Friday, August 28, 2015

Making do during vacation

In Spain summer is the season when most people tend to take their vacation: I would say every team member spends an average of two or three weeks out of the office during the months of July and August.

This fact creates some trouble in the running of the Scrum methodology during that period, mainly due to a couple of reasons:

- On the one hand, the vacation periods usually match one or more calendar weeks, starting on a Monday and finishing on a Sunday, instead of doing it with the iterations or sprints. In other words: developers and business staff leave the team before a sprint has finished, and rejoin it when a new sprint is on its way. In my opinion, only really cross-functional teams have the ability to smoothly overcome this difficulty, since the tasks associated to the user stories planned for each iteration are not pre-assigned to a specific team member.

- On the other hand, it's also time for the vacation of the Scrum Master, a key element in driving the methodology: she encourages the team in focusing on each sprint goals, and assists in solving impediments. So, what to do in the absence of the Scrum Master? In my opinion, an experienced member of the team can temporarily take charge of most of her responsibilities just by following a couple of rules:

  1. Facilitate the ceremonies (plannings, demos, retros, and so on)
  2. Spend time on assisting teammates to remove the obstacles of their blocked tasks
I know: easier said than done, but sure an achievable goal with the help of the team.

As August is coming to its end, my current team has already underwent a couple of months that involved the product increment corresponding to four sprints, and we have done it under circumstances that resemble my previous description. In my upcoming return back to the office, I hope that all our planned actions have proven successful in coping with this unconventional situation!

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