Getting Stuck


The other day I was looking for the next backlog item to start working on. Once the item was identified, the team had a quick conversation to discuss to share our collective knowledge about the work item. Making sure that we were all on the same page and the best-known approach to resolve the problem was identified. As the group parted ways, it was up to me and a keyboard to get this backlog item over the finish line. Quickly, some progress was made in the direction discussed as a group. After a couple of hours, progress came to a screaming halt. While the team and I discussed some of the unknowns around this work item, the problem at hand did not fall into any of those unknown areas. These were some unknown unknowns. I continued like this through the rest of the workday. Making some more progress, but not enough to feel as though the backlog item was nearing completion.

The next morning at standup. I gave an honest update. Things were moving forward but were feeling slow. My plan for the day was to complete this work item. While I made it through the day. The work item was not completed when I had to leave the keyboard. I had learned more about the unknowns of the backlog item. So I now knew it was far from complete. With these new learnings, I was feeling as though less progress was made today than the previous day.

It did not feel good going into standup two days in a row with the same update. Instead of giving the same update. I had in my mind it was better to let the team know exactly what was going on than to mask the issue. After all, standup is intended to be the forum to start the conversation. I started out my update saying I was STUCK. Providing some of the details of what I have been able to accomplish in the past couple of days. Then providing some information of what I thought was left to complete, but expressing uncertainty of how to get to the finish line.

The response was nothing short of amazing, right after standup the team stopped what they were doing to give me the hand to push this work item forward. As we swarmed on the backlog item the rest of the team began to understand just how difficult the implementation is to resolve the backlog item. Now that the team was aligned on the difficulty of the backlog item we recognized a couple of paths that we could take to solve the problem. We decided as a team to all work on the same thing throughout the backlog item and not deviate down different paths for too long. During the swarming session, the team tested various theories, performed many small experiments until we were able to call the backlog item complete.

Reflecting on this situation, I don't know why I waited so long to bring in the whole team on this backlog item. Everyone gets stuck at some point in time in their career. As you grow into the more experienced member of the team the frequency is less and less. But, it still happens. This is why we form teams, is it not? The main point of a team is to solve it together. We are more than just individual contributors. We succeed together and we fail together. I'm proud to be on a team that failure is not an option.