Scrum Planning

Is Under-Commitment Acceptable in Scrum Sprint Planning?

by Pete R.

The first task of scrum sprint planning is to develop a sprint schedule. It would consist of scrum meetings, planning, review, retrospective and backlog grooming. However, when one goes into the second half of sprint planning, then they might encounter that there is a possibility of under-commitment. Under-commitment is something which is not acceptable in scrum sprint planning, and it is vital for you to ensure that the right amount of commitment is achieved.

There are some reasons which cause under-commitment such as the team underestimating the task hours significantly, hidden work which is required, Parkinson’s law is applicable or the work being expanded to fill the time allocated. It could be a combination of these which could be causing the under-commitment.

Questions Which Come to Mind?

Now, there are several questions which could come to mind when encountering under-commitment as explained below:

  • Should one call the product owner to provide more details or for discussing the work?
  • Would it be best to revisit the task estimates once again using a 3 point method to figure out the critical path?
  • Should one make the hidden work more obvious and track the actual so that it can be figured out where the time goes?
  • What else can be done?

What can be done?

The biggest obstacle which the team could be experiencing could be due to ignorance or even on purpose, thus hiding the work. Firstly, the visibility needs to be improved. The team needs to be productive and not waste time on unproductive things such as browsing through social media.

There is a possibility that the team could be under-planning and it would require you to expose the unplanned tasks and to add them by taking them into account.

It is also possible that the team is unproductive on purpose and there isn’t an easy way to deal with it. There could be reasons behind this such as the team members feeling overwhelmed and needing an outlet. If this is the case, then you need to handle the situation delicately. However, if there is no change, then you might need to be forceful.

Numbers are not the problem but are instead an indicator of a profound symptom which needs to be addressed and solved.

Tracking task times is a critical way to solve the problem. Concentrate on what’s essential by not concentrating too much on “correctly estimate”. You need to focus on delivering customer value. Use the average velocity as a guide to determine the amount of work which one needs to commit to. Chances of failure are likely; therefore, embrace it to succeed.

Sprint Capacity Planning

It mostly consists of subtracting the meetings from the sprint duration. Take everything into account when calculating the sprint capacity by ensuring that medical appointments, holidays and off-site meetings. Apply a mitigation factor to ensure that distractions are always taken into account. Thus, you will be able to reach a more accurate estimate.


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