Does your Team reach its Sprint Goal at the end of the Sprint? Yes, no...maybe?
How many chances do you have to finish what you committed two/three weeks back exactly before the last day of the Sprint? Very few I guess. You might finish earlier, or most likely later. Let's explore some situations:
1. You finish right on time - this is however very unusual and I would look suspicious. I met once a team that finished everything on time, no sooner, no later. Everything changed when we brought a Tester in the Team :)
2. I finished earlier, however my team members didn't, so we haven't reached our Sprint Goal
3. The whole team is far from reaching the Sprint goal - sounds familiar?
I would ignore no. 1 and look into no. 2 within this article.
As an Agile Coach I do not look into fixing the problem, but investigating the root cause instead. I do not focus on getting outcomes in this case, I focus on the process that needs to be fixed. Fixing the Sprint Goal issue cannot be achieved within some iterations while you take less work. You need to look into the process behind that enables you to achieve your goal.
To cure the Sprint Goal one needs to investigate at least 3 sources:
1. Do you respect your agreed Definition of Ready? Or maybe for many Teams - do you have a Definition of Ready? If not, get one asap and make sure the whole team understands it and respects it.
2. Do your team members know when something Done is really Done? I mean Done Done!! Inspect your Definition of Done and consider it when planning for the next Sprint.
3. Do your team members have any idea what to do when they finish earlier? They all jump to new work, they all love to code, nobody whats to play Testing or try out what your team mate developed by himself and cannot handle alone. Check out my Definition of Next (DoN).
Team Rainbow Pony is doing Scrum (you can probably notice from the Team name, right?), so they have a Sprint Goal at the end of the 2 weeks Sprint. Just as many other Scrum Teams they find sometimes hard to achieve their sprint goal and whenever they do it, they celebrate and have a great time.
At the beginning of each new sprint the Team sets a goal and check on a daily basis how close/far they are from achieving their goal.
One of the reasons team members do not reach the Sprint Goal is the fact that they do not work as a Team, they often work individually and deliver individual work. They work on various goals that summ up the Sprint Goal. Of course this is wrong and Scrum Masters need to signal this loud and clear!!!
Let's say the Team has a Daily Stand-up and Lili informs the team she finished her User stories and will pick a new one from the top of the backlog. Marie is also finished with her commitments for this sprint and looks into refactoring. Anna, however notices in the Daily that Sissy has still 5 tasks open and she might not manage all of them until the end of the sprint, so she points out in the Daily that she will support Sissy. The result is that everybody is working and doing great job, however only Anna is doing the right thing to help her Team reach the Sprint Goal.
"Stop Starting, Start Finishing"
Does your team know what to do if they are finished? If they are new in Scrum they will probably think about taking new stuff, however a great Scrum Master would bring them back to the Sprint Goal.
Many Teams start with DoD and DoR as team agreements to reach a common understanding that would enable performance. I would include also in discussions a team agreement on what to do when someone is DONE - I would call this Definition of Next (DoN)
1. Is anyone blocked and I can help?
2. Can I support someone close a topic?
3. Can I start something new?
This could be an enabler towards reaching the Sprint Goal and in the same time help the team work more on cross functionality.
If your Team on a regular basis reaches let's say 70% of the agreed goal and 30% new work, they may suffer from the above 'disease'. Answering one question ('I am done, what do I do next?') could help them cure.
Another cure for them would be - improving the team members relationships in team, reaching a high lever of collaboration. In this situation the support will come without agreement, it will come out of 'friendship', as 'a friend in need is a friend indeed'. I know a Team that had no DoN, however they were every time supporting each other, no matter how tempting was to start something new.
And magic happens!
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