Archive for June, 2011

Card Equaliser


Team says: “A cool way to visualise the output of each iteration.”

What to do with cards after an iteration is finished?
Tear them up? Spike them? Leave them on the bus?
How about turning them into a ‘card equaliser’?

The idea behind this hack is to give a visual representation of the cards signed off in each sprint.
The card colours represent bugs, features, BAU support and tech stories.  By arranging them on a spare wall according to colour groupings it’s easy to see how many cards and of what type have been signed off each sprint.  For example, feature cards, defects, and tech cards. And you can see how this changes over time.

It’s also immediately apparent whether the main activity has been skewed towards one area.  It takes it’s name from it’s similarity to the display of a graphic equaliser.

Like this:

Just by walking past, it’s easy to learn a lot about this team’s work:

So.. what this board is telling me is …

… this team pumped out a lot of features in a short time then faced down some serious technical debt and some outstanding defects.

Here’s another card equaliser, this time from the Lonely Planet web site team.

Spotted: lonelyplanet.com website and mobile development teams.

 

Here’s another variant, from a different source. Might be useful if you don’t have a lot of space:

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A card spike


Katie's unicorn spike.

Katie says: “There’s something really satisfying about spiking the completed cards at the end of each iteration”.

Here’s another take on what to do with the cards once the iteration is complete – stick them on a custom-made giant spike and top it off with a unicorn!

It’s important for a team to recognise the progress that they’ve made over a series of iterations.  Watching the cards rise higher and higher up the spike is satisfying and a visual indicator of how much work the team has done.

Spotted: lonelyplanet.com website development team

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Release Readiness Traffic Lights


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Nick says: “The first time we did this, it helped us to get our release success rate up. It was a long road, but this was one thing which helped.”

We were working on a sprawling web site made up of 22 separate applications which may or may not need to change for a particular release. The release would bring work by 2 to 4 teams to production. As we moved to biweekly releases, we needed a way to see exactly how our preparations for release were going. Is regression testing complete? Did we pass load testing?

So we decided on what our criteria were for a release to be good-to-go, and made each criterion a traffic light which could be red or green. This included a “stop the line” light which developers could turn to red at any time if they felt the release was too risky.

Each day, from three days out til release, we would stand around the release readiness traffic lights after morning standups were over and discuss the status of each light (“is that really green?”), and agree on actions to get to green.

Spotted: lonelyplanet.com website development team

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Tracking Cycle Time, lo-fi


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Cycle time is the time that elapsed from the beginning to the end of a process. In lean practice, this metric takes the place of velocity as a way of understanding how fast we’re moving.

This team are tracking cycle time from the moment a card comes into play until it is done. The grid shows the average time for a story to transit the board, by type and size of card, and the size of sample. So, for example, a 3 point story takes this team an average of 5 days to complete, with bugs taking slightly less: 4.5 days. This figure is an average over 26 cards.

Teams often use old-school office date stamps to stamp today’s date on a card when they pick it up to work on, and again when it’s done. Later on, someone can simply subtract one date from the other. Alternatively, if the team is working in iterations, team members can simply write the day number of the iteration on the card.

Here is a slightly more hi-fi version:

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Spotted: Aconex Extensions Team

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Get on the Release Bus – you know you want to


The LPOS team's release bus starts to fill.

Team says: “That bus is getting full. Looks like it might be an Indian bus“.

Ok. You have achieved continuous delivery. You can now release your features whenever you like. But how do you know when it’s time for a release? You want to keep the value flowing out to your customers. How do you track which cards are going in the release?

One way is to use a release bus.

All the stories that will go out with the release are moved onto the bus as they are signed off. There are limited seats on the bus – when the seats are all full then it’s time for a release. There’s no reason to wait until all the seats are full though, a release should still happen whenever it’s required. On the other hand, a release bus that has run out of seats is a sure sign that there are getting to be too many stories in the release and that it might be a good idea to release in order to minimise complexity and risk.

Spotted: LPOS Team

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