Scrum Rules: Your Scrum Master Creates and Maintains the Team's Sprint Burndown Chart

September 3, 2020
4 minute read

The Sprint burndown chart tracks the amount of work remaining in the Sprint day-by-day. The burndown chart is updated daily and is visible to the team and stakeholders.

This activity is part of the Scrum Master’s duty to facilitate the Scrum Process. This activity is part of the Scrum Master’s job to satisfy stakeholders as the chart allows the team to easily see how it is trending on committed deliverables. This information allows the team and the Product Owner to discuss any necessary adjustments to the team’s commitments for the current Sprint in a timely fashion. What happens if the Scrum Master fails to create and/or maintain the team’s Sprint burndown chart? Most likely we will be unable to see if the team is on track, late or early in its current Sprint. To find out this information we would have to wait until the Sprint is done which is much too late. Also, without daily updates on the trend of the team it is more likely that Scrum Team Members may slip back into an individualistic approach to work instead a team based approach.

Creating and maintaining a Sprint burndown chart is ideally done on a whiteboard in the team’s room. The Scrum Master tracks the number of tasks remaining in the Sprint Backlog over time. The chart therefore has an x-axis that is “time”, usually measured in Days, and a y-axis that is “number of tasks remaining”. Every Day, usually immediately following the Daily Scrum, the Scrum Master updates this chart to show the count of all the Tasks in the Sprint Backlog. This measure of number of Tasks remaining assumes that generally speaking tasks have been broken down so that they usually take one person one day or less to complete. Of course, if the Scrum Team is adding tasks to the Sprint Backlog faster than the team is completing them, then the burndown chart may become a “burnup” chart! This is quite common for the first day or two of most Sprints. The Team should be paying attention to the Sprint burndown chart and working hard (and using their creativity) to make sure that the chart goes down to zero tasks remaining by the end of the Sprint. It is common in the first few Sprints for the team to have tasks left over at the end of the Sprint. By looking at the historical records of the Sprint burndown charts during the Retrospective, most teams come up with ways to use that data to get better at Sprint Planning. The whiteboard approach is recommended due to the visibility for both the team and other stakeholders. This principle of transparency is critical to the effective use of this chart. The Sprint burndown chart is often just referred to as the “burndown”. If the space is not available on a whiteboard or if the team is not co-located in a room, then use an electronic tool such as a chart in a spreadsheet.

At any point in time in a Sprint, the total work remaining in the Sprint Backlog can be summed. The Development Team tracks this total work remaining at least for every Daily Scrum to project the likelihood of achieving the Sprint Goal. By tracking the remaining work throughout the Sprint, the Development Team can manage its progress. — The Scrum Guide

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Equitable Life of Canada
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