Background: I started a new job about 3 months ago so I am still learning a lot about the product, team, customers and processes. I feel like I’ve made good progress so far, but feeling overwhelmed by the teams requests and like I can’t keep up.
My current product team has 1 scrum master, 1 tech lead, 1 tech lead/dev combo, 6 devs and 2 QAs. I didn’t have a lot of work in the product backlog to inherit when I got this role so I’ve been having to build all of this myself and had a hard time keeping up between discovery/learning vs creating tasks for the team for each sprint in the meantime. I’m finally getting to a point of having a solid roadmap to work off of and can start breaking initiatives down into epics and stories. I have been open with the team sharing the product vision and roadmap for the year, outlining our priorities and welcoming new ideas or feedback. Here is my problem.
Our sprints are every 2 weeks and I often don’t have time for discovery/planning ahead because I’m caught up in solving the “how to build” anytime I found the “what to build.”
Here’s what I mean: I’ll create an epic for the overall feature goal (i.e “customer can manage appointments”)and create user stories for each feature in that epic (each story is a different type of option like “book appt” or “look up appt”). During grooming, I’ll review the feature and provide context and what problem we are trying to solve with it. Often the team isn’t sure how to execute so they will create a spike and we’ll have to focus on that first (i.e. “spike: how to look up appointments”). I’m fine with spikes, but they tend to require me to gather the information or reach out to whomever might know depending on what questions the dev team has (I.e. where does the data live for booked appts or what info should we use to look their appt up). This has resulted in me trying to gather some possible ways to build something and collect the necessary information to do so before I even make the story. Or it leads to having a list of new features but only have a few things we can actually develop in the next sprint. note: this is all hypothetical examples to explain a bit better
My other issue is when I have these new features with all the details, which may range between 3-5 each sprint, it’s not really enough work for the team. The stories may focus on one or two areas that only a couple of devs are familiar with and can complete skill wise so it leaves the others unsure of what tasks to pick up. I’ve tried to make an effort to include tech debt and bugs in the sprint so it’s not just feature focused, but the team rarely has any of these tasks identified and created or have any in mind. It seems like if the task doesn’t come from me, it won’t get created.
Am I doing something wrong? Should I be the one to gather all the detailed requirements and am I struggling just because I’m still new and learning on what those details can be? I just feel a tad confused because in my last PM role I was a lot more hands off with the devs. We’d have a backlog meeting and I’d share what feature needs to be implemented, answer any clarifying questions about it, get an estimation, and then could prioritize off that and plan the sprint. I wasn’t privy to the actual development tasks needed to carry out the feature, but would provide guidance when the team presented different development options or there was an issue found with the original feature request.
TL:DR Started a new job 3 months ago with a large product team. Dev team is having a hard time executing on feature requests without all the details upfront which requires me to spend time collecting and gathering those before the sprint. This leaves me with little time to plan for the future or do discovery unless I decided to overwork myself more than what I’m currently already having to do. I constantly feel like I’m planning sprint to sprint and barely making it by. How can I get out of this cycle?