I think one of the big reasons why Agile teams fall back to traditional project management modes (and subsequently experience difficulty ‘letting go’ of old work management models) is because various implementations don’t account for all of the non-scope work that erodes productivity and creates slippage. Not only is it not accounted for, but there seems to be no technique for managing and controlling it. Or is there? The truth is, all work – not just product scope – should be sized and prioritized once discovered. Defects, change requests, rejected stories, rework, retrofits…all of these have an estimable size and can either be done now, done later, or done never. Teams shouldn’t be chiefly concerned WHAT the work is…the product owner still gets to decide if he/she wants to use the team’s productivity (and spend budget) on every scope item – whether that is planned or unplanned work.
This is not to say that all activities – meetings, lunch, training, etc – should end up as backlog items, but everything the team spends time on has a potential cost and a potential benefit. And don’t forget – sometimes there will be a battle between the value and the cost of those things, and this is where a relentless focus on finding ‘another way’ can help unlock most of the value with a lower cost.
Teach teams to treat all items that affect their delivery the same. Raise, clarify, solution, size. If the solution doesn’t fit the budget, change the solution or change the priority. Otherwise, plan, execute and track.
Here’s the thing…if you want to be agile, you have to welcome frequent and fast change. The secret to doing that is to simplify the process for handling change. No matter what comes up, teams know what to do.