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Improve the Scrum Team’s ability to focus

People lose focus because of two different kinds of interruptions: Planned and Unplanned. 

Planned interruptions include things like:

  • Attending scheduled meetings other than Scrum events. Every organization has a variety of general meetings, including company or divisional/departmental information sharing, HR meetings relating to compliance activities or benefits, and general knowledge sharing.
  • Working on things unrelated to the Sprint Goal. Organizations will often assign people to work on more than one project or team at the same time. While sometimes necessary, they always reduce the overall effectiveness of team members.

Planned interruptions are easier to manage because they are more visible. The number of meetings a team member attends can be reduced by considering whether the meeting is needed. For example, the organizers of meetings could communicate the purpose of the meeting and their need for particular people or expertise, so that team members can decide if they need to attend. They could also consider whether another means of communication might be just as effective.

Unplanned interruptions are harder to deal with since they can arise at any time and can’t be anticipated. Emergencies are an example of unplanned interruptions. However, typically many unplanned interruptions are often caused by lack of planning or regard for others' time on the part of the interruptor.  

When people are interrupted in their work on a task, they lose not only the time they spend responding to the request, they also lose effectiveness during a period of time when they are trying to regain focus on the interrupted task. If interruptions are an issue for a Scrum Team, they should be visiting these issues during their Sprint Retrospectives. Organizations can help to protect team members from unplanned interruptions by instilling a culture that respects team member time, and by having team members establish “focused time” in which they should not be interrupted except for a true emergency, and “open time” during which they are open to fielding questions.


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There are many reasons why Scrum Teams struggle to deliver value. To be more effective, Scrum Teams should better understand customer needs, improve their cross-functionality, be empowered to make decisions, improve their ability to focus, and increase their feedback cycles.