Reminder for members to better portray their commitments through Sprints

Hello again @serenity! In the last couple of sprints, members have been overcommitted and having extremely bad sprints:

I had a couple of examples here linked, but I chose to redact them so that no one feels like they are being personally targeted or being attacked.

But if you’re interested in proof, you can go over the Sprint Updates for Serenity members for the past 3 sprints, at least.

With some work being handled by Firefighters and other members, this indicates that the cell has been overcommitted for the past two sprints.

The Sprint Planning Manager’s responsibility is to ensure that no member is overcommitted and the cell is not overcommitted. These are important steps in the Sprint Planning Checklist for Sprint Planning Managers.

I’m not here to exonerate myself; after all, I honestly discussed how difficult it is to allocate more time for Sprint Planning Management.

However, self-management should assist in sprint planning.

That hasn’t been the case lately, because for the past many sprints, a person’s commitment is not what has been shown in Sprints. Thus, the cell’s commitment is not what has been shown in Sprints.

In order to better display the inaccuracy, I have prepared a couple of examples from the planning of Sprint 255.

Before I showcase any examples… My intent is not to blame but to point out mistakes which need to be corrected, because those mistakes are affecting the whole cell.

Here are some examples:

  • The following comment was posted 6 minutes before the end of the sprint, on one of the tickets picked up by one of the members who is facing commitment issues.

I will reduce it to 3h since it’s mostly done, and it will involve just reviewing what happened, maybe answering Eyal, and maybe creating new tasks.

(I’m also doing it so that the dashboard shows me as not overcommitted…)

  • In the final two hours of the sprint, the following message was posted, tagging a specific member who is facing commitment issues this sprint. To my knowledge, the member did not pick up any additional tasks and remained with 12 hours uncommitted on Sprints.

… the dashboard shows you have 12 available hours. If you need more tasks, please chime in.

What is happening is, indirectly and in some cases directly, prioritizing the clients over your own success and well-being.

We’re a team, and each of us functioning in a healthy way is the only way to ensure the whole team’s success. Self management is in place to serve you and your health.

Please start accurately portraying your commitments through Sprints.

Estimating tickets is something you are in control of. If you realize you need more time, even if you won’t use that time, specify it.

In such situations, there will always be a loss. Every sprint, we’re put at a crossroads where we either hurt ourselves or hurt the relationship we have with the clients.

But I’m hoping that this post will remind you that your well-being is more fragile than the strong relationships OpenCraft has built with its understanding clients.

Our consistency and distributed effort can ensure our success with the client, even if there were some bumps across the road.

On the other hand, if you choose to take on the world by yourself, we’ll fall like dominoes throwing each of our responsibilities onto the other.

[ Ticket to Log Time — SE-2952 ]


By the way, you find my comment because I choose to describe what I’m doing it while I’m doing it. I guess others are adjusting estimates to make the red numbers disappear from the dashboard at the end of the sprint. If I remember correctly, starting the sprint with no overcommitment (i.e. red numbers) is a hard requirement (I don’t find it in the handbook but I read it in a task or document).

(Anyway my change above wasn’t just to make numbers match, it was because I thought the estimate you set there, 8 h, was too high for what remained).

In the past months we have low capacity so it’s not unexpected that there’s more work than people.

With Campus alone we’re overcommitted. We have extra budget in September and a timeline and we don’t have enough people to take tasks. First announced in chat. They mentioned yesterday they’d wished for something like 3 full-time people; I pinged Xavier about this (CC @antoviaque @tikr).

In addition, when there are people away, more work and roles go to the rest. 2 people away is noticeable.

A lot of extra Campus work fell on me and firefighters in the last sprints, there were a few incidents and requests. I can’t control that and I don’t have time to do all the work so I have tried to find help (e.g., request still open) and pass work to firefighters.
There’s more Campus work than what I can or want to do, so anyone who needs tasks, please ask in Mattermost.

There are duties that come from roles: from what I know, firefighting can’t be delayed or skipped or reduced (from 15 h) and it’s hard to pass to others because it’s 15 h. Other duties like recruitment, sustainability, client epics and epic updates, have specific dates when work should happen, and it can’t be delayed. Vacations can’t be skipped/reduced.
Sometimes a person is overcommitted and there’s no task that can be easily moved out. I see this happening from time to time, even in advance. E.g. sometimes I know in advance that a particular sprint will be heavy and can’t do much about that.

Taking tasks isn’t unilateral from us; clients have requirements and deadlines.
I think that with the reduced capacity, we need to ask more clients to wait and adjust their expectations/timelines to the cell’s capacity.

And we need to continue hiring.

It’s nice to say, but self-management is there for other reasons (as an alternative to middle managers), and we don’t have something like that to address health (to the contrary: being sick one day means you’ll probably need to recover the work and you’ll have a higher risk of spill-over). From what I know, the focus is rather on keeping commitments (and finishing sprints without spill-overs) and high quality.
Focusing on health would mean being able to say „I don’t feel like working on these tasks today; I need rest“ and being actually able to do it, without any consequences, other than not being paid for that work you didn’t do. In an organization where each person knows how to do many roles and is remote, that’s probably possible, but that’s another topic. But for now, I see that people’s focus has always been on finishing commitments, not on just doing X hours per week.
All this is my opinion only, about how it could be; and I’m brainstorming, and sorry if it’s a bit off-topic.

It would also be great if all tasks were correctly estimated, including unknown incidents/requests and sprint injections, so that you plan X hours and they actually take X hours. I hope we can learn more about that or measure how well the numbers match the reality. We could start by asking whether initial commitments are matching the reality.