Going Agile: 2 Weeks On The Life Of a Scrum Team

The Ubuntu Certification team is fully distributed and has now been running Scrum for over 9 months. The team has members in Canada&US, Europe and Asia. I have been blogging about several parts of our scrum experience, now is time to piece it all together!

We run in 2 week iteration cycles within a larger 6 month release cadence. Here is what those two weeks look like:

Day1 (Thursday)- Planning session

We run the planning session (30 minutes) just after the previous iteration Demo session – No room to breath! The reason for doing this is just down to timezone and trying to get as many people as possible into this sessions.

We host the planning session in Mumble, and we review the backlog for the next iteration. We found it a bit dull just for the Product Owner to explain what each story was about. Instead, we ensure that everyones participation by agreeing the definition of done for the stories. This eliminates any misunderstandings of what needs to be deliver and ensure that everyone is paying attention.

Just after the planning session, the scrum team gets together to flesh out the task-board for the iteration. At this point the stories are re-size via IRC planning poker: At the count of three by the Scrum Master every one pastes a t-shirt size on the IRC channel.

Following the poker planning, the team discusses possible implementations and they write down tasks in the IRC channel, to be later translated by the Scrum Master into the backlog.

Daily Scrums

We run two scrums (no longer than 15 minutes) a day. A reduced one at 9.30 UK time with Europe and Asia, and a larger one at 15.00 UK time including UK and US. We run both using Mumble but Google+ is also a good option.

Day 5 (Wednesday) – Backlog review with the Scrum Master

On Wendnesday, Ara and I review the progress of the backlog and discuss any stories that might need to be refocused, unblocked or delayed to a later iteration.

Day 6 (Thursday) – Discussing impediments and new ideas

At this point, we have reach the equator of the iteration. We host a 45 minutes meeting following the main scrum to talk about any issues the team wants to raise. This mainly focuses around problems facing our work or new ideas for future iterations or releases.

Also, the Scrum Master send an mid-iteration status email. This ensures that nothing is falling through the cracks and everyone knows the overall iteration progress. We find that scrums tent to focus on what people are working and not what is left in the backlog, this can lead to lower priority user stories being worked on while higher importance ones remain overlooked.

Day 9 (Tuesday) – Backlog review for next iteration

The Scrum Master, Product Owner and I get together to review what stories are likely to not be completed. This is normally 80% accurate and gives us a better idea of how many new stories are to be added for the next iteration. Then, we discuss priority of stories and we create a draft backlog for the next iteration. Although there are always  changes during the planning session, this gives us a solid draft to start from.

Day 11/Next Day 1 (Thursday) – Demo

We completed the full circle and we are back at the demo and planning meeting, where a demo lead shows via Spreed (screen sharing tool) what has been achieved.

3 thoughts on “Going Agile: 2 Weeks On The Life Of a Scrum Team

  1. T-Shirt sizes have significant problems. Is there a particular reason you decided to use them?

    Day 5 and Day 6 seem confusing to me. Why is this work not being done as part of the daily scrum? The Scrum master sending mid week status seems oddly not self-organizing.

    Day 9 implies that your team does not honor sprint commitments and regularly needs an “out”. Hardly trust building to the stakeholders.

    1. I find t-shirt sizes easier for people to relate to and work great cross cultures.

      Day 5 is part of the scrum master role to remove obstacles for the team. The obstacles are indentified by the team on the scrum.

      Day 6 – retrospectives are clearly defined as separate ceremonies, i would be interested to know why would you recommend to mix up the scrum with this?

      Day 9 – sorry but i didn’t understand your comment. This is basically about planning the next iteration.

      1. About the iteration report – not sure this has to do with self organisation. In a fully distributed team we have to supplement the information that you get from “always on” information radiators. Team members still decide the actions to take from the status. Also, please remember that is not possible for all team members be at tne same scrum.

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