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Annotated Burn-Down Charts Help During Retrospectives

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A sprint burn-down chart tracks the size of the sprint backlog over the course of the sprint. During the sprint retrospective, the burn-down chart can provide valuable data about how the sprint went. Mike Sutton uses annotations to capture more data on the burn-down chart, making it even more useful during the retrospective.

During a sprint, the burndown chart keeps the team, and anyone else who looks at it, informed as to how big the sprint backlog currently is, and how quickly it is shrinking. Ideally, the chart is trending down such that it will hit 'zero work left' at or before the end of the sprint

A retrospective timeline is a tool for helping the team reconstruct the key events of the sprint. A common approach is to mark off a timeline on a wall or whiteboard, and have team members put sticky notes on the timeline for events that occurred. The notes may say things like: "Mike joined the team.", "Build was broken", "Build finally fixed!", "Big demo for customer went well!", "The big bug was reported", and so on.

Mike Sutton described how he is capturing timeline information, as it happens, on the team's burndown chart. When a team member reports an impediment at the daily stand-up meeting, the impediment is recorded on a sticky note. The sticky note is then placed on the burndown chart, next to the trend line point for that day. The sticky note includes a short description of the impediment, and any relevant context. When the impediment is resolved, the resolution date is added to the sticky. The sticky note remains on the chart. When the team does their sprint retrospective, the can easily refer to the annotated burn-down chart to help them remember the key events of the sprint.

What types of data does your team collect and use during retrospectives? What tools do you use to collect the data? Leave a comment and share.

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  • Annotated Sprint Burndown Charts - Every Picture Tells a Story

    by Paul Jackson,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Great article Chris. I completely agree that annotating the Burndown Chart during a Sprint can be a useful tool for the retrospective. It's also a great way to explain to the Product Owner or client the impact of scope change or any external activity that affects the Sprint. I recently wrote in my Blog on a similar subject, telling a story about one of our Sprints and showing the Burndown Chart annotated with key events during the Sprint's life. As my Agile team is distributed (the team are based in UK, Canada & India), we use an electronic Burndown Chart which we share during our daily (teleconference) Scrum. Here's my story:

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