Trust the Team
by Ron Quartel
<music src="Pink Floyd - The Wall">
We don't need no constant tracking.
We don't need no micro managing.
Hey – Business – leave those devs alone!
All in all it's just another task off the wall.
What does a delivery team do? Deliver! They make a commitment and then deliver on it. If they are not going to make a commitment then they promise to tell the product owner the minute they think the sprint is at risk. Given that this is the way a committed delivery team works, why do management – and sometimes product owners – feel that they need to track the day-to-day progress of a team through the sprint? The answer is that the management is still in traditional project management tracking mode, where managers feel that their job is to track task completion and hours remaining. If this is true for your company/project/product – STOP!!!! You are disempowering the team and in effect telling them that you do not trust them.
Some managers use a burn down chart. The burn down chart is an (optional) tool that is used by a team to help them know if/when they are behind on a sprint or likely not to succeed. I personally don't see the need for exposing (or even using) a burn down chart in a committed team that delivers consistently, and I have worked in many such teams. If your team finds it useful – yay! Go ahead and use it. But if you have a method in place that gives you the same result without this tool then – yay! Use that.
So given that the business does NOT need to track the daily progress of sprints (because the delivery teams are meeting their commitments), what tracking is required? The product owner and his or her backlog is the only point of tracking for a project. For enterprise or portfolio tracking (i.e. multiple backlogs), an electronic tool might make sense and help you. If the delivery team finds an electronic tool useful, then let them use a tool. If they do not, do not force one on them because "you need to track their work." That is not using an Agile mindset and you are in fact expressing distrust to your teams.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I personally dislike electronic tools within teams and much prefer big visible charts from which you can glean a thousand pieces of information at a glance. Keep it simple stupid! (And start trusting your teams.)