Getting a project back on track

Here are some specific notes to keep in mind to help a software project get back on track. Some of there might not apply to you, but take a look and see if there's something that helps you get things where you want them to be.

  1. Make sure that user stories have as much information as possible. Don't skim on details. Never think that "things are clear enough as they are."

  2. Actively find opportunities to keep the less senior members of the team busy, and the more senior folks relatively open. The more work the team is ready to delegate, the better understanding they'll have about it, and the more efficiently they'll be using their personnel.

  3. Simplify the work as much as you can. After you are done, try and simplify it again. Your goal is to maximize the amount of work not done. Keep asking the same "do we need this?" question over and over again until people get used to it (or pissed off at you).

  4. Assuming you are running Scrum and have some members working remote, make sure they fully feel part of the team and are invited to all the ceremonies just like the internal team is.

  5. Try to minimize the number of epics the team tackles every sprint. It will help them keep focused, and they'll have a better chance to finish features completely.

  6. Make sure you have plenty of work planned and ready in your backlog (Scrum practitioners usually recommend two sprints). This is the only way the team will have time to solve dependencies, avoid surprises, and have enough material to stay busy.

  7. Avoid working on new features that your stakeholders haven't fully approved. You should present as many details as possible of your planned solutions a couple of sprints ahead of time, so your client has a chance to review and approve.

  8. Stakeholders will always try to maximize the amount of work they can squeeze out of the team for the same budget. The more you can drive the project, the higher chance you'll have of keeping the team on track and avoiding death marches at the end.

  9. Try to minimize the time in meetings for the production team outside of the regular Scrum ceremonies. The more you can accomplish via email or by just involving non-production members, the more time you'll have to get work done.

  10. Making sure your next two sprints are successful is much more important than the outcome of the current sprint. If you are falling behind with your backlog, take less work today and use the time to plan for tomorrow.

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