Looking for info about 2-week sprint style management
September 18, 2021 6:48 PM   Subscribe

At my last job, there were meetings that relied on 2-week Sprint cycles. We made a list of the things that need doing. Each person has X points, and self-evaluate and volunteer points towards item based on its effort.

At last job, there were meetings that relied on 2-week Sprint cycles. We made a list of the things that need doing. Each person has X points, and self-evaluate and volunteer points towards item based on its effort.

Let’s say there are person A, B, and C. Each person has, let’s say, 10 points each.

We make a list of all the things that need to be done.

Person A volunteers to do one of the things. They self-rate it to take 4 points of effort/time. Then they volunteer to do another thing, and self-rate it to be a 6. And with that, they’ve used up their 10 points.

Person B and then person C go next.

It’s all a democratic process, with nobody casting down tasks from above.

After a week, the team meets to discuss how it’s going, if the tasks that were volunteered for have turned out too hard, too easy, or just right, and any adjusting of tasks based on the 10-point system will be made.

At the end of the 2 week sprint, there is a retrospective part of the meeting where each person tells what they did and how they think it went, if it was too easy or hard for them, how they liked it, etc.

Any items that were completed go in the completed column. Any items that haven’t been completed go back into the To-Do column, only updated with notes about what’s been done on that item.

And then the process begins again.

Have you heard of a similar system? If so, what is it called? The sprint cycle? Also, I remember my team using a particular program to streamline the whole thing, rather than just using post it notes.
posted by ggp88 to Work & Money (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is Agile. Jira or Rally are the standard tools.
posted by sandmanwv at 6:56 PM on September 18, 2021 [15 favorites]

Response by poster: Ah yes! Thank you Sandmanwv!!! It's Agile and the program we used was Jira! I would have never remembered the names without you.

The reason I ask is thus:

My Dad has started a new remodeling company and my Mom and I are working with him from behind, doing accounting, secretarial style work.

We are a tiny 3 person company but I feel that we badly need an Agile approach because we are unorganized and are prone to finger pointing without any record of what we said we’d do and what we have done.

Is Jira a program that is fit for as small a team as 3 people? I’d be the one managing it and helping the meetings flow.

Edit: Nevermind, it looks like JIRA offers a free version for small teams.

There is also Trello.
posted by ggp88 at 7:06 PM on September 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Technically speaking, that's SCRUM methodology. Agile is more of a philosophy, whereas SCRUM is one implementation of agile philosophy.

SCRUM is the one with 1 or 2-week sprints, with a product owner and SCRUM master. Agile simply emphasizes reiteration and feedback.

Here Northeaster Uni explains the difference between agile, SCRUM, vs. other methodologies like waterfall, kanban, and so on.
posted by kschang at 7:09 PM on September 18, 2021 [11 favorites]

I've done some agile coaching, you're talking about a Scrum type setup. I would be wary about any process protecting you from recriminations over who did it didn't do what -- see the penultimate point about reflecting on work done.

Scrum also offers:
* Daily checkins, where you update
- Yesterday I achieved ...
- Today I will attempt ...
- Task X is blocked, can I have help? (which you discuss right after the check-in to get moving again)
* Team task sizing, with feedback at the end of each sprint so you practise and get better at estimation
* A sprint review where you demonstrate progress you've made and create the feedback on your estimated capacity, task sizing and progress made
* A team retrospective where you're able to reflect on things you did well and badly, with people you trust to help the whole team be succesfull (this is the ideal, not all people can do this without finger-pointing and blame and there are strategies to focus on what makes the team better over what makes one team-member feel better)
* Do it cyclically for iteration-upon-iteration progress and improvement.
posted by k3ninho at 12:39 AM on September 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

Agile/SCRUM is great but I found it works best in specific use cases. You're on a team developing a new product. More or less each person can work independently and develop what they need. When it tends to break down is when you're not working on a new product or you tend to use Agile/SCRUM as a religion to get things done,

Keep in mind that loosely agile was developed when software projects were behemoth top down "here's a large requirement document" and when doers get it they find it doesn't help them report progress or respond to new requirements. In short software development is hard, managing it is hard, agile tries to address these issues,

As stated Agile doesn't alleviate finger pointing and can make things worse. I recommend staying away from Jira and instead maybe take a soft approach with using sticky notes on a board/wall instead of Jira tickets to get the team in the mindset, You don't want people so process oriented it becomes a means to an end.

I've seen Agile/Scrum in multiple iterations and it works best when it is self-organizing and complex tasks are broken down where other team member can understand what you're working on and offer to help rather than spending 6 weeks on a vague task like "login" ... if used for finger pointing it breaks down,
posted by geoff. at 7:04 AM on September 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Based on your description: "doing accounting and secretarial work," I would say that Agile/Scrum is not the best fit for your situation. For example, I'm guessing a common task would be "pay invoices." Does that really need to be broken down into a two-week sprint, with daily standups? That's more like an "open Quickbooks, enter amounts, click pay, done" kind of thing.

It sounds like you're going backwards - you've found what sounds like a solution, so you're trying hard to fit your problem into it, instead of the other way around.

In your case, I'd look at a Kanban solution. You mentioned Trello, but to be honest I'd go with a physical whiteboard and sticky notes at first. Create sticky notes for each task, and assign that task to someone. For example:
- Send invoices (Mom)
- Pay invoices ( ggp88)
- File permit applications (Dad)

Stick them on the kanban board in the To Do column. As you work on each item, move them across into In Progress, and then to Done. Everything is visible, everything is assigned to someone, and the work gets done as the work gets done without the artificial overhead of trying to manage an Agile/Scrum workflow.

(Note - you can make Kanban into a fairly complex system. Don't fall into that trap, at least not at first. Start simple and only add on if you really, really need to...ask me how I know)
posted by ralan at 10:17 AM on September 19, 2021 [7 favorites]

I was going to suggest Kanban as well. Scrum seems to work best when you have a product of some sort at the end of the process, even if it's the "minimum viable product" that will be built upon in later sprints. Many of the same ceremonies -- the daily standup and the retrospective especially -- work great in a Kanban setting.

In my experience, Kanban works really well in reactive settings -- that is, customer service, support, etc. You identify the tasks that need to be done, put them on one end of the Kanban board, and move them through the steps of the process. There are all sorts of ways you could do this. If you're using a white board and sticky notes, write the name of the person responsible for the task on the sticky. Discuss progress, or lack thereof, during the daily standup. In a situation like yours it's up to the team to help each other be accountable for their tasks and the overall health of the organization/process, and to help when someone is stuck.

One of the key concepts of Kanban is work in progress, or WIP. No one can really be doing a dozen different tasks at once. A lot of groups that use Kanban limit WIP to three items, some to even less. If you're stuck on something ("blocked"), move it out of your WIP and pick something else you can be doing. If you have deadlines (bills need to be paid tomorrow, for instance), maybe that task is the only one on the responsible person's WIP.
posted by lhauser at 1:23 PM on September 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

Edit: Nevermind, it looks like JIRA offers a free version for small teams.

There is also Trello.

I strongly suggest using Trello instead of JIRA for this. JIRA is a very heavy-weight program, and probably more trouble than it's worth for such a small team. Also, I don't know anything about your parents, and I don't want to be ageist, but the thought of trying to get my parents onboarded onto JIRA makes my skin crawl.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:58 AM on September 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Jeff Sutherland's book, "Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time," is a great starting point. It's a relatively quick read/skim (great chapter-end summaries) and helped my team get up to speed. We use Trello, and it works well to keep everyone on task.
posted by writermcwriterson at 8:29 AM on September 20, 2021

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