, test resources were scarce. The devs and PMs on the team stepped up and committed to handling the testing. It was what was best for the team.
3) There were a couple of people at the start of the meeting who were skeptical of Scrum. By the end of the 4 hour session they were fully on board. In a short period of time they saw the power and value of scrum. This was nothing short of energizing.
4) The team can now focus for the next month on the plan we’ve laid out. They feel good about the plan and feel invested in it. They believe they can execute it.
5) There are tangible deliverables for the sprint. This makes people feel like they’re working toward a purpose and not just floating around.
6) The team understands the priorities and they know they’re working on the most important stuff.

I think we’ll see other benefits over time. This is really our first sprint so I can’t claim success just yet. But we’re off to a great start.

I want to thank Ken Schwaber (http://www.controlchaos.com). In early January I attended Ken’s Scrum Master course. I believe this was a career altering experience. In my 12+ years of software development experience I struggle to remember a team so pumped up to go an execute – a team that is as setup for success as my team is. Right now I can't imagine ever going back to one of the other development processes (i.e. waterfall)!

Scrum Rocks!