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Why use avatars for scrum team members? (Part 2)

In my prevous post on this, I mentioned a few reasons why using avatars is important, both in Scrum terms as well as in helping build and meld the team.
One of the many problems a Scrum team has, especially new teams, is irregular burnup across the iteration. It is also not uncommon to see a very slow burnup (almost flatlined) across the iteration and then a steep burnup curve during the lsat few days. This is exactly not what we want, burnup like this puts undue pressure on everbody.
What you then find is:

  1. Developers start taking shortcuts and
    • leave behind technical debt
    • Software quality suffers
  2. Testing is not as consistent as it should be,
  3. Testing code coverage suffers
  4. Pressure is out on the customer to accept incomplete work
  5. Pressure is put on the customer to reduce or amend acceptance criteria
  6. Stress levels skyrocket
  7. At the end of the iteration you end up with a large number of unaccepted stories
  8. Agile principles suffer

All of these are a sign of developers swarming over the stories in the iteration, and picking up 'their favourite bits'. This happens when they focus on something familiar or easy for them at the expense of the rest of the stories in the iteration. then whe their help is needed on the other stories, they find themsleves spread very thinly trying to do a lot of work, on a large number of stories, all at the same time, simply not possible.

We want a regular consistent burnup starting a day or so after the iteration start and keeping fairly close to the ideal burnup line.

An early warning sign of problems is when you have as many or more stories in play as you have developers. As soon as you see this try and get the team to re-focus and aim to move stories in and out of play no more than 2 or 3 at a time. This way you stand a good chance of delivering at least a good proportion of what you have committed to.

A simple way of making sure that developers do not swarm, or spread themselves too thinly is to only allow them 3 avatars. If you are working on it, your avatar is against it. If you do not have any avatars left, then you can't work on it.

This is simple and effective and builds the discipline in the team that the idea is to build something an complete it, then move on to building somerthing more.