and Stories and Sprints, oh my!

Why a pile of new jargon?

We want to ship a product.

"When it's ready" doesn't cut it.

Can't promise dates without data.

Can't estimate costs without a plan.

Can't plan without goal posts.

What's Scrum?

It's a way to structure your team's work queue in order to build predictability, so you can build a better roadmap.

It's two loops, each feeding into the other.

  1. Planning (specs, costs, schedules)
  2. Execution (do tasks, measure velocity)

There's a planning loop...

  1. Break Epics into Stories into Tasks
  2. Investigate/Minimize Unknowns
  3. Estimate the Tasks
  4. Weigh the costs, set the priorities
  5. Sketch out Milestones

... and a sprint to deliver results

  1. Pick up N effort points and call that this sprint
  2. Do work
  3. Measure velocity at end of sprint
  4. Adjust N

The beauty of it: Yes, estimating dev costs is hard.

But in this loop, consistency is all you need to practice -- the routine will calibrate, and the roadmap's dates become trustworthy.

The language of love specifications

Epics and Stories: define the goal posts, not the path

Dev Tasks: drill in til each step is reasonably detailed

Tasks ride the coattails of Stories: PMs don't have to track or weigh implementation details, just goals.

Overspecifying in the Story layer => long prep, fragile projects and siloed thinking

What is a Story?

  1. It can be weighed and prioritized by Stakeholders, so it must be readable.
  2. It has an end, so we can tell we've finished.
  3. It's small enough to release quickly, so we can stay close to the user.

4. It focuses Eng on the Users' needs, not on ephermia:
"As an Analyst, I want to filter by several columns by value-range so that I can find what predicts site-performance"

Tickets are for CLOSERS

This style of management needs Stories/Tasks to be closing quickly, or the estimations never converge with reality.

1. Estimate work in "effort points"
2. Measure velocity at end of sprint
3. Adjust next sprint's workload

What do you do with an oversized Story?

What do you do with an oversized Story?

You call it an Epic.
1. Contains sprint-sized Stories
2. Allows bird's-eye view of the months ahead
3. Still has an ending

Rule of Thumb: If the Brass
know about it, it's an Epic.

How much should we use?

Agile means: do what works for your team.
Jira has deeply ingrained preconceptions about Scrum, but must be configured to fit our workflow regardless of how much of its expectations we adopt.

Further Reading

recommended: Migrate your team to Kanban before getting into Scrum's points, sprints and roadmapping.

more about stories
more about sprints
Stack Overflow
Atlassian loves this stuff