As much as I’ve enjoyed enhanced teamwork and clearer goals since becoming a Scrum team, every sprint cycle has put us up against the clock when it comes to completing our goals. Sometimes it’s because we’ve overcommitted, sometimes it’s because unforeseen other priorities pop up that pull time away from our week, but it always results in a hit to morale during demos as we explain that we didn’t accomplish everything we’d set out to.
Doubling Our Time
A one week cycle is pretty tight as it is, especially when it comes to larger products with outside stakeholders. There have been several instances where we had to take larger products and split them into two cycles worth of tasks—one to plan, and one to execute. This has been a good solution, but the planning cycles make demos a lot less exciting and tend to slow down some aspects that could have been executed sooner.
After noticing this pattern during one of our retrospectives, we decided to make the switch to a two week cycle to try it out. So far, I’ve been much more satisfied with the work we’re putting out and the pace that we can work at. There’s no longer a need to panic when something unexpected happens that requires us to turn away from our projects and help. Instead, we can fully focus on whatever is needed at the moment, and know that there’s enough time to cover what we’re missing. I feel like we’ve doubled our productivity and, more importantly, doubled the quality of our deliverables. There’s time now to really flesh out tasks and get input from the whole team, which leads to a better result.
In addition to a longer sprint cycle, we’ve also identified what tools and information we need to set ourselves up for success. Unclear or general tasks were another chronic issue we faced, especially with projects proposed by outside stakeholders. With just the name of the task and few details, we found ourselves guessing what someone was looking for. Even worse, there were times where at the end of the sprint when we’d completed a project, the stakeholder would let us know it didn’t match what they were looking for, and we’d have to go backwards to fix it.
To help us avoid the lost time and resources caused by these miscommunication, our Scrum master Shea created a form that everyone must now fill out to add something to the Marketing Backlog. Key pieces of information are required, like the project’s scope, the deliverable expected, and the due date. This has made our tasking meetings so much easier, and minimizes the amount of time we need to spend redoing things because of mismatched visions.
Moving Forward Two Weeks at a Time
I feel like each time we reflect on our Scrum experience I have something positive to say about an improvement we’ve made or a milestone we’ve reached. That feels really good, and I think the two changes this time are huge steps for us in optimizing our process. I love that we have a team that can share with each other where we’re struggling and feel comfortable enough to request changes. I’m excited for the bigger projects we’ll be able to tackle together with longer sprints, and I’m so proud of everyone for the work they’ve done up to now.