Posted by: Jeff Timmins | October 25, 2013

Conflict with Sprint interruption

Conflict that is a result of Sprint interruption

Note that the sub-title of this post is “How I told my Brother about Agile and now he understands why there is conflict in my role as a Release Manager.”

My brother is not new to the world of technology as he has been a Medical data specialist for years. He took a consulting role with a company developing data reporting services & software recently so the last time I visited him I asked if he had been introduced to Agile Development Process yet. Oddly enough he had just written the phrase in his notebook. Because he seemed interested in the topic I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to teach my older brother something about my world.

Telling my brother about Agile Development Process

I started the introduction with the general differences between Agile & Waterfall. I then went over the basics of Sprint backlogs, Business Owners, Sprint planning, velocity, stand-ups and Sprint Review meetings (I skipped the whole Chicken & Pig thing). I also included the difference between Epics & User Stories and how stories can be sized. I talked about Agile being a set framework that can be applied differently across different environments. I even recommended my favorite Agile book (Agile Project Management with Scrum by Ken Schwaber). All of that information sharing was straight-forward and without much of a comment or reaction. When I started talking about breaking or interrupting a Sprint that is when it got interesting.

The next step was sharing my basic beliefs of the benefits or underlying process of how Agile works. That is, if a team starts a Sprint then they shouldn’t be interrupted. If 100% of their Sprint is interrupted with something that is deemed more important by the Business Owner, then they time spent on the Sprint up to that point will be lost or the efficiently of that time greatly reduced. I included that another option is for the Business Owner to trade their “emergency” User Story for another User Story that can be delayed for another Sprint (in effect removing the least important story for the now most important & hopefully the story points are close to the same).

Why Developers and Release Managers might start a conflict by standing up for the Agile process and I guess my brother is on “the other side”

Wanting to give him the full story behind Sprint interruption, I added that some Business Owners or Executives don’t like the idea of “trading” a story of lessor importance for the “most” important story they just demanded. What they typically want is both! Their thought is that “I just want to add something, not to take anything away.” My brother fully understood but I didn’t sense that he also was on “their” side. That was when I dropped the bomb. I concluded with saying to my brother “When they don’t want a take anything away it takes away from the benefits of Agile and … .” He then interjected something like “No wonder you have conflict at work Jeff, you just need to do what they want.”

Right … I have seen some conflict in my days because of this … and I can now see that my brother’s view of the whole process of that of getting the product out on-time … but my brother is really on “the other side” on this topic. His position is along the lines of not considering it a risk to have people work longer than normal hours (in theory they are not as efficient) or the extra testing time it will take (less efficient) to complete all the work. My thought is if the Business Owner and/or Executives agree to the Agile process then they should play by the agreed upon rules. And the conflict comes when communicating to the Business side when that certain User Story will be included and/or trying to schedule a new time for it to be released.

Don’t get me wrong, I want the product to be completed on-time + I want the customer to be happy. What I don’t think is beneficial to either the company or the customer is an inefficient process.

My task is to help people like my brother get out of “the other side.”

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