Today I will write down one issue I got a few sprints ago and I would like to share it with you. After few discussions with few colleagues, I think that it could be useful for others.

A little bit of context; after few sprints in 2013, a stakeholder had in mind one date and one scope for delivery in around 3 months. However, the progress from the team was not going in the same direction. The team had been working around 3 or 4 months in the scrum, and so far, the full team was doing a good job in delivering things at the end of each sprint. As a team, we were working hard in “communication” and “collaboration” skills.

After few meetings between the PO & the stakeholders, the final date for the expected scope was around 2 months longer than the stakeholders had in mind. At that moment stress started to going up at all levels (team, PO and stakeholders). My first proposition as coach was a full wall planning with the full team including stakeholders. The first reaction was not very good the stakeholders were very reserved in their position. We have a fixed scope, a fixed date, and extra resources were not in the discussion and we only had a short time to deliver it. With that type of behavior, I was not comfortable to call one wall planning. If the decision has already been made, what good would it do?

One more week was gone and stress is still rising. Pressure, tension and stress symptoms were there and coming from all directions. Again my solution was the same: wall planning with the full team and avoid fixing all variables. Stakeholders had a very good point to fix the date, so we called one wall planning with the full team, and two things in mind: “fix date” and “MVP (minimum viable product)”.

Issues detected at the moment of the wall planning:

  • Stakeholders are unhappy with the progress.
  • Team was not able to understand why the PO changed direction so often in the last 3 sprints.
  • Executive team stressed the fixed date was because of a contract constraint. It means no way to move it, but the team did not have the full story of “why” the date is fixed.
  • Goal of the project was not very clear at the team level.
  • Only 4 sprints (2 weeks sprint) to reach the date expected from stakeholders.

A few tips I used in this meeting and I got very good results:

  • I got full commitment from stakeholders to explain the full history about the fixed date and answer questions from the team.
  • I got also full commitment from the team to answer all question from the stakeholders in a good non-technical way (both sides need to understand challenges).
  • Big room with space for all people. No chairs to avoid spending the full day in this meeting and promote more discussion just from the full backlog expected after the 4 sprints (already in the wall).
  • A lot of metaphoric symbols to motivate people to talk (Check pictures).
  • Open mind and open dialog between team and stakeholders.

Here are few pictures of this meeting:

wall-planing-giftFirst, we transform our wall backlog in one gift. A locked gift. The key to unlocking it was the team. Yes, a little crazy idea about the backlog. I thought of that just before the meeting. But when I started my history for this meeting the people started to laugh and they liked it.

wall planning team

Maybe the picture is not very clear, but the idea was to show the team why we are here, what we need and what we don’t have to do. Example, “we are here to use both sides of our brain”, “we are here to listen”, “we are here to talk”, and so on. Stakeholders had a problem and we were the team selected to resolve it. We need the “HOW” to fix it from the team.

At this part of the history, the people started to talk about the fixed date (why) and a lot of questions from the team were answered by the stakeholders and the PO. I said… WOWWWWW…they loved symbols.

Stakeholders also got a lot of answers about technical concerns. I really loved one: “What we are asking to do is copy paste one template, why is it so difficult?”  The team explained the “why” and stakeholders were surprised and they understood very well the “why”.

After these reactions the wall planning started to run perfectly, the team talked, listened, collaborated, asked questions and so on. After 2hrs, we were done. My “history” worked very well, symbols did a good job and people loved it.

wall planning team wall planning team wall planning team wall planning team










The final result of this:

  • The team organized each sprint to put all difficult and time consuming story at the beginning.  (this was not the case before)
  • The team was comfortable with the full scope for these 4 stories. (Stakeholders were very happy with that)
  • Stakeholders understood that the team must participate and make decisions at the planning activity. (My goal for this meeting)
  • All loved the history I prepared with all symbols. (sorry; I am not very good drawing on big boards). My history about transforming  the backlog in a “locked gift” allowed all of the people in the room to laugh for few minutes and it was the perfect “ice breaking” speech. Starting with a lot of tension in the room, after few minutes, the tension was gone.
  • This experience allowed the company to have the same kind of meetings with other teams before the stress level became higher. So far, 3 teams did the same “meeting”/”game” with very good results. More is coming.
  • We are in our last sprint now and everything is running as the team expected. The team got a few injections, but as a team they were able to tackle them and all is on track. Stakeholders, PO, team, and I are happy with this result.

I hope you like this and if you want, please share your experience. Feel free to leave your comment and/or feedback.

Thank you,


About the author

Omar is an agile practitioner and lover. Certified Scrum master. Agile Coach & Agile Leader. He believes it is important to continually be learning and growing. His dream is to be a lifelong learner; growing each day. He is also passionate about leadership development and seeing people reach their full potential. He is also a good husband & father (his wife says that time to times). He has a wonderful wife and 2 fantastic kids. In his free time, if he does not have any plan ahead, he tries to apply agile methodologies at the family level :). He enjoys a lot to travel with his family and discovers new places for them.