Why we stopped tasking
Scrum advocates breaking down stories into tasks because it:
- makes story estimation easier;
- encourages collaboration; and
- enables the team to show granular progress during a sprint.
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
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.
If you’re tasking and it works for you, good. But take some time and consider if it’s really helping.