TL; DR: Gold-Plating Beyond Done
There are plenty of failure possibilities with Scrum. Given that Scrum is a framework with a reasonable yet short “manual,” this effect should not surprise anyone. However, creating Product Increments that “over-deliver” in scope or quality — also known as gold-plating — with regard to the previous refinement agreement demonstrates that the Developers need to acquire a more entrepreneurial mindset and embrace their responsibility.
Join me and explore the reasons and the consequences of this Sprint anti-pattern in 109 seconds.
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The Accountability of the Developers According to the Scrum Guide
The Developers bear a mission-critical responsibility: they create the Product Increments designed to provide continuously more value to our customers. Moreover, as the Scrum Team is self-managing, the Developers decide on how they plan to do this:
Developers are the people in the Scrum Team that are committed to creating any aspect of a usable Increment each Sprint.
The specific skills needed by the Developers are often broad and will vary with the domain of work. However, the Developers are always accountable for:
- Creating a plan for the Sprint, the Sprint Backlog;
- Instilling quality by adhering to a Definition of Done;
- Adapting their plan each day toward the Sprint Goal; and,
- Holding each other accountable as professionals.
Source: Scrum Guide 2020.
Why Over-Delivering Is an Indicator for the Developers’ Lack of Professionalism
This Scrum anti-pattern is easy to spot: The Developers increase the Sprint’s scope by adding unnecessary effort to work items of Sprint Backlog, also referred to as scope-stretching or gold-plating beyond Done. Typically, this is done without prior consulting of the Product Owner.
This ignorance of previously made agreements during the refinement process may result in a questionable allocation of resources by neglecting basic business principles like considering opportunity costs.
What can you do about when faced with gold-plating? Try to address the following issues in the next Sprint Retrospective:
- Are Developers and the Product Owner talking often enough with each other, is the Product Backlog refinement process up to the job?
- Are the Developers aware that it is their responsibility to make sound investment decisions when creating Product Increments? Good enough, as in “meets the Definition of Done and the intended purpose,” is a viable approach. It does not always need to be the most elegant, best possible quality solution as long as the Increment delivers the intended value.
Probably, you also want to analyze whether decisions made in the past, for example, the design of extended software architecture, are now driving decisions. So, for example, developers might be doubling down to underline that the previous decision was correct.
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Gold-Plating Beyond Done — Conclusion
If your Scrum Team strives to be successful, everyone on the team needs to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, not just the Product Owner. The Developers, in particular, are prone to oversee this necessity while at the same time making far-reaching product decisions daily. As Scrum Master and Product Owner, you need to help them fully embrace this level of accountability.
What Sprint anti-patterns have you observed? Please share them with us in the comments.
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