Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What's the velocity of a turkey?

“What do you mean, an African or European turkey?”

Neither, I mean a North American Thanksgiving turkey. And no, this is not some kind of cheesy Python-esque skit. Rather, as my favorite US holiday approaches, a particular truism of turkey roasting occurred to me: your 12-16lbs bird will need about 15 minutes per pound at 325F until it reaches an internal temperature of 160-170F.

So that, I would say is the velocity of a turkey – 15 minutes per pound. And the internal temperature is your “acceptance criteria” since I’m doing dubious cookery/scrum metaphors.

Just like a scrum team’s velocity is what it is, the same is true of our turkey. You can try and "turn up the heat" to get it done quicker, but in reality the results will suck. Your end result will be all dry (for the turkey) and the product flaky (for your scrum software team).

So, to get good results, work with the reality of the situation. Plan based upon your known velocity. If you want 100 points worth of features implemented, and your team’s velocity is 25 points a sprint, reckon on it taking around 4 sprints. If your family is hoping to sit down and feast at 1pm get that 12lbs turkey in the oven with enough time for it to cook and rest afterwards. You just can’t rush it. If you have other features you want within the next 4 sprints you are going to have to make some hard choices about what you drop from your current plans. You simply can’t have it all. Similarly, if there are other things you need the oven for, plan accordingly. You can’t fit everything in there with the turkey all at once.

As much as scrum is about prioritization, it’s also about accepting the reality of what your velocity tells you can be realistically done, and working with that. That means good planning, and sometimes hard choices.

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