Don’t Finish Your Epics! Deliver More Value Instead.

Question

Product team is starting to assign business values to epics so we can, along with effort estimates, set correct priorities. However, we also have quarterly goals. Once we reach the end of a quarter, if an epic is not completely done (all stories under it), how do we get partial credit?

Answer

I recommend rolling the value down from the epics into the stories themselves. This way, you can see what you delivered in the quarter. Keep in mind that value estimates, just like effort estimates, are really just a tool to help with planning and decision making. At the end of the quarter, I’d like to see you focusing on the awesome stuff you delivered and what your customers’ reactions were to that new functionality.

I also recommend not trying to complete all of the stories in the epic. That type of ‘completion thinking’ is often a holdover from the old way of thinking: “We must do all of the things that we said we would do.” It’s not usually the best approach. When a big epic is broken into smaller stories, it’s not the case that all of the stories are equally valuable. Some are very valuable, many are fairly valuable, and some are nice to have but not really all that valuable. Deliver the most valuable stuff, and then keep an eye out for when the rate of value delivery is falling off. At that point, there is usually other, more valuable stuff that the team could be working on. So you should have the team stop working on the current epic, and move on to the other more valuable stuff. Free yourselves from ‘completion thinking’ and focus on constantly delivering value at the fastest possible rate.

Cheers,

Chris

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