Why we stopped tasking

Scrum advocates breaking down stories into tasks because it:

When one of my colleagues convinced me and the team to stop it we increased our velocity significantly. Here’s why:

1. We didn’t need to spend time tasking

At least 50% of our Sprint Planning sessions was spent breaking down stories into tasks. For our team of over 20 people, we gained almost 60 man-hours back per sprint.

2. Tasking ahead of development is inaccurate

Solutions change during development due to unforseen scenarios. Only through coding might you find opportunites for improvement. A lot of our tasks weren’t accurate which meant tasking had negative value.

“Weeks of programming can save you hours of planning.”

Don’t bother, give yourself more time to code instead.

3. Tasks are repetitive

A lot of the stories required many of the same tasks. For example unit tests, a controller action, a template, some Javascript and styling enhancements etc. These things were always going to happen.

Writing them as tasks wasn’t valuable. Instead we relied on a clear Definition of Done and Acceptance Criteria. Both of which ensured the smooth delivery of each story.

4. Many tasks are carried out in parallel

Tasks are often carried out at the same time. For example, we would write HTML & CSS together. Often the JS-enhanced version would need extra HTML and CSS.

This meant that a lot of tasks moved from “in-progress” to “complete” at the same time. We never showed granular progress. In the end we just moved the Story card.

5. Estimates didn’t improve

Estimation is based on several things. Estimation comes from experience. Experience working together with a team you know well, on a particular project within a particular organisation. Only then will you have a predictable velocity.

6. It’s easier to understand the task board

Removing tasks decluttered the task board significantly. We no longer had to fit tasks into each swim lane. Instead we had a single card per story.

7. We wasted less paper

We saved trees. We saved money. What’s not to like about that?

8. The overall process encouraged us to collaborate

We didn’t need tasks to help us collaborate. We sat in close proximity. We had regular, useful and well-timed meetings. We paired when appropriate and had regular productive feedback loops. All of this added up to a collaborative environment.

Summary

If you’re tasking and it works for you, good. But take some time and consider if it’s really helping.

Join my newsletter

If you want to read about designing inclusive, simple and human experiences on the web, you'll probably love my newsletter.