One of the reasons that Scrum focuses on accomplishment of small tasks is the tendency of people and teams to lose focus.  Interesting things come up, and unless people are constantly reminded of the tasks they needed to complete, they will become involved in those interesting things.  Whether you are following an Agile methodology or not, breaking your work down into small tasks and reporting on those tasks in a daily meeting.

One team I worked with had a problem with what I called, “getting the ball across the goal.”  They would constantly tell me they were ready for release, but when it came time to actually create the build and deploy it, there was a last-minute, frantic scramble to finish things that had been forgotten, and we deployed late.

To solve this, I asked them to provide a list of things that had to be completed before deploying and asked them to report against the list.  We had to break up tasks that took more than 2 days to complete so we wouldn’t have to go more than two days without reporting accomplishment.  I then enforced the rule that the only things they could report were things they had completed, not things they had “worked on.”

Team members laughed at first when they said they had accomplished “nothing” and planned to accomplish “nothing” but they began to be uncomfortable, especially if they had to say this two days in a row.  They wanted to report accomplishments, so they began to focus.  They broke their tasks down into manageable chunks and worked on the tasks until they were finished.  Within a few releases, the releases were less stressful and on their way to becoming the non-events I wanted them to be.

This wasn’t in a team that was practicing Agile, just a team that needed more focus.  Borrowing from Scrum helped me focus them.

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