How to (Re-)Start a Scrum

May 23, 2019

(Re-)starting a Scrum does not attract as much attention as running a Scrum, but can be tricky, especially on the level of end-to-end organisation of the business.

In the last months I helped (re-)start Scrum in a major bank, in a couple of investment funds, and in a major fintech, and I would like to share some “wisdom” *)

(Re-)starting a Scrum Takes Time

Scrum is like a big river w/ tributaries. Before the river can become navigable, it must rain, the tributaries must get full and flowing.

The rain and the tributaries of a Scrum is the backlog.

Before a Scrum can start, an initial backlog should be collected and refined. An additional step, when re-starting a Scrum, is the cleanup of done, half-done and dead user stories.

A refined backlog is a backlog where all questions related to the user stories in it have been answered and all user stories have a technical design, a set of test cases and an estimation.

My personal recommendation is the speed of the backlog to be two Sprint lengths. This means, that a user story should have been in the backlog for two Sprint lengths (or longer), before it can be considered for a Sprint (for which it must have also been refined). In desperate times the refinement can go faster. However software product is an intellectual product and most intellectual products–like good cheese and wine–profit from time spent thinking.

There can be an organisational challenge to this approach. For example, what should developers do in their idle time?

Or–how to handle the customer’s expectations (especially valid when re-starting a failed Scrum)?

Kanban to the Rescue

The answer is–Kanban.

Kanban is a simple process, where one takes the next todo from a list and does it.

Kanban is an excellent way to keep the developers busy, while a Scrum is (re-)starting, and have some work done.

Which can help manage customer expectations as well and keep customers happy in the case of a re-start.

Naturally, as the Scrum is starting and not running, Kanbaning a user story will include the refinement.

And the Kanbaned user stories should not be the one, being prepared for the next proper Sprint.

*) The story is shortened for readability, but you can contact me with questions and requests for help (the 1st help is free)

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