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How to create tasks under user stories for the time spent on helping fresher team members?  RSS feed

 
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In Sprint I create tasks for myself under user stories such as for design or coding implementation or for unit testing. However when working with freshers a lot of your time goes in helping them. How to create task for such things. I have another question. If a task requires analysis does it come under coding implementation itself?

 
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Tasks defined under a user story should be focused on what needs to be done to complete the story. For example, "Create database scripts for test data" or "Penetration testing/review" or even "update project wiki to document major design decisions." Tasks help you plan your development activities related to a story and make sure you haven't missed anything to bring a story to DONE.

It sounds like you're also (mainly?) using tasks to track time spent. If you're going to do that, then I suggest you use the Pomodoro Technique and note down in the task how many pomodoros you spent, e.g. "Note: Total of fourteen 30-minute pomodoros spent working with intern" under the "Create stored procedure" task.
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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Suppose "Create database scripts for test data" is the task on which the fresher is working with. If this fresher completes this task in 24 hours and I also have to spend 8 hours from time to time to help and guide him then what should be the title of my task in that case ?
 
Junilu Lacar
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Nothing. Like I said before, you'd just make a note under the main task. Nickel and diming everyone's time is an Agile antipattern. You assume everyone is doing their best effort towards achieving the sprint goals and therefore is using their time honestly and wisely. If someone needs help then they need help. Again, tasks are there mainly to plan work, not so much to count beans. If you can't accept that, then you're still working with an old waterfall mindset.
 
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We explicitly plan "training" task for new team members. This reflects:
  • Training is something we value
  • Our velocity will be lower while training a new person
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    When we have a new person in we just knock off 10% of our "normal" velocity for a sprint, and the new joiner classes as half a person.
    Very "finger in the air", but it works well enough.
     
    Junilu Lacar
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    I think planning on slowing down is a good approach although I'm not too keen on counting anyone as half a person. Even experienced team members can have their ups and downs so saying there's a "one person" measure still feels "bean count-y" to me.

    A training task also feels like there's some bean counting involved, or at least some CYA. A user story is something the user values and it makes more sense to me to show tasks related to producing that value. That a team values training is great and having a conversation with the product owner to let them know there is some of that going on while the team works on the user story is good for transparency. However, I would question why "training" as a task under a user story is necessary at all. To me, that's just something that happens all the time in one form or another.

    A good team is always learning and helping each other learn. If they're doing more teaching/learning on one story, then a direct conversation with the product owner about a slower pace is more appropriate, in my opinion. Creating a task specifically for training new team members just pushes you closer to the slippery slope of using story points as an accounting and budgeting thing, which to me is a dysfunction.

    This is how that might happen: You have 3-pt story that you didn't finish in the sprint because there was a lot of training time involved. The team asks why the story wasn't done and somebody says "Well, it really should have been a 5-pt story because we had to spend more time to train Billy, the new guy." Boom, slip sliding away. Now points are tied more closely to hours, a major story point anti-pattern.
     
    Dave Tolls
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    As I say, it's really a "finger in the air" thing, and we really don't want to spend time arguing over how much new person A is likely to affect the velocity.
    Any change to a team affects the velocity, and I've been sat there for too long at some clients where the discussion on these things can go on and on...for no gain at all, frankly.  And, indeed, it invariably ends up binding points to timescales.

    To be honest, it's half tempting to ignore New Person A for the first sprint or two...however long "getting up to speed" is expectd to take.
    It'll fall out of the velocity in the end anyway.
     
    Satyaprakash Joshii
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    In that case if the fresher has worked on a coding task Task1 for 24 hours in the first 3 days of the sprint, I have worked on Task2 for 16 hours during these days and have helped him from time to time in Task1 (in all 8 hours) so what should my second task title be like (where 8 hours were spent in helping him)?
     
    Junilu Lacar
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    "Worked 24 hours in 3 days" is already a red flag for me. That tells me you're bean counting: 8 work hours per day * 3 days = 24 hrs. The reality is, unless you're working 10-hour days or longer, you don't actually spend eight hours a day just working on a task. There are meetings, breaks, etc. Typically, you might get 4 or 5 hours of focused work time in a day. Context switching from one task to another makes you even less productive and this is backed by research. If you're bent on tracking time you spent helping someone complete a task, then why don't you just add one that says "Help (whoever) with (whatever task)"? I think it's a pointless exercise that just keeps you in an anti-Agile mindset and way of working.
     
    Satyaprakash Joshii
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    The reason why I need taskId and task title for those 24-16=8 hours ,is that I need to enter atleast 40 hours in the timesheet. As told above, entering it as "helping fresher.." will solve the purpose. Can I instead create a task like "Internal discussion with team member" or something like "team coordination activities"?
     
    Dave Tolls
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    As Junliu says, none of those things are tasks, frankly.
    If you need to book time to a ticket (and I'm really not sure what is gained by that, rather than to a project) then book your "helping" time to the ticket that the new person is working on, because that is what you are working on for those hours.

    It doesn't require a whole new task.
     
    Junilu Lacar
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    1. It's really up to you to decide what you will ultimately do to reconcile your activities with whatever accounting system you have at your company.

    2. We can only comment on what is Agile vs. non-Agile behavior. Honestly, what you are describing as your situation has nothing to do with user stories and agility. It's just more old-school accounting where people are treated like cogs in a machine. We're people, not robots. Tracking to that level of detail is both dishonest and counterproductive, in my opinion. I haven't had the misfortune of working at a place that tracks hours worked to such minute detail but I'm sure I would not last very long in one.
     
    Satyaprakash Joshii
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    OK.What can be the appropriate category to choose for this task. E. G Coding, Design, Testing. Since a have helped the fresher and guided him on what has to be done and how, I have not actually done coding on his eclipse, so category of coding will now make sense. Whether I have a task like internal discussion with Team member or I use same taskId as the fresher what category should I use out of coding, testing, design etc?  
     
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    Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:OK.What can be the appropriate category to choose for this task.



    But, shouldn't you be asking this question to the person who told you to create the task? Seems to me this would be a normal conversation:

    Boss: Don't forget to create a task for the time you help the freshers.

    You: Okay, but what category should I choose for it?
     
    Dave Tolls
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    Since this set up seems to be fairly specific to where you are working then this really is a question for your boss/scrum master/whoever.

    My view would be that you are working on the same thing that the person who is on-boarding is working on, as you are helping them with their issue.
    Coding isn't just typing at a keyboard.

    And do you really split up your tasks into Design/Code/Test?
     
    Junilu Lacar
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    Dave Tolls wrote:And do you really split up your tasks into Design/Code/Test?


    Which is why I think this way of tracking tasks is not entirely transparent and at worst, dishonest. If I were to categorize work, I'd have categories like DB, documentation, coding, infrastructure, etc. instead of Design/Code/Test which is very waterfall-ish.
     
    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    Dave Tolls wrote:When we have a new person in we just knock off 10% of our "normal" velocity for a sprint, and the new joiner classes as half a person.
    Very "finger in the air", but it works well enough.


    We do that too. Our training tasks are for the non-new people. We make sure that each person gets to spend at least some one on one time with the new hire..

    For the new hire, we do 25%, 50%, 75%, 90% as our ramp up rate by two week sprints. This reflects corporate training, team training and that it takes longer to do things when new. Most of the time, the person gets more done the first and second sprint than the "discounted" rate. But we are setting the person up to succeed.

    Note that we max at 90%. Our team has a "10% employee tax" for things like town halls, appraisals and various other corporate type stuff. We don't sit around deducting hours. It's just so our velocity target can be realistic for vacations and avialability
     
    Satyaprakash Joshii
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    But, shouldn't you be asking this question to the person who told you to create the task? Seems to me this would be a normal conversation:

    Boss: Don't forget to create a task for the time you help the freshers.

    You: Okay, but what category should I choose for it?



    They do not say anything on it as long as in the week 40 hours are filled against that tasks (under user stories) , vacations etc . Just that for my understanding I wanted to enter the title properly by understanding that whether this type of task for helping team member come under coding or design or any other. As suggested above it is good idea to enter time in the same task id as the fresher. Alternatively I think entering a task as "Internal discussion with team member" is not a bad idea but will it look appropriate under a user story?

     
    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:Alternatively I think entering a task as "Internal discussion with team member" is not a bad idea but will it look appropriate under a user story?


    Hmm. Something my team does sometimes is create stbtasks called "time". We do this when we realize we need to think about a task more before starting coding. It serves as a reminder. Since the only people who use this information are on our team, that works in our environment. In yours, I suspect it would get questioned. But it might be a good idea to get the conversation going about what you should do.
     
    Satyaprakash Joshii
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    And later what kind of task titles does "time" gets replaced with.
     
    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:And later what kind of task titles does "time" gets replaced with.


    Nothing. It's a working title for the team. Once it is done, the title no longer matters.

    Remember that on my team, these "tasks" are a convenience to us. Whereas you seem to be writing them for an audience beyond the team.

    Our product owner is cool with "time" on some tasks. He cares more about things like acceptance criteria. I'm the Scrum Master (as part of my job) and I'm good with it. The other developers on the team like it. So everyone who needs to be using our "tasks" is onboard. I can't imagine anyone else showing up and asking, but if they did, we'd have a discussion about team process and what "external parties" get to dictate.
     
    It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
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