Posts Tagged Cards
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.
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.
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. 😛
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.
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
This team wanted to track cycle time, and chose to do this by simply putting a dot on each card every day at standup. This way, you can count the dots on each card in the “done” pile at the end of the iteration (or any time), and understand average cycle time per card, or by point-size.
Cycle time for the story below is 6 days.
But this team took it a step further, colour-coding the dots by number of days in each process step. So, the card below spent 2 days in the backlog (green dots), then 3 days in build (red), and 2 days in test (black).
“Some of the cards had dots going all around the edge of the card!” says Gina. And sometimes the stories bounced back and forth between build and test (you would see this as alternating runs of red and black). Great fodder for retro.
Spotted: Telstra Contact Solutions, CCRI
Sometimes you just don’t have wall space. You may be at the mercy of the building police, who sternly forbid such outrageous acts as using blu-tac on a blank wall to boost productivity – or you may just be somewhere that doesn’t have walls, and you need to think and plan.
What do you do? You get opportunistic.
Here’s a few innovative boards we’ve seen around the traps:
Agilistas in an activity-based-workspace, who improvised with a shower curtain:
Spotted: Bankwest, Perth
Spotted: Lonely Planet
Horizontal board on a desk (we weren’t allowed to put anything on the walls) – with half-sized cards.
spotted: If we tell you, we’ll have to kill you
What have you seen used as a board?
No, that strapline is not missing an “e”.
We Agilistas navigate through our days using tons of post-it notes. You can always tell where the agile folks have been: they leave a trail of the things just like Hansel & Gretel. When you’re facilitating, or even thinking, they’re just too handy. They allow us to group ideas, to reposition them in relation to each other. We can use their colour and arrangement to help us see patterns in ideas. We can have everyone in the room contribute their own ideas, and then group and edit them as a team. What could be better?
Well…in some cases, this stuff. This turns any piece of paper into a post-it. You just smear a line of it onto a card or bit of paper and you can re-stick it and reposition it to your lil’ agile heart’s content. It’s called a re-stickable glue stick.
So what? Well, it’s a lot neater and less splodgy than blu-tac, so it’s good for avatars and little badges which go onto the surface of index cards. Blu-tac often causes these smaller pieces of paper to warp. But it also lets you effectively create your own post-its. You can create post-its of different shapes, where the shapes are meaningful for your team. They could have templates on them for key terms, or story numbers, or, or… anything!
You could get it here, for example.
No, it’s not for planning your iteration in the shower. Sorry.
Sometimes, you just can’t get to the walls. Maybe the building police won’t let you put anything on the walls. Maybe there just isn’t the space, or your team isn’t located adjacent to a wall. Portable whiteboards, which are the usual guerilla weapon of choice in this situation, can block lines of sight and available light. And sometimes they get the building police excited, too.
One team decided to take matters into their own hands and create their own Shower Scene. The cards fit into little pockets designed into the shower curtain. Note the little suckers at the top which allow you to stick it up on any smooth surface.
Just one supplier for this product (shop around, people, and let us know where the bargains are!).
Spotted: Bankwest, Perth
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
Sometimes it feels like the agile community knows the cost of everything, and the value of nothing. We have clever ways to measure velocity and to estimate the size (and therefore cost) of pieces of work, and we like to obsess over these. But when do we ever quantify the value which will be delivered by a piece of work? Relative value is taken into account when a product owner prioritises higher value stories in the backlog, and some methodologies do take a shot at quantifying business value nowadays, but I don’t see much evidence of teams trying to quantify the value of a piece of work either before, or after it is delivered.
Deming says “Plan, Do, Check, Act“. But most of the time it just feels like “Plan, Do, Plan Do, Plan Do”.
I salute this team which puts the revenue at stake right on the card for everyone to see. If this is job is blocked for a day – is it a big deal, or not? Look at the revenue at stake. It’s a big deal.
Team says: “A cool way to visualise the output of each iteration.”
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.
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:
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