Distributed sprint planning
The past years I have been experimenting a lot with scrum in our offshore and nearshore cooperations. One of the most challenging parts of distributed scrum (the variant of scrum where team members cooperate from different locations) is organizing the sprint planning well.
The typical situation in smaller teams (especially for companies that recently started with offshoring, they typically start with few developers) is to have the product owner and scrum master in one location and the developers in another location.In some cases there might be even more locations even in smaller teams, for example a designer working from home, the scrum master and html coder in one office and the coders in another country.
In the situation sketched, usually the product owner and scrum master do sprint pre planning meetings, either formal or scattered throughout the week. They add stories to the backlog in an online tool and have extensive discussions about the content of each story and maybe even describe tasks and subtasks. The sprint planning is then organized via Skype with the scrum master and the developers remotely.
The challenges that arise in this case:
- The developers miss all interaction with the product owner. For the scrum master, things may already be clear but developers get second hand information and miss the power of discussing each user story with the product owner.
- You risk creating mini- waterfall projects in which all information is gathered by the scrum master (who basically becomes the project manager), who described the requirements and assigns them to the developers. This misses one of the main points of scrum which is interaction.
- Because the scrum master has clarity about what each story is about, he will make assumptions that he may not convey to the remote team. The remote team, especially when they are from another culture, may not be asking enough to get the same clarity and hence start development with incomplete information.
To avoid communication problems, some solutions can be:
- Organize the sprint planning with the whole team in one conference call and include the product owner.
- Create a bigger team and have the scrum master on the same location as the developers. This gives the remote team much more responsibility and ownership of what they are making.
- Limit the sprint preplanning where only scrum master and product owner participate, to describing user stories only on a high level. Let the scrum master fill all the details in the sprint planning with the developers.
Maybe you have some additional solutions from your own experience?