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David has enjoyed success using agile and lean techniques at several companies near Washington DC and San Francisco. He joined his first startup in 1999, and helped scale it to a 13 million dollar acquisition in 2006. He now brings entrepreneurial thinking into large organizations so that disruptive innovation can emerge. David is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 30 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

No Points for You! Come Back 1 Sprint!

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It is the end of the iteration, and your team notices that a user story is only partially completed. This could have happened for a variety of reasons such as:

  • the story was under estimated
  • we ran into an impediment we could not remove
  • the Product Owner changed the scope of the story
  • we opened too many stories and could not finish this one
  • a team member became ill
  • and so forth and so on…

The team members begin to converse about whether or not they should get credit for the work they have completed on this user story. Ultimately the eyes land on you Mr. Agile Coach / ScrumMaster / Defacto Answerer of Such Things.
No Points For You
When presented with this scenario, I often find myself asking:

What is the real value of this unfinished story?

If this partially completed user story delivers real value, then I assume the finished work has been thoroughly unit tested, regression tested, acceptance tested and stands on its own?

If so, then I would think that it should have been its own story from the start of the iteration. This is why I coach teams to size stories as small as possible while keeping the end user experience in mind.

Perhaps that would be a good topic to speak about in the retrospective.

No points for you and this story goes back into the Product Backlog.

If the finished work on this partially completed story has not been thoroughly unit tested, regression tested and acceptance tested then I would think that its value has been exaggerated.

Worse yet it could have a negative value by introducing unexpected side effects in the product.

No points for you and this story goes back into the Product Backlog.

This isn’t about velocity.

I’m concerned about the team not meeting its commitment and being rewarded for that behavior while introducing instability by releasing unfinished code. Giving partial credit is a dangerous precedent to set, especially with a team new to agile.

As always there are edge cases, long iterations, freak acts of nature and such so I am curious what you have to say.

I’ve added a poll, and would enjoy reading your feedback.

Published at DZone with permission of David Bland, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)



David Bland replied on Fri, 2011/04/22 - 8:44am

Poll didn't make it over. If you wish to vote on this, you can do so here:



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