I call on the Scrum and the larger Agile community to correct our messaging while we walk the continual path of tackling hard problems. Be less dogmatic. Think Agile. Be more like water and Scrum On!
Flow of work and, most importantly, value are paramount. There are times when you keep looking at the process and don’t understand what is going on, what is wrong, and why stuff is not getting to done. All the answers to questions asked sound like a bunch of excuses (they most likely are not, but a bit later on this).
In the previous 3 articles I reviewed some of the most important Agile metrics that Dan Vacanti’s ActionableAgile software helps you to get with ease. Those were Cycle Time with the help of the Cycle Time Scatterplot, and a multitude of metrics, provided by the Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD). In the latest article we looked at Work Item Age and its importance with the help of Aging Work in Progress Diagram.
Looking at the Cycle Time Scatterplot we discussed the significance of percentiles and how they can be used to predict the cycle time and avoid the trap of a single-number, point-in-time answer. This is cool, you’d say, but not merely enough, and I would agree. We need better techniques to predict possible timeframes for a completion of a set of work items. And, sometimes, we need to know how many right-sized work items can be completed within a given time frame.
Let’s face it, we live in a real world, where “When Will It Be Done question” is as omnipresent as ever. We cannot bury our heads into the sands of the #NoEstimates beach and hope the questions will go away. Let’s learn better ways to answer those questions.
In this part of reviewing Agile Metrics let’s turn our attention to another kind of a chart – Aging Work in Progress. Unlike both the Cycle Time Scatterplot and the Cumulative Flow Diagram this one takes a much narrow just-in-time snapshot of team’s work.
In the first part of Getting to 85 – Agile Metrics with ActionableAgile we looked at the Cycle Time Scatterplot as generated by ActionableAgile software. That piece also discussed some ideas the scatter plot could bring about and conversations that potentially might occur.
Let’s take a look at another important chart and set of metrics the ActionableAgile can produce based on sample or custom loaded data – Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD).
The topic of Agile Metrics inevitably comes up in many situations and conversations. I have been hiring Scrum Masters lately. One of my screening questions read, “What standard metrics would you track if any and for what purpose?” I cannot tell you how many candidates mention Velocity, Burndown and Burnup charts. Very few can reasonably explaining the meaning and use for those.
So far, I hired 2 Scrum Masters whose answer to the question didn’t have any of those metrics. What these two have in common, they mentioned and could talk about Cycle Time. Mind you, that was not the only reason they got the job, but it gave them advantage over others. Rarely do you hear Scrum practitioners bringing up Cycle Time, Lead Time, Throughput, Work Item Age. These all firmly used to belong to the Kanban world. Somehow during the Holy Scrum Kanban decades of feud these metrics were banished from the Scrum land and forgotten by many.
One of the pillars of the Kanban Method is the mantra, “Start where you are.”, start with where your customers are, with what your work is. Which is great! For the low maturity organizations and teams, it allows to skip the requisite pain and suffering that usually come with change.
While creating their first Kanban boards with many a team, I noticed that one of the steps in STATIK is harder than the others – defining who your customers are and what their pain points are. And that is not surprising for a bit. People are usually tremendously busy, switching context multiple times a day (or an hour). They tend to build personal relationships with those who ask them to do the work. They do their best, satisfying the request and moving on. They rarely have enough time to stop and think whether the status quo is acceptable. Whether their customer pool is satisfied in general, whether they are doing a fine job at properly prioritizing the work.
This is the definition of chaos.