My ticket is blocked

Says the developer at the daily standup, before moving the ticket into the blocked column.

This happens from time to time in most teams; a wayward ticket either wasn’t refined or did make it through refinement, and then something genuinely unexpected emerges.

“Nothing, I’m waiting on the other team,” he snaps back when asked what he will do to help unblock it. Probably feeling singled out and put on the spot.

It would be very easy to blame the individual team member for not being proactive and start to label them as having a bad attitude. But perhaps they are simply fed up with continually not being able to complete their work.

Suppose blocked tickets happen regularly, particularly for more than one team member. In that case, something is very likely broken with how you manage your product backlog and refine your user stories. And it should be fixed before it becomes accepted as normal.

Other signs that something is broken include unhappy users of newly released features, user stories missing alternative scenarios and acceptance criteria, user stories that are implementation-specific rather than goal-oriented, and user stories that contain too much technical detail.

Getting a handle on things becomes even more critical in distributed, remote and offshore teams, which often have the additional challenges of language barriers, different cultures, being physically distanced from the client and located across time zones.

The way to address matters and improve the team’s experience is probably the same in all cases, namely well-defined user stories that have been fully refined ahead of sprint planning; allowing developers the confidence they can be implemented, as specified and as intended, within the upcoming sprint.

Frank Ray Consulting. Software requirements for agile development teams, particularly distributed, remote and offshore development teams working in financial services.

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