Scrum Master Tales–The Story of the Changing Needs

This content is syndicated from Agile Pain Relief » Blog by Mark Levison. To view the original post in full, click here.

Stories-DickensCaveat – given the way I’m writing this series occasionally things will happen out of order, i.e. I will be reminded of points I wish I had made earlier.

John, Sue and the rest of the team have started another sprint this time they committed to fewer stories and part way through the sprint are well on the way to getting stories completed. This time they committed to 8 stories with sizes ranging from 2 – 8 points. Every couple of days they get a story accepted. Things are going awesomely well.


  • As a Canadian book buyer I want to Amazon to ship my book to Canada so I can get my book home – Story Points: 8
  • As a Canadian book buyer I want to Amazon to calculate the import duty on my books – Story Points: 3
  • As a Canadian book buyer living in Ontario I want Amazon to calculate the local sales tax (HST) – Story Points: 2

Five days into the sprint Sue comes to the team and asks to add a new story. One that the team has previously sized as 5 Story Points: As an American book buyer I would like to use premium shipping so I can get my books sooner. She says its really important because she’s getting a lot of pressure to help get books to American customer’s sooner. John shots back that Scrum team’s make a commitment for the Sprint and once set can’t be changed without cancelling the sprint. Sue continues to press saying this is a really important story.


What are the team’s options?

  • They can refuse.
  • If its an occasional event the team might trade out a larger story for smaller story, that hasn’t yet been started. This respects the fact that even though it hasn’t “started” the story effort has gone into analysis/design etc. In addition it recognizes that no switch is free.
  • Small changes to existing stories just happen. Sometimes as we gain a deeper understanding of a story and see it implemented the acceptance criteria or layout change. This is a good moment to remember the ‘N’ in INVEST (**link**). Stories should be negotiable. Small changes should probably just be accommodated. Larger changes maybe in the scope of the original story but in that case we might have to drop another story.
  • Cancel the Sprint – If a radical change in direction is required. Not in this case but perhaps the company has been acquired.
Clearly in the example the Story isn’t “pressing” in the context I’ve imagined I can’t imagine anything that would be so pressing that the PO couldn’t wait for another sprint. Maybe a good bug.
Also if this happens more than very very rarely we would want to do some root cause analysis and see why the PO’s needs change so frequently. Maybe there is some external pressure that we can’t see (Investors, other stakeholders). If the pressure means that the PO will need to make changes on a regular basis then that is a hint that the team might need shorter sprints.

Leave a Reply

What is 2 + 4 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
Please do this simple sum so I know you are human:)

There are 101 ways to approach anything.
To find the best way, sometimes you need expert help

What People Say

“Kelly revolutionised the way our digital department operated. A true advocate of agile principles, he quickly improved internal communication within our teams and our internal clients by aligning our business and creating a much enhanced sense of transparency in the decisions the business was making. Kelly also introduced a higher sense of empowerment to the development teams...”


“Kelly’s a leading program director with the ability to take charge from day one and keep strong momentum at both a program and project level driving prioritisation, resourcing and budgeting agendas. Kelly operates with an easy-going style and possesses a strong facilitation skill set. From my 5 months experience working with Kelly, I would recommend Kelly to program manage large scale, complex, cross company change programs both from a business and IT perspective.”


“Kelly is an extremely talented and visionary leader. As such he manages to inspire all around him to achieve their best. He is passionate about agile and has a wealth of experience to bring to bear in this area. If you're 'lucky' he might even tell you all about his agile blog. Above all this, Kelly is great fun to work with. He is always relaxed and never gets stressed - and trust me, he had plenty of opportunity here! If you get the chance to work with Kelly, don't pass it up.”


“Kelly is an Agile heavy-weight. He came in to assess my multi-million $ Agile development program which wasn’t delivering the right throughput. He interviewed most of the team and made some key recommendations that, when implemented, showed immediate results. I couldn’t ask for more than that except he’s a really nice guy as well.”


“Kelly and I worked together on a very large project trying to secure a new Insurer client. Kelly had fantastic commercial awareness as well as his technical expertise. Without him I would never had secured this client so I owe a lot to him. He is also a really great guy!”


“Kelly came to the department and has really made a huge impact on how the department communicates, collaborates and generally gets things done. We were already developing in an agile way, but Kelly has brought us even more into alignment with agile and scrum best practices, being eager to share information and willing to work with us to change our processes rather than dictate how things must be done. He is highly knowledgable about agile development (as his active blog proves) but his blog won't show what a friendly and knowledgeable guy he is. I highly recommend Kelly to anyone looking for a CTO or a seminar on agile/scrum practices - you won't be disappointed!”


“Kelly was a great colleague to work with - highly competent, trustworthy and generally a nice bloke.”


“Kelly was engaged as a Program Director on a complex business and technology transformation program for Suncorp Commercial Insurance. Kelly drew on his key capabilities and depth of experience to bring together disparate parties in a harmonised way, ensuring the initiate and concept phases of the program were understood and well formulated. Excellent outcome in a very short time frame. ”


“I worked with Kelly on many projects at IPC and I was always impressed with his approach to all of them, always ensuring the most commercially viable route was taken. He is great at managing relationships and it was always a pleasure working with him.”


“I worked with Kelly whilst at Thoughtworks and found him to be a most inspiring individual, his common-sense approach coupled with a deep understanding of Agile and business makes him an invaluable asset to any organisation. I can't recommend Kelly enough.”


“Kelly was a brilliant CTO and a great support to me in the time we worked together. I owe Kelly a great deal in terms of direction and how to get things done under sometimes difficult circumstances. Thanks Kelly.”