Stephen Balkum

Agile Enthusiast, Leader, and Developer

Simple communication failure and success

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Just witnessed this

Scrummaster: Hey QA Guy, just wanted to check with you about the order of the cards in the QA Ready column.

QA Guy: Yeah, I see you keep moving cards around and I keep putting this card back on top.

Scrummaster: What is important about that card?

QA Guy: There is an acceptance meeting with the business owner this afternoon and I want to make sure it is ready.

Scrummaster: Well several of the other cards are needing to be deployed as soon as they are ready, so I really think they are more important.  This card can really be deployed in the release at the end of the cycle.

QA Guy: Oh, how did I miss that those cards wanted to be deployed?  They aren’t marked urgent.

Scrummaster: They were cards that didn’t get released in the last cycle and I didn’t want marketing to wait another full cycle.  But, they aren’t really urgent.  I put comments in the cards.

QA Guy: Can we tag cards like that so they are more obvious on the board?

Scrummaster: Let’s see.  Well, we really aren’t using this yellow tag, let’s label that as Needs Early Deployment.

QA Guy: That works.  Yellow is one step below the orange and red for Urgent and Emergency.

Scrummaster: How long will it take to test the card for the meeting this afternoon?

QA Guy: Probably only another 30 minutes or so.

Scrummaster: Oh, you’re already in the middle of it?

QA Guy: Oops.  Guess I forgot to move it to the In Progress column.

Scrummaster: No problem.  Go ahead and finish that card and I’ll mark the other cards yellow.

A little background

At BuildASign, we use Trello as an electronic index card board.  All things considered, it is very effective and I can definitely recommend it.  One of its limitations is there are only 6 colored tags for highlighting types of cards.  We have to be very careful how we use them.

Communication break down

While each communication glitch was small, the sum exposed a problem.

  • The cards were lacking a key highlight – if the important information were clearly displayed, there would not have been contention on the prioritization.
  • The QA Guy forgot to move a card to the proper column – the contentious card was in the wrong column.

Communication success

I actually enjoyed watching this conversation because it exposed a weakness and resolved in a better place.

  • We have a great team culture and a very open environment.  A face-to-face conversation is always best.
  • A new feature was added to the board.
  • The Scrummaster followed up with the entire team.

I love it when communication works, even when it starts with miscommunication.