Aterny Blog

Committing Agile heresy

29 Oct 2016
Yesterday I made a suggestion that, to some, would be considered heresy. I suggested to an agile team that they stop using their physical team Kanban board. 
"Whaaat?" I hear you say. Wait a second. Allow me to explain the reason why I said what I did, and then you can comment on whether I was right or wrong, okay?
The team in question is like a DevOps team, except they're a lot more Ops than Dev. Basically they support a number of Dev teams with things like environments, builds and deployments. And yes, I hear you - they should be integrated with the Dev teams they support, rather than being a separate team; I agree. But that is the current structure, and that's a battle I am not yet ready to fight. Or rather the organisation isn't. I need some metrics first.
It was only a few days ago when I was asked to work with this team, and since then I discovered that the board they use does not accurately reflect the work they are doing. 
Firstly, the columns on that board were set up by a Scrum Master months ago. It has columns named Verification, Infrastructure and Validation, each of which contained a number of colourful cards that didn't move for a week. I later heard they had been there for a lot longer than that. 
There were 3 cards in the Doing column, two of which were covered by a sticky note that read "NOT TODAY" !?
There were about 8 or 9 cards in the Ready for Analysis column that also hadn't moved in weeks and even more, similarly afflicted items in the Backlog column. "If I was your boss," I said, "I'd want to know what the hell this team is doing because this board is telling me you're doing very little."
He smiled and agreed that's what the board was showing. But, he said, most of the work - well over 50% of it - is done in 5 to 20 minutes and they had been told not to put on the board anything that took less than an hour to complete.
In essence, the only use for that board was as a place where they gathered for their daily stand-up. They didn't really use it much. Now can you see why I said do away with it? My advice was this:
1) Don't do any work that isn't recorded on JIRA. Yes, even the really quick jobs. It takes just as much time for someone to create a JIRA task as it does to write an email.
2) Get rid of all of the columns that don't represent work that you are accountable for. And we worked through what their basic value stream was in about 10 minutes.
3) For stand-ups, gather round the big screen and share that with the people in India so we are all talking about the same things. 
From JIRA, I will then be extracting the important metrics and sharing them with the team's manager, and trying to work with him to make improvements. If I can, I will try to make some structural changes to integrate the 'devops' team and the 'migrations' teams with the development teams and slice them differently to get some faster end-to-end delivery going on.

Wish me luck.

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