Tag Archives: Daily Scrum Tip

The Importance of Time-boxing

When using Scrum, your iterations are fixed time (1 week, 2 weeks, 30 days etc) and therefore your cost is fixed so the only thing that can vary is scope.  Time-boxing is critical to success when implementing Scrum since you don’t really want to waste a lot of time in useless or long discussions.  Yesterday I posted about an estimation session that went off the rails pretty quickly and it was due to the fact we (well, “I”) dropped the ball on enforcing the time-box rule.  We started strong and finished weak.  A stop-watch, wall clock, phone/pda or whatever is fine to use.  I like to use this online tool.  You can set the timer for whatever interval you want and it’ll beep when your time is up.  I typically give warnings at 5 minutes to go and 2 minutes to wrap it up.

Our iterations are 1 week (we’re re-implementing Scrum, so the shorter the better to allow the problems to surface quickly) so we use these guidelines for time-boxing:

  • sprint backlog: 1.5 hours – this is where the team commits to their work and break stories into tasks.
  • development activities1 hour -  If you’re stuck after an hour, ask a team member
  • ‘stop the line’ discussions:  15 minutes -if a team members runs into a roadblock, the whole team stops and a quick 15 minute brainstorm session happens.  All potential solutions are written on the whiteboard and then the line resumes work.

The biggest question the team always has around time-boxing is “what happens if the meeting is over and we haven’t finished our task breakout?”  The answer is simple:  The meeting is over.  If you didn’t meet your goal, schedule another discussion or in this case, when it comes time to work on that story, time-box the task breakout to 15 minutes.

The lesson is, by time-boxing your efforts you force yourself into focusing on the issue or discussion at hand.  It’s tempting to allow a couple more minutes here and a couple more minutes there, but avoid the temptation.  The team will get into a rhythm pretty quickly and be much more efficient at time-boxing.

Truthfulness is the key

This extends to any type of business or co-worker relationship, but Scrum teaches truthfulness above all else.  The Team must trust each other and be honest with themselves and other Team members.  If you have a problem with a Team member, talk to them.  If you see a Team member struggling, help them.  Let it all hang out at the retrospective.  You can’t move forward unless you are honest.  Sounds hokey, but business is business, nothing is EVER personal.