The Planning Meeting from Hell

I was facilitating a planning meeting with the team a week ago and it was not going well. We had our stories all ready to go before the meeting. The stories were well formed. All we had to do was come up with a list of tasks for each story. How long could that take? An hour?

An hour later we finished the first of nine stories. It had taken us an entire hour to identify 3 tasks! It was like pulling teeth. I’d ask the team to provide a list of tasks…silence. I’d take different approaches, “how do we break the story down?” I’d suggest different kinds of tasks…silence.

I swear to God I don’t beat my teams with a stick. But the silence was ominous. Why couldn’t they come up with even the simplest tasks? I racked my brain trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Was I intimidating the team? Was someone else?

Then it hit me. They didn’t know the architecture of the product! Of course they didn’t know what tasks they would need. They simply had no clue! I spent the next week working to make the architecture of the system visible to the team. Information radiators with diagrams of the static class design. Interaction diagrams, you name it. The next time we had a planning meeting, the tasks came quite naturally.

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