Archive for April, 2012

What we said vs. what we did


Are the stories that are talked about in planning always the ones that actually get played during a sprint?  In an ideal world they are, but seldom does a sprint run according to the ideal.

This team was getting a lot of work done, but still seemed to have cards left over at the end of a sprint.  Were the cards taking longer than expected?  Were additional cards being added?  No one could quite be sure.

One of the team members came up with a solution.  After the team had agreed the stories that would be played for the upcoming sprint, he took a photo of the cards.  This provided a visual record of what the team had agreed would be done.

It was stuck up next to the backlog and as cards were completed they were ticked off on the photo.  At the end of the sprint it was easy to see what had got done, or not, out of the planned cards, and which new cards had been added  into the sprint.

This is a great example of a team member taking matters into their own hands and using their own visual language (photographs) to come up with a fresh take on planning.

Spotted: SPP development team

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Retro Heat Map


Retrospectives are the place for everyone to have their say on what’s working and what isn’t.  But does everyone have their say? Who’s talking? Who’s not?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell who speaks and who gets drowned out.  To get to the bottom of this, one of our team began mapping who spoke during the retro, almost as a doodle. It’s  a simple idea which has been evolved  by other members of the team as they had a go at it.  The latest incarnation of the heat map shows who is interacting with who. The secret sauce here is empowerment.  This mapping process started because Dan felt empowered to just do it, and each subsequent team member who evolved the map felt empowered to adapt and improve it.

When you can easily see who’s interacting and who’s not, you can see where the whole team is missing out on important contributions from some members, and we can ask why.

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The Naughty Corner


At Lonely Planet, it’s not just software development teams that use big visual indicators.  In this hack, the guidebook commissioning team wanted to be very clear just what they were working on at any given time.

Here you can see what’s in pre-planning, currently being contracted, which books authors are researching and writing now, what’s in editing, at the printer and has just hit the shops.  Also visible at a glance is what is blocked right now – there’s a special naughty corner for books that can’t be researched due to civil unrest.  No authors in Libya right now!

I particularly like the little magnetic book covers that they use – visual language everyone involved in publishing can understand, and much more durable than paper and blue tack.

Thanks to Dave Carroll for this hack.
Spotted: LP Commissioning Editors

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Who knows what?


A self-serve training plan.

The team that I work with runs a complex process involving many steps that require specialized knowledge for each step.  Their aim is to have everyone skilled up on all the steps, and avoid single points of failure.  It was pretty hard for team members to know who knew what, and we needed to be sure when Christmas holidays came along that the few people left knew enough to keep the process rolling.

They came up with a visual to solve this. This grid lists all the steps in the process across the top, and all the members of the team down the side.  A half circle means that person has learned the task, two half circles means that they know it well enough to teach someone else.  And the little avatars across the top next to each step show who the expert is for that step – and therefore the best person to go to with questions.

As well as being a self-serve training plan – it’s easy to see what each person does and doesn’t know and therefore make sure they learn new steps – it also highlights areas of risk.  In this picture we can see that the last step, with only one person knowing how to do it, shows up a pretty big risk if that person is away.

 

Below, you can see this “self serve university” at a massive scale. This time it covers more than 100 niche skills, and 80 people. The principle is the same: people can mark each skill with either “I know this skill”, “I want this skill” or “I can teach this skill”.

self serve uni

 

 

Spotted: SPP Content Desk, Telstra Contact Solutions

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Making Sense of Tech Debt, Fast


Fabio Pereira uses this method to help teams quickly prioritise tech debt. In this example, the team held a Tech Debt retro where they brainstormed all the technical debt they thought they had accrued since the start of the project.

“Technical Debt” is postponed work created when a team takes some technical shortcuts in order to get a solution out fast. These shortcuts create a “debt which must be paid back later. It’s often hard to know where to start on addressing this “debt”.

The team then classified the debt on two axes this way:

“The relative effort that the team would have to spend in order to pay this debt.“

Pain is the direct impact on productivity that this debt causes. (interest)”

This made it easy for them to decide what to tackle first. “Lets start on the high value work which takes the least effort”!

Fabio says: “One interesting thing that came out of our retro was that the High Return section was almost empty. We came to the conclusion that this was a good sign, it means that we had already fixed most of the LowEffort/HighPain debt during the normal development. Which is exactly how this type of debt should be paid.”

 

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