Spotting the Sign of Trouble

Just like traditional projects, scrum projects can also run into trouble every now and then. Here are some Scrum specific techniques to look for potential trouble with your project:

  • Missing the Target: Consistently check that the work completed matches the plan, and you do not have any leftover features added to the product backlog at the end of the sprint. This is known as Snow Ploughing. This is similar to the end of the first and start of the second sprint when you are revising estimates to match team productivity. However, if this continues to happen at the end of each sprint, you must gather the team to discuss and understand why this is happening, and take appropriate action.
  • Miscommunication leads to Wrong Product: Another notable indicator of a problem is when the team frequently produce pieces of a feature and throws them away. This could be due to the development of features that turn out to be a low priority, are not what was required or are incorrect, or need to be revised based on receiving new information. Often the primary reasons for these problems relate to the business representatives not asking the right questions to understand the business problem. Or the customer doesn't understand what you're trying to build, or you do not have accurate information about the real business need.

If you believe these are possibilities, then you should conduct a product review with the customer to understand the root cause of the problem.

Based on the customer's input during this review, you should revise the product backlog appropriately.

Another focus item to avoid trouble is to carefully watch team attendance at meetings. Are all your core team members present and participating in daily team meetings and follow up activities? There could be valid reasons for the occasional mental or physical absence by an individual, but repeated absences could be signs of a problem.

The last item to think through when looking for Scrum trouble spots is, are you the fixer of all the problems you see? Successful Scrum teams are self-organized and self-governed. So you should have confidence and must believe in your team members, and leave some space for the self-governing to work. This means resisting the temptation to be the fixer all the time.

Agile approaches are powerful and deliver great outcomes. Careful monitoring of the common trouble spots can help ensure you will deliver business values successfully.