Why we stopped breaking down stories into tasks

The Scrum process says to break down stories into tasks to make estimation easier, encourage collaboration and to be able to shoow more granular progress during a sprint.

But after a few sprints, we decided to do the next sprint without creating tasks. As a result we drastically increased our velocity and never went back.

Here I‘ll jot down some of the reasons we decided to do this:

# 1. Breaking down stories into tasks is time consuming

Our planning sessions took about 3 hours and at least 50% of that time was spent breaking down stories into tasks.

With 20 people in the team we got at least 30 hours back per week to do the actual work.

# 2. The tasks we came up with invariably would change as we worked on the stories

Things change and things are uncovered when doing the work. So we ended up doing a different task or not doing the task at all.

# 3. Tasks are repetitive

Many of the tasks were a repeat of what our definition of done was.

For example, our definition of done included that we would have unit tests. But we also had a task for unit tests.

We didn’t need to keep rewriting the same things over and over. We would just do these things as a matter of course.

Instead we relied on a clear Definition of Done and Acceptance Criteria which worked better with less work.

# 4. Tasks were often carried out in parallel

Tasks were often carried out at the same time. For example, we would write HTML and CSS at the same time.

This meant that a lot of tasks moved from “in-progress” to “complete” at the same time which meant we didn’t end up showing granular progress during the sprint anyway.

# 5. Our estimates didn’t improves

We found that we were only able to estimate our capacity after we got to know each other working on this project at this organisation. Tasks didn’t make a difference.

# 6. It decluttered our task board

As the board just had stories the board was a lot easier to scan and use.

# 7. It encouraged collaboration throughout the sprint

Not relying on tasking meant we could spend more time working closely together in sprint.

# Summary

While we started our process by following Scrum to the letter, we soon realised that breaking down stories into tasks was something that wasn’t worthwhile for us.

In the end we realised that it was overplanning and poor use of our time.

In the end we used that time to get on with the work and deliver at a significantly faster pace.