Warning Sign #1 — Work items lack appropriate level of detail

If your team consistently fails to complete planned work during a Sprint, it is very possible that the backlog items may not include a sufficient level of detail. For example, your work items may not be written in the proper format (i.e. not using the form “As a….I would like to…so that I can…”. Also, it is possible that the Acceptance Criteria may lack proper detail or be missing completely. All of these scenarios can lead to poor team performance. Why does this happen? One common root cause is ineffective (or absent) Backlog Refinement meetings. If the team does not invest time to craft high-quality backlog items, it will lead to negative results very quickly.

Warning Sign #2 — Product Owner does not share long-term vision

Why is your Backlog Refinement not working? Another reason that may contribute to poor performance is the lack of a product vision (a.k.a. “Product Goal” in the latest revision of the Scrum Guide). Having an insight into the Product Goal enables the team to create the right stories that support the goal. Without the goal, the team will likely produce work items of low value. If this is the case, consult the Product Owner and work with him/her to define a tangible Product Goal that will help the team rally their efforts.

Warning Sign #3 — Work items are consistently too large to be executed within a single sprint

If your team consistently encounters stories/work items that are too large, this means that the team did not invest sufficient effort to refine the work items during Backlog Refinement. Injecting a collection of large units of work into a Sprint is inviting failure since work is typically more complex or more labor-intensive than we predict. The Backlog Refinement meeting is designed for the team to adjust the scope and size of work so that the team has a higher chance of completing them during a single sprint.



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An Alten Company, Cprime is a global consulting firm helping transforming businesses get in sync.