Hyper-productive teams? Ruthlessly pruned backlog!

Most of the agile transitions I’ve had insight into were mandated by management. They were motivated by an ever-growing pile of requests that exceeds the developers’ capacity several times over. The tales of “hyper-productive teams” lead them to think Scrum and fast dev teams will solve all their problems. Clear problem (requests exceed capacity) -> obvious solution (make the team faster), right?

Wrong. How fast the team can develop IMHO doesn’t matter that much. That the devs walk up the mountain a little faster won’t matter, if the mountain still keeps growing [1]. The PO can make a much bigger difference. A good PO will turn that mountain into a hill: A feature you decide not to build takes 0 time to implement, test and document. No team can build a feature in less time!

So, forget hyper-productive teams [2] and concentrate on growing a kick-ass, empowered product owner instead [3]. Then a nice, normal team will do fine.

Addendum:

I think the reason management tries to speed development up by introducing Scrum is that it’s easier to ask others to change, than to find fault with and change yourself. (I assume here that product vision and request management is part of the management team’s responsibility.)

Fortunately, if the root of the capacity problem is a lack of product management, the Scrum team will come knocking on  management’s door (if the PO is not properly empowered to solve the problem by themselves). At least if the transition to Scrum was successful. So management gets to change too 🙂

Footnotes:

  1. I’m not saying that it’s not a huge help when a team doubles its capacity (100% is not unrealistic). I’m saying that if you get 5 big requests per week and pre-Scrum solve 1, with Scrum 2, you still have to get rid of 3 -> enter PO. (In a mature team the dev team will probably share responsibilities of the PO.)
  2. I’m not saying that hyper-productive teams don’t exist. They do. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of at least one such team and the energy and how much you achieve is just magical. I’m saying that you should focus on great PO work because that will also result in a much better product.
  3. A kick-ass product owner says “No!” to features that add too little value to the product. Simple concept, very hard to do.
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