Agile Scoping and TimeboxingMuhammad Zeeshan Ali, PMP, PMI-ACP
Agile is all about flexibility but the experts will agree with me that there is much more to Agile than just being flexible. Most professionals consider this flexibility as unbounded means they think that being Agile means there can be a change in work plan and scope at any time. Being Agile doesn’t mean that you work with an undetermined schedule. Agile has some very good practices, based on ground realities, which provides very good control over the proceedings.
Although Agile is considered always open to change in scope and ready to embrace work into the backlog any time during the project. One important thing to understand is that scope of each iteration/sprint is locked at the start of it during the Sprint Planning meeting and everybody has to adhere to that scope. It is a misconception that new work can be added to the sprint at any time. Anyone who wants to add something to the scope has to wait till the start of the next Sprint Planning meeting to get the work started. The work however is added to the backlog and prioritized before the next Sprint Planning Meeting.
There might be occasional spikes, especially related to the technology, that might occur during the sprint but those are again somewhat directly or indirectly linked with the user stories already in the scope of the sprint.
Similarly, there is another misconception that being Agile means to keep on working on an item till the Product Owner is not fully satisfied. It is not exactly like that as there is a very good Agile concept known as “Time Boxing” which helps in setting a timeline and setting boundaries. Time Boxing means that whatever activity is started, there is a time set for it. Once that time has elapsed, the activity is reviewed for further strategy. It may be halted or may continue with another Time Boxing. The concept is based around a simple thought that you cannot work on an item or keep pursuing an activity for an undefined time.
Time Boxing helps the most in Risk Management. It allows the solution to be put to test and conclude quickly. Many times, an issue or problem was not highlighted because it was not time-boxed and efforts were consistently being added on with the hope that things will turn around. Sometimes it may work but mostly they call for elevated level risks. Most of the time the issues are detected at the maximum possible time and by then they have caused irreversible damage. At that stage, most of the stakeholders wish that they could have put some boundaries to reduce the magnitude of the damages to a certain level.