Epic status


Greater visibility to stakeholders: it can be an ongoing battle.  Even when they’re au fait with the vagaries of ‘when we finish this we’ll start on the next priority feature’,  keeping them up to date can be tricky.  And what about the “zoom level”?  Stakeholders want to see the big picture (roadmap) and the detailed planning.

We see teams tackle it many different ways, and often end up with a separate backlog of epics, or a feature roadmap, or future sprints mapped out across the wall.   Craig of Better Projects sent us this hack by colleague Ben Birch at Aconex.  It gives tight focus to the team’s work, without the need for a separate wall for a roadmap.

They simply added a lane around the outside of the sprint board, which indicates the flow of epics through their development lifecycle – from the backlog, through planning, development and release.  Epics travel across the top of the board – the further they go, the nearer they are to completion.

epic-tracking-agile-board

Epics start their journey in the backlog.  The priorities are fairly fluid here, as priorities change and new features are added. Realistically, anything not in the top two or three epics is aspirational.  And with multiple stakeholders, this is where the horse-trading of priorities can take place. These epics haven’t yet had much work done on them — and commonly haven’t been broken down into stories.

An epic in the planning stage is in the process of being broken into stories and analysed through more carefully.  The product owner is working on them, perhaps there UX  investigation going on, or there may be some spikes in play.

An epic moves into in progress when work starts on the first story card.
Story cards for the epic are added to the stories backlog on the main, internal area of the board — and colour coded to match the epics in progress.

In the picture we can see one green epic nearing completion, with another blue epic just beginning.  It’s worth noting that all the stories for an epic are added here, there is no separate backlog for stories.  When necessary, the team will draw a line through the story backlog to indicate where they plan to get to within the current sprint (not shown in this picture).

When all stories for an epic are complete, it moves into done, ready to go live with the next release.
It’s a simple hack, and it’s helped the team clearly communicate where various features are up to to their many stakeholders.
Thanks for sharing Ben and Craig!

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Post-it note pro-tip


Did you know there’s a wrong way and a right way to use a post-it?

If you peel them off the pack upwards from the bottom corner, they tend to just curl up and fall off the wall – especially with modern paints which seem to be chemically engineered to repel anything.  I noticed half my retros were ending up on the floor and I spent a lot of time picking up pesky post-its and slamming them back up on the wall, only to watch them fall again.  I was like that clown at the circus, running from spinning plate to plate, trying to keep them all in the air.  Then someone showed me the right way – peel them off the pack sideways to avoid adding any curl.  Your post-its will stay stuck much longer.

Bart Vermijlen explains it really well here: http://www.bartvermijlen.com/how-to-peel-of-a-sticky-note/

The right way!

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Slickynotes look like they are worth a try


Index Cards and Post-its. Whiteboards.  These are our utensils.  We spend our days with them.  We write on them, stick em on walls, we photograph them. We write them up.  Hundreds of them.  I spend so much time with them that they even invade my dreams.  I think if I see those 5 pukey index card colours for another year though, I’m going to have to kill someone.  Ergh.

Hello, Slickynotes.

Slickynotes are reusable, 2 sided, and adhere by static cling.

Slickynotes stick to smooth surfaces by static electricity.  I tried them on glass and painted walls and they seem to stick about as well as post-its.  They don’t have adhesive on them which means that they are usable on both sides.  As an added bonus, one side is erasable if you use whiteboard markers, much like a whiteboard or those flexible magnetic index cards.  Another bonus is that these are re-usable – we do generate a lot of waste with all our post-its.

Slickynotes come in two sizes – the smallish ones are 100mm x 74mm, and the medium-sized ones are 200mm by 100mm.

I have some of these, and I’ve played with them, but I haven’t had a chance to try them out in a real life work setting yet.  A colleague swears by them though so I think they are worth a try.

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Lego Calendar


Lego calendar

On the topic of 3d hacks, did you see this excellent calendar?

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Lean Coffee?


You know how Melbournites can get about our coffee – if you dis my macchiato dealer, you’ll get into a stoush faster than you can say “Carlton sucks”.

One of my locals is the Postal Hall. I was intrigued recently by the particular visual dialect they use to make their tasks and queues visible. Look at the pictures below:

IMG_2157

This is a queue. And the arrangement of spoons, bottle caps and milk jugs are the visual language.

The first cup in the queue is a flat white (milk jug) for the outside right table (see bottle cap), with one sugar (1 spoon). And it’s followed up by a cafe latte with two sugars for the same table.

If customers have a special requirement, this is signalled with the use of an ice cream stick: “smokin hot”!

IMG_2158

The waitstaff bring the jobs in and set them up, and the barista creates the brew. No need to read a list, a quick glance at the setup tells the barista all he needs to know.

Next up, WIP queue limits?

For another example of lean in the fast food industry, see Nigel Dalton‘s classic post here.

We’d love to hear of other examples. Seen any lately?

Spotted: Postal Hall, 116 Russell St, Melbourne.

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Blocks of Time


Trying to keep track of time spent on different tasks. Or clients. Or projects. Maybe you have had this problem. I know I have. You want to do it easily as you go. We all hate timesheets, and trying to remember what we did all day. Imagine if it easy. Imagine if it was fun!

If you’re a consultant, you need it for billing purposes. If you’re not, your boss, or your timesheet might require it – or you might just be interested in understanding your work.  Michael Hunger had this problem, and he created this 3D hack to solve it:

Michael Hunger's week, represented in Lego.

Michael Hunger’s week, represented in Lego.

Here’s how it works.

Right there, that’s Michael’s week. Each row of bricks represents an hour, and each tower is a day. As he goes through his day, he uses the coloured blocks to represent the project he’s working on (the box of lego came with 8 colours, and he figures thats enough to cover his projects).  As he goes hour by hour, he adds the coloured bricks to the row for that hour. And builds up his day. The sizes of the bricks allow Michael to track in 15 minute increments, which should be enough.

When he’s building his day tower, he has a single unit lego “day” ruler next to it, to remind him how high 8 hours is. For him, thats his 10am to 6pm day. You can see this below:

o2

Read the full details about this hack on Michael’s excellent blog, Better Software Development.

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Hacking Trello


In my experience, digital card walls don’t really cut it.  For me, they can’t compete with the tactility of the real thing – I just don’t get the same kinesthetic feedback when I move a card on a digital board.  However, they are a reality of working life for many teams and I’m pretty excited to post our first Digital board hack here!

One of our readers works in a team who’d struck just this problem.  A restructure meant that they were suddenly working with remote teams and their trusty cardboard and sharpie system didn’t cut it anymore.  One of the things that didn’t easily transition over was the system of icons that they used to indicate things such as Blocked, Kicked Off, Bug.  You know, those ones we have such fun printing, cutting, laminating and sticking on the front of cards to tell us all kinds of useful stuff.

The solution is actually pretty simple.  Set up dummy users in Trello and give them profile pics that represent Blocked, Bug, etc.  Add them as ‘members’ to cards and therefore see the “blocked” icon badge on it.  As Dave tells it:

“[We] set up dummy email accounts associated with icons in gravatar.com. Then we could add them as members to our Trello board and use the icons as status stickers for our cards.  [We gave them] all the same prefix as board member names (“z_blocked”, “z_kicked_off”, “z_walked_through”) [so that] these icon accounts are all … together in any listing.”

Great idea!

Trello-board-icons

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A wall with a view


As we’ve mentioned before, sometimes you just have to work with the reality that you are not allowed to stick anything on the walls – especially when your walls are the glass of an office building.

A team I’ve been working with recently knew that they needed to come up with a solution to comply and respect their building policy – however the only space was the glass.  A policy common in many buildings.  However they didn’t let that hold them back!  After a couple of weeks they had a feel for how much space they were using, so they designed their own walls.  As well as being portable, they also had to let light through so that they weren’t blocking out the natural light.  Their innovative solution was clear P\perspex agile boards – and they are one of the slickest solutions that I’ve seen.

photo 5 low res

Ironically, they are almost too good.  From a distance the perspex agile boards blend into the building windows. Many people do a double take when they realise they’re not on the windows at all!

Jealous?  Want your own?  Email us and we can put you in touch with the supplier…

Spotted: If we tell you we’ll have to kill you

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Agile Board Hacks Visualised


Okay, so this isn’t actually a hack.  But it’s too beautiful not to include on the blog!

In January Nick was special guest speaker at the Agile Perth Meetup.  Check out this visualisation that Gary Barber (@tuna) created while Nick spoke.  We think it captures the spirit of Agile Board Hacks perfectly!

ABH Illustrated

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Dependency mapping


An Agile world without dependencies would be a wonderful place. Each piece of work could be executed independently of any other, in any order. In a perfect world it all works out just like this. :-P

But much as we would like it to be, it’s  not always like that. Dependencies are real.  For example: hardware might be required to provide the value the end-customer wants.  And until it’s in place – either for development, or testing, or production – you just can’t create that value.  Dependencies are especially common in large, distributed pieces of work where one team will depend on the work of another. Ignore them at your peril.

The board below is one of those situations. A large program of work spread across multiple teams, with dependencies between teams.  Caleche Watson, the project manager on this team has mapped out the dependency using a piece of string, so its clear where it lies.

String em Up

A piece of string shows the dependency between two pieces of work.

Twine: the cutting edge

Teams which depend on each other need to talk a lot to keep in sync and ensure the best outcome overall.   This piece of string makes obvious a conversation that needs to happen at their regular joint stand up.  As Caleche said:

“At the end of the piece of string is a conversation”.

Spotted:  Telstra Contact Solutions

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