Recovering from a bad estimation session

Recently I posted about an estimate session that went off the rails. The next day I decided to cancel the daily stand-up and did an exercise to try and help us all learn about what went wrong.

First of all, there was a ‘brainstorm’ session where a supposed breakthrough happened about the feature that was to be built but I wasn’t at that meeting and for some odd reason nobody actually took down the minutes.  In lieu of that, I had the stakeholder, product owner and all team members write down their interpretation of what that breakthrough was as it related to the business problem and the agreed upon solution.

Each person read their selections aloud and then the team voted on whether or not they strongly agreed, somewhat agreed or didn’t agree at all.  To make a long story short, everybody wrote basically the same thing and they all agreed on what the value of the feature was and how they planned on implementing it at a high level.

I didn’t plan it that way, but we ended up walking through a story writing session using the same method I actually wanted to do a lunch and learn about.

What did we learn?

  1. Write down notes at all meetings.  I usually facilitate all meetings since I’m the scrum master and resident anal personality
  2. Do rough sketches of designs
  3. Enforce timeboxing
  4. The product owner doesn’t need to work in a silo, the team can help in story writing sessions to make sure everything is clear
  5. Most importantly, understand the business value.  That is the key

I wanted to wait until the sprint was over to post an update and I’m happy to report that the development for that feature was bang on.  It was actually one of the best practices of leveraging the Scrum practice we’ve used since I started.  The team understood the business value and executed the feature (which the goal was to show a proof-of-concept only) and most importantly a team member reeled in a couple of discussions to keep the story on track while the Scrum Master was dead. Well, dead to the sprint while being re-assigned on another short project.
I’m very pleased with how it all worked out in the end and we have more work to do to get this right.