Choose Backlog Items That Serve Two Purposes

I've been playing a fair amount of Go lately. If you're not familiar with Go, it's a strategy game that originated in China 2,500 years ago. It's along the lines of chess, but it's about making territory with black and white pieces played on the intersections of a grid of 19x19 lines.

Like Scrum, there are very few rules in Go. Also like Scrum, there are a fair number of principles,...

4 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Product Backlog

he following was originally published in Mike Cohn's monthly newsletter. If you like what you're reading, sign up to have this content delivered to your inbox weeks before it's posted on the blog, here.

It's May, and we're well into spring now. If you're like me, you haven't yet done your annual spring cleaning. But I'll do mine this week, if you promise to also do yours.

The type of spring cleaning I'm referring to...

Know Exactly What Velocity Means to Your Scrum Team

The following was originally published in Mike Cohn's monthly newsletter. If you like what you're reading, sign up to have this content delivered to your inbox weeks before it's posted on the blog, here.

To see how this applies to an agile project, consider the issue of whether a team should earn velocity credit for fixing bugs during a sprint. A team that uses velocity to measure how much functionality is delivered in a sprint will not claim credit for bug fixes. No new functionality...

How to Be Sure You’ve Thought of Everything

The following was originally published in Mike Cohn's monthly newsletter. If you like what you're reading, sign up to have this content delivered to your inbox weeks before it's posted here.

A common question I get is how can a product owner (or team) be sure they've thought of everything when writing a product backlog. The question is especially common from teams doing…

How Can We Get the Best Estimates of Story Size?

I was recently interviewed for an upcoming agile textbook written by Sondra Ashmore and Kristin Runyan. They asked me questions regarding several areas of agile development and Scrum. Last week, I explored questions they had about the product backlog. This week, I'd like to tell you about the conversation we had about estimating.

The conversation began as follows:...

Names Should Not Be Needed for User Stories

I've never been a fan of naming user stories. Stories should generally be short enough that naming them should be necessary.

Yes, novels and movies get names. But we don't name the sentences in a novel. Since I still haven't been to see The Great Gatsby movie I started re-reading the novel recently so it's on my mind. Imagine Fitzgerald and his editor (Maxwell Perkins) discussing the book and Fitzgerald saying...

Sprint Zero: A Good Idea or Not?

In my previous post, I wrote about alternatives to numbering sprints. In this post I want to deal with a very special number that some teams use in numbering their sprints--zero.

The concept of a "sprint zero" has become popular with some teams and so it is important to consider whether or not this is a good idea.

First, let's agree on the basic premise of "sprint…

A Sample Format for a Spreadsheet-Based Product Backlog

I want to show a real easy way to put user stories in a spreadsheet-based product backlog. I wrote this after seeing someone tweet a screen capture of a product backlog I made nine years ago and thought to myself, "Yikes, that's out of date for how I do it today ..." So in this post, well look at an agile product backlog template in Excel. 

As you probably know, I'm a big…

Deciding What Kind of Projects are Most Suited for Agile

I was recently asked what kind of project is most suited for the agile process. In my view, the most appropriate projects for agile are ones with aggressive deadlines, a high degree of complexity, and a high degree of novelty (uniqueness) to them. We want to use agile when we are doing something that is new, or at least new to the team building it. If it's something the team…

Advantages of the “As a user, I want” user story template.

In my user stories book and in all my training and conference sessions on user stories I advocate writing user stories in the form of:

"As a <type of user>, I want <some goal> so that <some reason>." While I consider the so-that clause optional, I really like this template. At a conference, someone asked me why. Because I get that question fairly often, I want to give…

Why I Don’t Use Story Points for Sprint Planning

As described in Agile Estimating and Planning, I'm a huge fan of using story points for estimating the product backlog. However, I also recommend estimating the sprint backlog in hours rather than in points. Why this seeming contradiction? I've previously blogged on the reasons why I recommend using different estimation units (points and hours) for the different backlogs.…

Differences Between Scrum and Extreme Programming

Scrum and Extreme Programming (XP) are definitely very aligned. In fact, if you walked in on a team doing one of these processes you might have hard time quickly deciding whether you had walked in on a Scrum team or an XP team. The differences are often quite subtle, but they are important. I think there are four main differences between Scrum and XP:

  1. Scrum teams…