Everyone Writing Tasks

I changed up the usual way I run the detailed part of our Sprint planning meeting with everyone coming up with tasks. For almost all prior meetings:

  • Stick selected backlog items for the Sprint up on the wall on giant stickies.
  • One by one lead the discussion on what tasks need to be done for each item.
  • Write each task down, come up with an hour estimate, and generally let someone claim the work or assign it to the team.
  • Repeat until finished with all backlog items.

Today at the suggestion of some of my developers on another project, I changed things up a bit:

  • Hand out large 5×7 stickies and pens to everyone on the team.
  • Stick the backlog items on the wall.
  • People started to write down their tasks and walked up to the wall and pasted them under the backlog items.
  • Then I just facilitated walking through each backlog item and asking if we needed any more tasks and adding hour estimates to tasks that didn’t have them. In some cases team members just wrote down new tasks as they thought them up and added them throughout the discussion.
  • Repeat until finished with all backlog items.

Overall the experience was better, we got done a little quicker, and the tasks had the names the people doing the work had defined.

My hesitation to try this approach had come from one early Sprint on a project. I had handed out stickies to start the process, but almost everyone was new to Agile and they hardly wrote any tasks. In order to really pull out the tasks I had to stand up and really lead the discussion, writing down each of the tasks myself. As I got adjusted to working this way I just fell into a habit.

It never hurts to reexamine and test your assumptions.