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Burndown Chart


We tend to think that if a graph goes up, it indicates positive dynamics. But graphs can go down and show positive dynamics as well. Burndown Chart is such a graph. It is one of the main tools used to track the completed tasks in a Sprint or in the whole project. Although, it can be used in a variety of different ways, we will treat it as a part of Scrum structure.

An example of a Burndown Chart::

Диаграмма сгорания задач / Burndown Chart

The perfect line of completed tasks, which you should rely upon is shown in blue colour.

An actual history of completed tasks is shown in red colour.

Y scale represents the number of tickets sold (in this example), perfect hours, number of tasks, etc.

X scale shows the number of days left till the end of the Sprint.

At first it may seem that this Burndown Chart can be used only as a self-control measure, but it can actually give us much more information.

Reading the Burndown chart

Let’s begin with negative examples and move to the positive ones.

1. Burndown Chart: Too early

Burndown Chart: Too early

If we take a look at the Burndown Chart, we will see that the team finished all the tasks prior to the deadline. Such a situation isn’t always positive, as it can be an indicator of several mistakes:

  • The Team had evaluated the upcoming tasks incorrectly;
  • Team members didn’t add tasks from the next Sprint after they finished tasks from the current one;
  • Team wasn’t confident of their success and added extra time initially.

In cases like this a Scrum Master usually asks he Team if it is possible to add additional tasks from the Product Backlog.

2. Burndown Chart: Too late

Burndown Chart: Too late

It is also a negative example of a Burndown Chart.

One of the possible reasons could have been a permanent increase of the workload. The members of the Team kept adding new tasks during the Sprint.

Another typical problem is half-done tasks. Such tasks, according to Jeff Sutherland are mere trash.

If such a situation is present, it is necessary to discuss it during Daily Scrum Meetings. As soon as the graph goes up – the problem needs to be solved at once. It is an postulate of Scrum.

3. Burndown Chart: Unevaluated

Burndown Chart: Unevaluated

The Team could have been working on the project, but forgot or simply didn’t want to use the Burndown Chart. Not only it is unacceptable, but it also contradicts the idea of an effective work. Such a Team lacks self-control, isn’t able to progress, etc.

4. Burndown Chart: Final rating

Burndown Chart: Final rating

This situation is similar to the previous one. Despite the finished Sprint, all the final ranks were added to the Burndown Chart only afterwards, during the last day. It is equal to not adding the ranks at all. So it is impossible to make any conclusion concerning the work of the team and it is possible to suggest that the team doesn’t strive to develop.

5. Burndown Chart: Zero

Диаграмма сгорания задач / Burndown Chart - Zero

Zero activity in the Burndown Chart doesn’t mean there had been no work, it could be just not evaluated. Similar to the previous examples – such a situation doesn’t allow us to control the teamwork and prevents further development.

6. Burndown Chart: Relaxing team

Burndown Chart: Relaxing team

This example is way better that the others, because it shows us how it is possible to improve the teamwork. Possible problems are the same as in "Too Early" example, but in this case the Scrum Team decided not to finish the Sprint before the deadline, but continue the work half-heartedly, which is also not right.

7. Burndown Chart: Improving

Burndown Chart: Improving

Scrum Team shows good results. According to the graph, we see that the Team has encountered a number of difficulties in the beginning, but during Daily Scrum Meetings they were discussed and Scrum Master was able to apply the necessary adjustments.

It is also possible that the Team accelerated the working process in order to reach the goal in time.

The Team could have also taken additional tasks.

8. Burndown Chart: Experience

Burndown Chart: Experience

Here we see an experienced group, which starts to deal with all the appearing difficulties as soon as they encounter them. Afterward the Team starts actively burning down the tasks.

9. Burndown Chart: A++

Burndown Chart: A++

There are three things you can endlessly look at: fire, water and ideal chart.

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Scrum Sprint

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Product Backlog

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Daily Scrum Meeting

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