Abnormal Scrum. Call the Terminator.


www.implementingscrum.com -- Cartoon -- February 19, 2007


Welcome back to a new week at www.implementingscrum.com.This week I want to discuss something that does not happen very frequently; however, as a ScrumMaster — or member of a Scrum Team — you need to be aware of its existence and the power you have to use it.

This is something I teach on a regular basis (in fact, just last week in San Diego, California!)…

There is something called a Scrum Abnormal Termination. Here are the “rules”:

– Sprints can be canceled before the allotted thirty days are over;
– Team can cancel Sprint if they feel they are unable to meet the Sprint goal;
– Management can cancel Sprint if external circumstances negate the value of the Sprint goal; and
– If a Sprint is abnormally terminated, the next step is to conduct a new Sprint planning meeting, where the reason for the termination is reviewed.

One of the things we teach during the workshop is the concept of a “wailing circle”, where the team lays (lies?) down in a circle with their feet together and cries out in a loud voice. The purpose of this is to make it look ridiculous. It does. Sigh.

Actually, I have personally stopped bringing people up to the room and presenting this as an exercise. One of the main reasons for doing this is the reaction it had during the workshop. Think crickets at night. Then stopping in dead silence.

Ohhhhhhhhhh K. So.

I inspect and adapt. I have learned (smile).

So is this really something that happens in the real world?

Yes.

Do I tell the teams they need to do the wailing circle?

Nope.

How often does a Sprint Termination happen?

Rarely.

Really.

It should be used to make a point. Let’s review the options presented above:

— Sprints can be canceled before the allotted thirty days are over;

We all live in the real world. Because a Sprint starts out to be thirty days (or whatever the length is for your Sprint — as long as it is consistent!) does not mean things do not change in that time period. I have used this once in this case because there was a major reorganization at a client site during the middle of a Sprint. Half the team got whacked. I figured it was a good thing to take a breather and start a new Sprint when things settled down. Was it according to any book? No. Did it make sense? Sure. And the team found its was again. Eventually.

– Team can cancel Sprint if they feel they are unable to meet the Sprint goal;

If you start a Sprint with the a technical choice (for example — batch versus real time solutions) and the team figures out a solution to one choice over the other in the middle of a Sprint… would it make sense to stop things and re-plan using this new information? As a team, they can decide that. As a ScrumMaster, you need to be able to facilitate this.

– Management can cancel Sprint if external circumstances negate the value of the Sprint goal;

OK. This one is not an excuse for the Chickens to run the asylum. Really. However, let’s pretend the team is working for an organization in a highly federally-regulated environment. And, let’s pretend that Congress makes a change that has an immediate external impact on the direction of the team. Now… stop pretending because, guess what, as a team you cannot just break laws at your leisure. Or well… it is not highly recommended. Remind the chickens that this part of the rule is not to allow for canceling a Sprint at their own peril. Think about it. And help guide the Chickens when trying to make a call like this.

– If a Sprint is abnormally terminated, the next step is to conduct a new Sprint planning meeting, where the reason for the termination is reviewed.

What do you do at the end of every Sprint? Besides the Sprint Review, there is a Sprint Retrospective. Have one. Then, when the time comes (it may be immediate, it may not), embark on Sprint Planning, Rinse, and Repeat as directed.

And to think, I could have brought Arnold Schwarzenegger into the comic strip this week. I went for the artsy-fartsy example. That being said…

“I’ll be back….”

Sigh. Sorry. Needed to say that (smile).

Gotta run…

Please send comments, questions, criticisms, ideas, or whatever here.

You can also enter The Scrum Community to discuss this cartoon and other Scrum topics. Thank you!

Originally Published:
February 19, 2007


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  1. [...] Mike Visdoz has written also a very interesting article about abnormal termination. [...]

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