Posts Tagged Value
This lego board serves a particular need by a team in a unique way – like all the best board hacks do.
This wall is used by a procurement team for a large organisation as a place for conversations about the status of various procurement projects. As well as the usual conversations around current status, blockers, progress, the team wanted to have visual indicators that would prompt them to have conversations about how long a project had been running, what stages of procurement it had already been through, etc.
Prototyping to learn
The team started by quickly building a prototype wall using index cards with mail-merge stickers on them describing each procurement project. This information had previously lived in a spreadsheet. With the work quickly thrown up onto a wall, they asked themselves the question: “What is this wall not telling me?”.
Answer: a lot! There were so many cards it was hard to see what was going on. They were hard to read. And the wall couldn’t tell the team anything about cycle time: how long was each project taking to go through the whole procurement process?
Additionally, one of the team members had a visual disability, so the team wanted something with high contrast and large lettering. This was going to be hard to achieve with cards, given the number of procurement projects which were in flight at any time.
With this learning, the team built a second board, this time from Lego.
The board now
The left hand side of the wall is fairly familiar – a line for each project, with columns for portfolio (coded by colour), category and status, as well as the cost of the project. It’s over on the right that the fun begins. The grey lego base board is divided horizontally into sections for each team member – who is limited to no more than 7 projects on the go and has their own little lego avatar and a “one brick” row 2 lugs high for each project. Vertically, the board is divided into weeks.
Each project is tracked using a lego brick. The size of brick indicates expected length of delivery of the project and the colour indicates the procurement stage that the project is currently in.
At the beginning of each stage of procurement, a project’s lego brick starts in week 1 and progresses on from there. At the end of each stage, the number of weeks spent is recorded on the edge of the brick using a sharpie, the appropriate colour brick for the next stage of the procurement process is stacked on top of the previous, and the stack of bricks goes back to week 1.
So it’s easy to see:
- how long a project has been in it’s current stage according to the week column it is in;
- the stages it has already been through by the different coloured bricks in it’s stack – not every project uses all steps, so it’s easy to see, for example, when a project hasn’t gone out for RFP as there will be no white brick in it’s stack);
- which stage any given job is at by the top coloured brick;
- whether it has been longer than planned in a stage – for example a medium-sized brick shouldn’t be sitting out at week 14; and
- how long in total it’s been on the go by quickly adding the numbers on the sides of the bricks.
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.