A little scenario that caused many different answers

Last post 08:47 am November 7, 2014
by Anke Maerz
2 replies
02:01 pm November 5, 2014

Me and a few colleagues were presented with a scenario that has been given to some potential employees, the scenario is as follows:

In both these scenarios you are the Scrum Master for a cross functional team, including a BA, a QA, 3 developers, a designer, and a user experience specialist. Your Product Owner comes from outside of the technical department, and has a “day job” as well as their Product Owner role.

1) The start of your next sprint is in 3 days and the prepared backlog has been cast into disarray by the Product Owner who wants to start an engagement with a third party.
b. Assuming the third party is ready to start the engagement, what steps would you go through to ensure a successful sprint?
c. Please produce a sample agenda for the Sprint planning day?
d. What risks/issues with the team would you expect to arise under these circumstances?

The second part of the question seems standard, but part 1 and 3 have caused some heated discussions. Please bare in mind that this is a purely hypothetical question, however we were debating of how we would judge an answer, or worst yet the "right" answer.

Would love to hear your thoughts :)

11:13 am November 6, 2014

The scenario is set up to let you fail.
It requires you to make a prediction and make this prediction come true in the first sprint.
Scrum is not a predictive model, but an empirical.
An empirical approach would be to start right now (not in 3 days), fail in the first sprint and improve in the second.
You will fail one way or the other, so what you can answer to these questions depends on the culture of the company that hires the employees.

08:47 am November 7, 2014

Hi Simon,

sorry, but I don't get it. Can you clarify the following phrases:

1. "the prepared backlog"
--> I guess meant is the Product (not Sprint) Backlog and it is prepared in being groomed so that the Sprint Planning Meeting can be conducted?
2. "has been cast into disarray"
--> Did the Product Owner change priorities? Did the requirements change and the "prepared" Product Backlog Items are no longer estimated and not groomed well enough for Sprint Planning?
3. "wants [...] an engagement with a third party"
--> An engagement for what? For some Product Backlog Items or does the third party get part of the Development Team and is to be engaged for supporting and consulting the Development Team? I suppose the third party gets part of the team. Hopefully the third party sends 2 people at maximum so that the team doesn't get too big.

If my guesses were right, my answers would be the following:

b. First, I'd groom the Product Backlog so that it's ready for the Sprint Planning Meeting. Second, I'd get the third party trained in anything they need to effectively add their value to the team. Then, the whole Scrum Team (including the third party) conducts the Sprint, beginning with the Sprint Planning Meeting.

d. As the team is changed, productivity may slow down and predictability for the Sprint decreases. The third party might pursue a different goal than the Scrum Team (e.g. to make them indispensable instead of maximizing the product value).