Getting Out Of Sticky Note Prison

My team, a biz funk team, has been doing Scrum for nearly two years.  And we like it.  I like it.  But recently I’ve begun to wonder if I’m falling into a “see sticky, do sticky” rut.  A sticky note prison of sorts.
Meaning, I’ll do what I need to do to get the task completed, even if it goes against my instincts about the best way to do a task.  For example, instead of meeting with someone face to face to share feedback, I’ll send them an email.  I’ll send out surveys even as my gut says the survey isn’t going to be helpful.  I’ll spam potential meeting goers to close a task and risk alienating them for future events.  See sticky, do sticky.
Part of the problem is that my initial tasking isn’t perfect, and then I don’t always go back and refactor my tasks when I think of a better / different approach.  What seemed like a good idea in sprint planning doesn’t always seem like a good idea a week later when I am doing the work.  But this is partly because I’m a little tired of forcing all my work onto a colored square of paper.  Sometimes — and this is potentially blasphemous — it feels good to simply follow my instincts when trying to get something done.
My attempts to break out of this sticky prison has led me to miss a few stories, something I never ever did in the past.  And, strangely, I feel good about the way the missed stories ended up, even though in one case it took me three sprints to close it out.  I feel good about it because I did the story right, and I didn’t let my bad story writing / bad tasking stop me from doing the story right.
Could I simply task better / write better AC?  Probably.  The good news is — and I’m very excited about this — my team is moving from Scrum to Scrumban this week.  We’re going to have a weekly grooming / tasking session, and then just-in-time tasking for any new stories.  I’m interested to see if the removal of the artificial two-week timebox removes the perverse incentive to move stickies, even if the ultimate objective of the story is only being tangentially addressed.  And perhaps the shorter grooming  cycle and JIT tasking will help me write tasks that are better / more relevant.
Stay tuned.


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3 responses to “Getting Out Of Sticky Note Prison

  1. Chris

    It also sounds like you are caught in the common practice of writing down an implementation strategy instead of the requirement. If the requirement is “keep the drinks cold” you might write down “put drinks in refrigerator.” But then later you realize “hey, they can go into a portable cooler instead!” If the sticky note had said “keep the drinks cold” you’d not have the debate between completing the task as written and completing the task in the best way.

  2. bizfunk

    What we’ve been trying to do is write the “conditions of satisfaction” as part of the user story (keep drinks cold), and then it is during the tasking that we make the decision to go with the refrigerator / portable cooler. In theory, this should get us exactly what you are advocating for, but sometimes things change in the week after tasking and before starting a task. And what I should do is refactor the tasks, but what I sometimes do is stare at the task like a zombie and not refactor.

  3. Chris

    In that case, I think you need to begin viewing the task less as “how to do it” and more as “here’s the current suggestion for how to do it” which gives you the freedom to alter the actual implementation. Depending on the setup, that might mean negotiating with other team members before proceeding (make sure nobody else was expecting to use the cooler).

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