How to prioritize work with Scrum teams the easy way

As a Scrum Master you are there to help your team and your organization not only to understand Scrum, but also to resolve conflict, improve communication, time management, prioritization and more. I believe proper time management can help your Development Team and your Product Owner prioritize work better and focus on what brings value.

Luckily, you don’t need to go far to find simple models that can help you coach others. In this video, I focus on a well known Eisenhower Decision Matrix that when properly applied in a Scrum environment can be a great coaching tool.

Along the way, I tell you my personal stories around how I coached the team in different quadrants of the model. The general message is quite simple and we’ve heard it already. It is the way you use Scrum within this model as a Scrum Master that makes the difference.

Eisenhower Decision Matrix is a powerful tool for Scrum Masters to use in their coaching teams on better time management.

Important – Not Urgent Quadrant

Scrum wants us to focus on what’s important and not urgent and plan for it in advance:

  • Use Backlog Refinements to define what sits in this quadrant;
  • Collect feedback in Sprint Reviews to validate your assumptions around importancy and urgency;
  • Set clear Sprint Goals to help deliver value.

Important – Urgent Quadrant

Get on it right away. Since it’s still important (the assumption is, it’s valuable), you need to work on it. However, do not pass on the opportunity to Inspect and Adapt:

  • Use Sprint Retrospectives to figure out how this work became urgent. It must have been important before, we just didn’t plan for it properly.
  • Minimize the work sitting in this quadrant with the help of Backlog Refinements, Sprint Plannings and Sprint Reviews to redefine scope and timelines based on the situation at hand. 

Not Important – Not Urgent Quadrant

That’s the easiest of them all – you wouldn’t want your team to focus on this at all. It doesn’t bring value, and most likely there is something else that’s more important.

  • Backlog Refinement is a perfect place to remove anything that fits in this category from your Product Backlog to remove unnecessary distractions for the team.

Not Important – Urgent Quadrant

This work comes from traditional management and a false assumption that any work becomes important based on a deadline. Beware of the work that sits here and make sure to set time aside to recognize it.

  • Sprint Reviews is a place for your team to discuss this kind of work. Often your stakeholders are not aware of other work that comes to you and they can be a good judge of what’s actually important and what just has an arbitrary deadline to make it look important.

While making decisions around what the team works on is not the role of a Scrum Master, there are some important lessons, coaching and other activities that you can undertake to help your team manage their time better. So here comes the question for you:

As a Scrum Master what stances you can take and activities you can run for work appearing in each quadrant to help your team plan better in Scrum?

Leave your answers below. Be as specific as possible – this can be of huge help to your fellow Scrum Masters who might still trying to find a way to coach their team in better time management.

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About The Author

Hi, my name is Daria Bagina. Iā€™m a Professional Scrum Trainer with Scrum.org and a practicing Scrum Master. I help teams and organizations to get the most out of the Scrum and Agile implementation by sharing my personal stories and practical advice.

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