Sniff, Sniff, What’s that Smell?

woman_pulling_out_hairIt’s been quite a while since I last blogged, my apologies to my faithful 10-person readership.  Today was a particular hellish day after being off for only a few days.  I came back to complete dis-array within the team and process and actually was quite surprised based on how well things were going and how well the team understood the process.

There was no agreed to work, team members (product owner included) all had different interpretations of the status of the previous sprint, when or if the current sprint started and what work was or was not agreed to.  In their defense customer support was unusually high so there were some fires that seemed to have frazzled them.  Either way, after almost a year re-implementing our previously failed Scrum process, the team should know better.

The Agile wall still had last Sprint’s items on it and when I asked them about it they said they didn’t really know what to do even though they had a backlog meeting already.  The PO said he “thought” the new sprint was started, 1 team member said it did start and another said it didn’t start.  Clearly something’s not right, it reminded me a bit of the agile exercise we did during my Scrum Master training course.  In a group of 20 or so people, 2 people pair up and 1 person plays manager and the other the subordinate .  The manager has to tell the subordinate to go straight, turn right, turn left etc and make sure that no one bumps into each other.  Today was like all team members were subordinates and no one was doing anything but slamming into a wall over and over again; hence the pulling out of my hair.

First of all I expressed my dis-pleasure with the team which immediately brought out the excuses to which I tore a page out of Darth Vader’s book and modified his “Asteroids don’t concern me admiral” with “I don’t want to hear excuses, you guys know better than this”

Then I tore through the sprint backlog and we refined it to estimate what needed estimating and then drew the line on what the team could get done.     Now that things are under control, I started to wonder why it could have possibly got this bad.  Had they not listened to anything I said over the last year?  Was the support disruption really the problem or was it something else?  I’m sure it’ll come out in the retrospective but I wanted to pose this question to fellow Scrummasters…have you seen this on your teams when you’ve taken vacation for a few days?  What did you do?

I’ll be posting a follow-up after our retrospective…I have a good idea of what will come out, or rather, what I’ll have to pull out from the team.