Why Scrum Burndown Charts are Agile Toolbox Staples for Successful Projects

Why Scrum Burndown Charts are Agile Toolbox Staples for Successful Projects

Scrum Burndown Charts are essential elements of Agile project management. According to latest Annual State of Agile Report findings, Scrum is the most widely used Agile methodology — utilized by 58% of organizations in the Agile landscape. It’s proved crucial for teams operating according to Scrum principles to track work and sustain continuous progress for successful product deliveries.

Here’s where the Scrum Burndown Chart enters the picture. Let’s break it down, starting with definitions through creation to benefits!

What is a Burndown Chart?

A Scrum Burndown Chart is a transparent, visual display indicating the amount of work the team has done during a Sprint, along with the remaining work to be completed. It also shows the time left to finish up all tasks that “burn down” to nil by the end of the iteration at the latest.

While Burndown Charts aren’t a must-have in agile project management, Scrum teams often deploy them as they come in handy when following progress on projects. The plan is usually put in a visible, easily accessible place for both team members and customers.  Its simplicity to build and manage are reason enough to give it a go during your next Sprint.

How to Set Up a Scrum Burndown Chart

Building a Burndown Chart for a Sprint is pretty straightforward. We’ll walk you through four simple steps.

  • Assess how much work is left to complete

As we’ve discussed, the plan represents the remaining amount of work to be finished in a set period of time. Based on the Product Backlog, the team defines the work to get done and assesses how much of it can be accomplished. 

What kind of measurements should be used here? Story Points and assignments will do the trick.

You might be also interested in: Agile QuickTip: Limit Your Agile Teams Product Backlog

  • Predict the amount of time left

When the team establishes the tasks to be finished by a given deadline, they also estimate how much time will be spent on each. Measuring time by using hours or days is probably the most transparent step.

  • Appraise ideal effort

The team determines the estimated remainder of effort to be burnt down during the iteration. This can be used as a great point of reference the team can work to. 

  • Monitor how you make headway with the project

The team records and maps out advancement compared to the remaining work on a daily basis. These data depict the real effort versus the ideal one.

Key Pros of Creating a Scrum Burndown Chart

  • It’s a real time-saver: Visual aids foster faster understanding and digestion of information in contrast to written materials. By placing big Burndown Charts in  easily noticeable locations, nobody needs to scroll through chunky emails to obtain the information they’re looking for.
  • It’s a productivity booster: Putting the plan where team members can quickly spot it advances efficiency and cooperation, as everyone can follow up on real-time progress, updates, and the amount of time left to accomplish all tasks. 

A Sprint Burndown Chart facilitates organization, productivity, and self-support within teams. Try it out and let us know if you see results at the end of your Sprint.

Bridging the Gap from the Classroom to the Workplace – What’s the Secret?

The success of encouraging employees to train further and take courses is long recognized. In fact, companies that offer comprehensive training programs see a 24% improvement in their profit margins over those businesses that spend less on employee engagement and development. As well as this, 68% of workers claim that training and professional development is the most important company policy they look for when choosing a new job.

Unfortunately, not all training is created equally.

…In fact, a McKinsey study found that historically, only a quarter of respondents have found training to be helpful in improving employee performance. The bottom line is that training must come with an understanding of how to bridge the gap from the classroom to the workplace. Without this, you will never achieve true knowledge retention, as there’s no way to put what you learn into practice. McKinsey show this in reality, where trainees can forget as much as 70% of what they’ve learned within an hour!

Forbes give their own insight to the research from McKinsey, and highlight a few key areas to focus on if you want to see the potential benefits come into fruition for your own company.

  • Plan first – People aren’t starting with nothing, they are not a blank slate. It’s important to know exactly what your specific teams want to get out of training before you start.
  • Sprints, not marathons – small bursts of productive learning are proven to be better than trying to teach staff everything about one topic.
  • Real-world environments are far more complex than the classroom. Application is essential – individuals need to be able to see how to apply what they are learning to their own workplace and reality, or it will never stick.
  • Look for both interesting and useful – the combination of these two factors helps trainees to remember what’s being taught, and put it into action.

From having a clear idea of what you want to get out of your training, what we call the tactical opportunities you’re looking to gain, to planning short bursts of training that can be readily applied to your teams, these are goals that are built for real-world results. Following these guidelines can make the difference between innovative and successful training, and wasting valuable resources on a training program built for failure.

Creating a contextual element to your program

This advice is invaluable in choosing the right program for your business needs. Before you can even begin with a training solution, precision coaching can help you work out what you need, identifying your real-world placement and providing guidance and tools on how achieve specific things in your own environment. Look for coaches who have mastered the balance of engaging and immersive training sessions that employees of all stages enjoy participating in, at the same time as providing practical value that enhances engagement and results.

You coaching choice cannot be ‘one size fits all’, because in reality this doesn’t exist. The strongest solution for Agile training offers a highly facilitated experience that helps your company reach targeted objectives in your exact real-world setting.

This should start by understanding your workplace, its culture and challenges, and what you want to get out of the training you’re having. Without this element incorporated, your business will suffer from what is known as interference, where information is not learned deeply, and as much as 75% of the knowledge could be forgotten within as little as six days.

Each business is different, and no two teams are exactly alike.

When the coaching and training techniques are both part of an ongoing process, you know that you can follow up as much as you need, working with key stakeholders to get the most out of this journey. This enables you to walk away with the tangible deliverables and improvements you need for your own business objectives and to enhance employee engagement. Understanding the road map for your training, you can revisit your goals at any stage of the process.

Cognitive science has proven that in order for training to be successful it needs to build on existing knowledge, in a cyclical way. Trainees need to then use the information enough for the brain to recognise how important it is, and the benefits it can provide.

With a clear Agile roadmap which can be revisited at the relevant junctures, teams are given the autonomy to own their own development. Rather than give over responsibility to a third party, effectively outsourcing their own success, managers and staff are invited to control the maturity of their projects in their own hands, creating useable, interesting skills that have true value, and bridging the gap between the classroom and the workplace once and for all.

7 Things You Got Wrong About Agile

Agile is a powerful business tool, with the 2018 State of Agile report showing that the majority of organizations that adopt Agile see increased business value. Despite the widespread adoption, there are still many myths and misconceptions about Agile. We look at some of the biggest.

1. Agile is Just for IT and Software

Agile originated in software but it has since been applied in almost every industry and environment – HR, recruiting, marketing, manufacturing and fighter plane cockpit design. There is even a pretty famous Ted Talk by Bruce Feiler about how he and his family applied Agile in the home Agile’s versatility is its greatest strength. It provides capabilities to iterate and discover solutions to complex problems in any industry – whether it’s helping government define better policies or auto manufacturers seeking ways to reduce emissions.

2. Agile Uses Little or No Planning

The emphasis in Agile is on ‘Planning’ – not ‘The Plan’. There is extensive planning in Agile at every level – from Product Visioning, Roadmapping, Release Planning, Sprint Planning, even the daily Scrum and stand up focuses on the detailed daily planning. One of the fundamental values of Agile is responding to change, learning and feedback. Change is not only expected, it’s valued – we create opportunities to continuously discover better ways to do things and better areas to invest in. Agile teams hope to discover and learn new things that they can take advantage of to deliver ever-increasing value to their organizations and customers. Since plans are expected to change, we invest heavily in planning – not the plan. The plan will likely change and even be discarded but the things we learn while planning are leveraged in generating the new plan.

3. Agile is About Cost Reduction

If someone is telling you that you’re going to reduce costs by adopting Agile, they’re likely trying to sell you something. Agile is a different mindset and approach to tackling problems and enabling customer opportunities. It’s about maximizing value by maximizing the return on investment. The goal is not to cut costs. Agile helps organizations innovate and focus on highest value opportunities and will probably help you avoid working on unnecessary things, reducing waste and risk.

4. Agile Means No Documentation

This myth usually comes from an incorrect reading of the Agile manifesto, which states that we value ‘working software over comprehensive documentation’. An important word here is ‘comprehensive’ which means documenting everything. Not all documents are worth creating just like not all product features are worth implementing. Some documents are more valuable than others. I usually advise that teams take a similar approach to documentation as they do with any product feature: Does the document have a well-defined and important user with a well-defined and important purpose? If so, let’s create it. If not, lets create something else.

5. You Don’t know What You’re Going to Get

Many people believe that Agile teams cannot predict what they’re going to be delivering and when. You might sometimes hear “you get what you get when you get it!” This is not exactly true. In reality there is a lot of transparency, visibility and planning on Agile teams. By always working on the most important items, and by always focusing to complete them as quickly as possible, Agile teams have potentially releasable features at the end of every iteration or sprint. The most valuable things are easy to guarantee. Attempting to predict the completion of lower priority items will likely be far less accurate. After all, we hope the lesser valuable part of the backlog will change – in fact we expect it will. Those new ideas, learning and feedback that we haven’t got yet, it’s true we cannot predict those, but those items at the top of our priority list we can certainly predict their completion. The highest priority items — the most valuable things are not just predictable, but they are likely to be worked on next, or they may even be completed already.

6. Agile is Project Methodology

Anyone who has used Agile can testify to how wide-reaching the effects are. Most organizations typically begin their Agile adoption to improve the speed and performance of their software and technology teams and soon realize that adopting Agile often means changing how we structure teams; how we recruit; how we hire; how we measure success; how we fund initiatives; how we manage risk etc. The implications are far broader than any team or project. Organizations often realize that the Agile values and principles that make these technology teams successful will allow other areas of the organization to be successful too

7. There is One Perfect Way to Implement Agile

There is no absolute best way – or the one right way — to do Agile. It really depends on your business, your team, the problems you’re trying to solve, and the environment you operate in. There are very few things that you would always do. There are very few things that you would never do. You might find that 99% of the time you never do something, but then you come across the that one team, trying to solve that one customer problem in that one situation where it is the exact right thing to do.

The more you taste and try different ideas; test things through trial and error; and empower people to take ownership over their process, the more you’ll learn the best way for you. Even then, as your teams mature and your needs and environment changes, the best way will likely change too. There is no one right way, you have to figure out what is the right way for you.

Every Ounce of Value

Understanding the concept of ‘Every Ounce of Value’ means recognising a core truth. Value is created by the people at the bottom. As the value creators, the people in the trenches and on the ground are who create the products, speak to the consumers and are best placed to make quick decisions.

The goals of any Agile business need to empower this group, becoming enablers of their value. In this way, you’ll see two clear groups emerge. Those who create the value and those who are there to support and empower. While companies are often inundated with staff who do not fit these categories, meant for compliance or process or keeping others in line – we believe that anyone outside of the two value definitions simply has no value in an Agile organization.

In order for this system to work, traditional hierarchies and business environments need to be revisited, and in some cases burned to the ground. Historically, systems and processes were put into place to feed the very top. The reporting and transparency in an old-fashioned business ecosystem was all upwards facing. This was intended so that the people at the top of the food chain could understand and consume, and then enforce top down decision making. The people at the very bottom simply followed the process, and so found themselves stuck if their situation in practice deviated in any way.

This now has to change. Turning the traditional hierarchy on its head, an Agile organization looks to push decision making further and further down the business chain. When successful, value creators feel empowered to make smart choices and quick changes, eliminating the levels of process and bureaucracy to get answers and put movement into place. With this structure, they not only get involved in tactical planning, but can focus on individual interactions, and get away from the stifling nature of top-down process altogether.

All Agile businesses should be investing in environments to optimize for the people at the very bottom, trusting and empowering every ounce of value at its source.