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Prioritizing Urgent Tasks in Scrum

Agile / Scrum

11 June, 2019

Nicolas Tricot
Nicolas Tricot

VP of Engineering at Padok

Nicolas Tricot, Engineering Manager at Back Market, agrees that using Scrum is a comfortable agile methodology to manage a project’s process. However, when it comes to small, day to day tasks that require immediate attention, he admits that process needs a bit more prioritization.


A project is much like a game in that you know how it should end and how to arrive there. Scrum is perfect for finding that rhythm to achieve your project, until you run into a wrong task or something external that you have to attend to directly. With a live website, like we have for example, you sometimes have projections that need assistance in the moment and can't be delayed.

Actions taken

What we did at the beginning was let everyone know that whatever particularly urgent issue we were facing at the time will now hold priority over anything else: "Prod first"! Thusly, we asked them to stop the current tasks and work on that specific issue before circling back to their original tasks. We tried to establish this introduction into the sprint in order to save bandwidth for the issues that would arise in such a manner. In the case that the work is not being prioritized, it is necessary to let the team know it's not good to break the backlog. So we have to find another way to take this into account. This will help to officialize the time that the team has for a long term project, which has less priority than the tasks that come on a day to day basis. Along with that, each and every day the backlog needs to be refined, letting the team know about the arrival of new tasks, and the need for their prioritization on the top of the backlog. Much more in a Kanban style to be at ease with a backlog change.

Lessons learned

  • At first, we discovered that adding external tasks was quite frustrating, because by the time you reach the end you have a feeling that you didn't achieve your goal and likewise, that your projection is not in good shape.
  • In some context, leaving bandwidth in your sprints for urgent projections works well depending on the amount of work, whereas on other teams, it doesn't work at all because it doesn't become prioritized in the way that it should.
  • Reminding the team about prioritizing small, urgent tasks, will help them not feel guilty about postponing long term tasks. On the other hand, it can be difficult to commit to goals and may therefore become harder for your teams to reach those long term goals because of this adaption.

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