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Stop Starting and Start Finishing

In the world of agile project management, Scrum has emerged as a highly effective framework for iterative and incremental development. While Scrum provides a solid foundation for teams to collaborate and deliver value, there are certain practices that can further enhance its effectiveness. One such practice is to focus on getting sprint backlog items to a "done" state rather than starting multiple items at once. In essence, it's about watching the work in progress (WIP) limit and ensuring that it doesn't distract the team from accomplishing the sprint goal. In this article, we'll explore the concept of "stop starting and start finishing" user stories and how it can benefit Scrum teams.

Sprint Goals and User Story Selection

In Scrum, each sprint is driven by a clear sprint goal, which represents the desired outcome or objective to be achieved. To prioritize the sprint backlog effectively, the team should only include user stories that directly relate to the sprint goal. This ensures that the team's efforts are focused on delivering the most valuable features or increments by the end of the sprint.

Prioritizing Completion over Starting

Once the sprint begins, it's crucial for the team to resist the temptation of starting multiple user stories simultaneously. Instead, they should prioritize completing the stories they have already started before moving on to new ones. This approach minimizes the risk of having a large number of unfinished stories at the end of the sprint, which can hinder the team's ability to achieve the sprint goal.

Sequencing Non-Sprint Goal Stories

While it's advisable to include only sprint goal-related stories, there may be instances where other important stories need to be accommodated. In such cases, it is recommended to place these non-sprint goal stories at the end of the sprint backlog. By doing so, the team ensures that their primary focus remains on delivering the sprint goal. If time permits and the sprint goal has been achieved ahead of schedule, the team can address these additional stories, further enhancing the value delivered.

Collaboration and Helping the Team

In a Scrum team, individuals have different skills and capabilities. When someone finishes their assigned tasks early, instead of picking up new user stories, they should actively seek opportunities to help their teammates. This collaboration can take various forms, such as peer reviews or assisting others with their tasks. By doing so, the team can work collectively towards completing the sprint goal, even if some team members finish their tasks ahead of schedule.

Resisting Distractions and Maintaining Focus

The practice of stopping and finishing user stories serves as a reminder to the team to avoid distractions that can derail their progress. By consciously limiting the work in progress (WIP) and focusing on completing the tasks at hand, the team maintains a higher level of concentration and productivity. This approach minimizes the risk of spreading resources too thin and ensures that the team consistently moves closer to achieving the sprint goal.


In the realm of Scrum, where agility and collaboration are paramount, adopting the practice of "stop starting and start finishing" user stories can significantly enhance a team's performance. By aligning their efforts with the sprint goal, prioritizing completion over starting, and fostering a culture of collaboration and focus, teams can consistently deliver high-quality increments of value. Embracing this mindset allows Scrum teams to optimize their productivity and achieve successful outcomes within the iterative and time-boxed nature of the framework.



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