You can spot such problems like delays and re-work very fast this way:
Now we’ve brought this idea to life. The Flow chart for every user story, bug and feature will be available shortly in TargetProcess v2.22.9.
The chart gives answers to a whole lot of hands-on questions:
For how many days has this User Story been in this particular state?
Were there any delays?
Was there any re-work?
Who was responsible for the User Story?
When were Bugs and Tasks added and closed?
How much time was spent each day?
Were there any impediments?
Let’s look at some examples. The user story on the chart below has been in Open state for 25 days (it means, in the Backlog). Then it jumped right into In Progress state. Two developers (Alla and Vladimir) started working on it (so it was pair programming). They’d been working for 3 days and then the story was moved into Re-open state. This is quite surprising, most likely they had to switch to something else (no good). Then they got back and spent 15 days working on this user story. That’s way too long. Most likely there were switches as well, so this should be investigated.
Starting from Oct-18 the progress was very good: development went smooth, tester found several bugs and they were fixed in 2-3 days. Finally, the user story was released to production with no more delays.
You immediately get a high-level overview: delays and up/down state transitions. It is a clear sign of some problems, the systematic ones or not known so far, but we already have some background info to start an investigation).
Let’s check another example. It looks like the user story on the chart below was taken to development right as it was added. That’s true in fact, since it was a customer request to which we reacted immediately. It was implemented in a single day, and there was a small delay before tester took it to the testing phase. We found quite many bugs and fixed them in 2 days, everything is fine. But then the completed user story was hanging in Release Branch state for 11 days, and that’s no good.
We’re planning to extend this Flow Chart and put more information there (comments, attachments, etc.) The goal is to provide the complete production timeline uncovering hidden malignant patterns and problems. You should be able to get a high-level overview in an instant and dig into as many details as possible.
Recently I’ve come across a post on harmfulness of analogies with martial arts. Indeed, there’s a handful of posts comparing software development, or agile adoption, or product development with martial arts - Aikido, Karate, Judo etc.
If you make a direct analogy of software product development and mastering some martial art, it would not be exactly accurate. I guess people revert to the analogies as they try to project their copies as romantic martial arts disciples into their usual lives as software developers, managers etc. Perhaps, they’re making the image of their lives more mission-filled this way since there’s not too much space for showing primeval qualities of warrior in software development. But the need to exercise this attitude is still there, as it turns out.
We don’t have beasts to fight, bloody battles and mortal combats. This wrap-up for courage, strong will, persistence in achieving goals and readiness to fight has remained in the past largely. With no wrap-up, people forget that there’s lots of space to exercise these qualities in their usual life.
Let’s go back to analogies. Roger Federer is an unbeatable specimen of mastered elegant performance to me. Look at the way he plays. No waste. He knows, what to do, he knows when to do what. It’s a perfect flow, the model for effective lean production with no waste and – the model for perfect warrior in our modern life. Elegant, no blood on his hands, but he fights, has pitfalls on the way, stands up, recovers, marches on and wins gracefully.
But he’s just a guy in red T-Shirt. As many software developers :)
Another point is that it’s much harder to fight, win and achieve goals when there’s no immediate physical danger involved as in tennis. Soo much room for elegant warriors, isn’t it ?
The point I’m trying to make is – let people compare their lives and their jobs to whatever they want. If it inspires and motivates them, makes them feel good about their lives and their work – and makes them feel like warriors, achievers, believers, fighters, winners.
P.S. February 23 is a perfect day for such a blog post :) Wish you well, guys!
You Kanbanized your development process and setup a perfect flow. You see the flow and feel its power. You even measure cycle time and want to reduce it. But it is not as easy as expected. Some problems in your development process are hard to find and are revealed on team level. Here I’ll describe an interesting technique that may help you.
The idea is quite simple. Take a single user story and visualize its states transition from start to finish, thus you see the whole flow of a single story. Draw all available states on Y-axis and days on X-axis. As a result, you will have a chart like that (click to enlarge).
It is a real user story from TargetProcess project. It was quite complex and its cycle time was 19 days. Let me provide some comments.
User story has been in Planned state during just 1 day, then developers took it and moved to In Progress state. So far so good. 4 days of development and user story is moved to Coded state, but it sits there for 2 days. Why? Why testers did not take it immediately? Clearly, we found 2 days of delay and the reason of the delay should be investigated, since it increases story cycle time.
Then testers took the user story and tested it for 2 days. Then the story was moved to In Progress state again and developers worked on it for 2 more days (including Saturday). Why? It is a half of the initial development time. It is a clear sign of a waste, but we need more details. It appeared, that testers found 11 bugs. Half of the bugs were caused by unclear user story specification, other are subject to investigate. We should apply root-cause analysis here to find the real problems.
OK. Then testers have verified the user story for 2 days and moved it to Ready to Merge state. It was merged quite fast (in 1 day), but still there may be a waste to eliminate. Finally, the user story have lived in Merged state for 5 days and was released Jan-29.
In total (and as a minimum!) we discovered about 9 days of waste. It means we can reduce cycle time significantly by eliminating this wait time (waste). If you check several user stories using this technique, I believe you will find comparable results for simple and complex stories.
Here is another example for a quite simple user story. Still we clearly see wait times in our flow! We can reduce cycle time to 2 days instead of 6 by just eliminating waits in the flow. But it is not easy ;)
This chart is a really powerful tool. It is easy to create and you could use it to find waste in the development flow.