Focus – Is Your Scrum Team Shooting Skeet or Sniper?

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This guy has real focus!
Courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons.

I like to go shooting. I’m not that great at it but I can generally hit the target the majority of the time. So what, you might ask, does this have to do with project management? It’s all about focus and intensity. Let’s look at a couple of shooting styles to dig into this topic.

I’ve been skeet shooting a few times and it’s a lot of fun. It’s sometimes referred to as sporting clays. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s the sport where the targets are flung up into the air. The challenge is to shoot them before they hit the ground.

In this sport, you use a shotgun. The shells are designed so that there a multiple lead shots inside them. Upon shooting, the lead shot spreads out in a pattern, so that you have many little projectiles heading at the skeet. This is effective, but only up to a point. This tendency to spread and disperse means that distance and power is greatly affected. And, generally only one or two of the shots hit the skeet target. The others are wasted.

On the other hand, when shooting as a sniper you get one shot. The rifle and projectile are designed for maximum velocity, distance, and accuracy. Generally the target is much further away than in skeet. In order to be effective using a sniper rifle, the shooter’s aim and precision are paramount. If they can focus on the target, and account for other factors that may affect the bullet’s trajectory, then an extreme degree of accuracy can be had at distances of 500 yards or more.

The moral of the story is that with focus, clarity, and precision, the shooter is much more effective. What about your project teams? Do they benefit from the same degree of focused intensity?

As a ScrumMaster, it is up to you to maintain your team’s focus. By working from the same project backlog, your team already benefits from a degree of focus. But if you don’t work to maintain that focus, then your team will put down their sniper rifle and pick up the shotgun. It might make a lot of noise, but is unlikely to bring down the target.

Where can they get distracted and lose focus? Here are five pitfalls to watch out for.

  • Ineffective Sprint retrospective meetings. By not calling attention to the issues at hand, anything that has one or more team members out of focus will continue to linger.
  • Working on unrelated backlog items. By not choosing wisely from the backlog, you can find your team focusing on many different things.
  • Allowing Product Owners and Stakeholders to be too involved during the Sprint. Nothing can distract your team more than outsiders watching over their shoulders. This is also where goldplating can start to creep in also.
  • Poorly defined requirements. Garbage in, garbage out. Your team needs a solid, interactive relationship with the Product Owner to ensure they’re meeting the customer’s needs.
  • Sprint review meetings without the customer involved. Without their input and feedback, how can your team know if they are successful and focused on the right things?

Need help bringing focus to your team? Braintrust Consulting Group can help! To find out more, contact us here at Braintrust. Click on the Contact page to hear from one of our product specialists. Or, head over to the Services tab to find out more about our offerings.