It’s Not What You Did, It’s What You Finished

One of the hallmarks of Scrum is having each team member answer three questions:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What will you do today?
  • What issues do you face?

It seems like a good idea but fall the first two questions fall short. Let’s say that a software developer says she worked on the sort function yesterday and will work on it today. What does that tell the team? Nothing.

What really matters to the team is what was finished yesterday and what will be finished today. When something is finished, it is handed off to another team member for testing, documentation, deployment, etc. Merely doing something is a static activity that is extremely hard to measure.

To make this approach work effectively, you’ll need a clear definition of done. If someone is writing a software module, what constitutes “done”? If someone tests that module, when is the testing “done”?

It is also important to keep stories and associated tasks small. Everything should be measurable in one-day increments. Thus, each day team members can report that they finished something or have encountered an unexpected problem.

Once you know what done means and have short-duration activities, you can re-phrase the standard Scrum questions to make them measurable:

  • What did you finish yesterday?
  • What will you finish today?
  • What issues do you face?
Updated: December 31, 2010 — 5:18 pm