“Busy.” Is this the default answer when someone asks, “How are you doing?”
Life and work often come at us at an overwhelming rate with more to do than we have time for. If you’re a leader, you feel this even more for both yourself and your team.
How do you keep yourself and your team focused on the right work in this frenetic environment?
In this article, I dive into challenges like:
Have you ever been overwhelmed by so many priorities you can’t decide where to focus? Even if you did, you’re not sure you have enough time to deliver a good outcome. This is a case of too much work for our time.
The critical need here is prioritization. When there is too much work, you must decide which work is more important. Let’s look at two challenges you’ll face when prioritizing.
Who’s call is it when deciding what is more important?
In Scrum, the role of the product owner has decision authority. Their responsibility is to order the backlog of work with the highest priority on top. They collaborate with the development team during the backlog refinement event. But they are responsible for deciding what will deliver the most value.
When working with a team to prioritize, it can be helpful to facilitate a sorting exercise. Place each task on a card or sticky note and collect them all together. Pull one out and discuss with the team what it is and what is required. Once there is clarity about the work, place the card on the board or a table.
Pull out another one and repeat the process, this time in the end ask, “Is this higher priority or lower priority than the first task?” You can then continue the process, each time adding one card at a time to the group by its relative priority. If you want to reorder as you go along that’s totally ok.
Another piece of focusing the team is knowing what is in or out of scope. Once you have a prioritized list of work, you need to know where to draw the line. The question is, “How far down this list are we going to work?”
It’s not an absolute size like 10 hours because that depends on who’s doing the tasks. (At that point, you’re sizing the people rather than the work). Scrum uses relative sizing that can be measured with numbers, often called story points, or intervals like t-shirt sizes of small, medium and large.
After each sprint, the Scrum master will record how much work the team did by looking at the total complete story points. You have the team's velocity when you average the totals over the last 3-5 sprints.
When a team knows its velocity, or average amount of work per sprint, they can be confident about how much work they can take on for a given sprint. The sprint is a safe space where no work can be added unless the whole team agrees that it is necessary.
Did you know Scrum applies to more than just developing code?
When you understand the essentials of Scrum and the nuance of how to apply it, you can use it to level up aspects of everyday life.