Posted by Marbenz Antonio on March 13, 2023
The Scrum framework places the responsibility of maximizing product value for the customer on the Product Owner. This objective drives the entire Scrum process, which emphasizes the frequent and incremental delivery of value. However, there are instances where the customer’s actions can undermine the value the Scrum Team aims to provide. For example, the customer may make a work request that does not justify jeopardizing the value the Sprint Goal intends to deliver. In other cases, canceling the current Sprint to address an emergency may be the best course of action. Alternatively, there may be situations where a compromise can be reached. As a result, the Product Owner and Scrum Team must determine how to handle unexpected customer demands effectively.
The Scrum methodology involves Developers collaborating to deliver value in Sprints. The primary objective of each Sprint is to deliver a complete and usable increment of value. Sprints have a fixed duration of one month or less, and this duration remains consistent over time. At the beginning of each Sprint, the Scrum Team convenes for a Sprint Planning event where they establish a plan for the work that they will undertake during the upcoming Sprint.
The Sprint Planning event is a crucial phase in which the Scrum Team chooses the Product Backlog items they will complete, devises a plan to accomplish the work, and sets a goal outlining the value they intend to deliver during the Sprint. Throughout the Sprint, the Developers hold daily meetings to review their progress and adjust their plan for the following 24 hours. Once the Sprint concludes, the Scrum Team conducts a Sprint Review where they present the completed increment to stakeholders and then engage in a retrospective meeting to discuss ways to enhance their teamwork. Sprint’s regularity and continuity serve as Scrum’s heartbeat, and it operates smoothly and consistently for high-performing teams.
What occurs when an unforeseen customer emergency or urgent request arises during a Sprint? Should the Scrum Team disregard it until the next Sprint Planning event? No, Scrum does not dictate that the team ignore mid-Sprint emergencies. Instead, the Product Owner has various options available. Let’s explore each one.
The Product Owner may receive the customer’s request but may determine that it is not crucial enough to disrupt Sprint. Although it is natural to want to satisfy the customer and stakeholders, an experienced Product Owner recognizes that modifying Sprint impedes value delivery. Unless the request is pressing, the Product Owner may opt to include the work in the Product Backlog and wait for the team to select it at the next Sprint Planning event. Delaying the work does not necessarily harm our relationship with the customer if we establish clear communication about why we cannot accommodate their request mid-Sprint.
The Product Owner might conclude that the work is significant enough to engage with the Developers and assess whether the team can include it in the ongoing Sprint without compromising the Sprint Goal. This may necessitate discussions and negotiations between the Developers and the Product Owner, which could entail eliminating lower-priority work from Sprint to accommodate the request.
There may be instances where the Product Owner decides that the current Sprint Goal is no longer valuable due to changes in the project’s circumstances. As an example, let’s say the Scrum Team is focusing on creating value for the BlackBerry device during the initial release of the iPhone. In such a scenario, the team may need to re-evaluate its current work and assess if it needs to shift direction based on the unforeseen situation in the market. While such crises are infrequent, I have only witnessed one such occurrence during my career.
Scrum methodology is an effective approach for managing complex projects, but it does not justify neglecting urgent matters. While Scrum emphasizes the importance of adhering to the Sprint Goal and following a predefined process, it is important to prioritize urgent matters that may arise during the project. Neglecting urgent matters can have significant consequences, including project delays and missed opportunities. Therefore, it is essential to strike a balance between following the Scrum framework and addressing urgent matters as they arise to ensure project success.
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