Let The Wookie Win

Have you ever completed something? Of course you have.

Do you know how good that feels? Of course you do.

So it’s no surprise that painting the last big room in your new apartment, followed by closing out your storage unit such that everything you and your new wife own is now under one roof, followed by capping off Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ season all feels pretty freakin’ exhausting great! Everybody should get to feel this… more often!

So why don’t we?

At this point, I’m taken back to my Product Owner training, where (Scrum co-founder) Jeff Sutherland waxed poetic about… sports. So, with me please, imagine a sports team – your good ol’ neighbourhood generic sports team – it don’t matter what the sport is, just pick one – yes, any one, seriously – fine, curling – I picked curling for you – full-contact no-holds-barred curling.

Imagine that this team loses a match. Sucks, I know, but curling isn’t immune to losing. Think of what it’s like going into the next exciting match. Got it? Got that feeling? OK. Now imagine going into this next match, but having WON your previous bout. Got it? Got that feeling? Great – you’ve already visualized way more about curling than the average Canadian bear.

Gently slide curling aside for a moment, and apply these thought experiments to two completely different sporting and oxymoronic words: Scrum sprinting. By equating not finishing all the planned stories in a sprint to losing, and finishing all the planned stories in a sprint to winning, you get the feeling with which you go into the next sprint.

And it’s not just a feeling – there’s research to suggest that this kind of ‘failure’ prevents the team from improving, and that teams that finish early accelerate faster. Putting the ScrumOfOne hat back on, this means both not jam-packing your sprints with things to do, and preventing distractions from shifting your focus from getting things done.

Easier said than done? Well, I start with setting the bar lower, by setting myself up with fewer stories per sprint (the planned), and then leaving a buffer for things that come up (the unplanned). This is so common a tip in practicing Scrum that it is its own ‘pattern‘, where you can find more patterns here. These are ways to get started with Scrum and then get to Sutherland’s idyllic hyperproductive state. Interesting stuff, and it’s not too hard to see a ScrumOfOne corollary.