Sunday, October 19, 2014

Funnel Task Board helping agile teams deliver more

Many agile and Scrum teams struggle to limit their work in progress. This results in task switching, delays and other wastes, overall reducing how much the team delivers. Physically limiting space on a team task board asks as a mental barrier. This can be used to limit their work in progress and hence deliver more. I have had good success with Funnel Boards. The User Stories fall from the backlog into one of three spots available in the funnel for User Stories. It is a simple and effective way to limit the teams WIP. I heard of Funnel Boards at Agile Tour London 2013.

Zombie Team, Funnel Task Board
Zombie Team Funnel Board
The funnel board, leaves plenty of space around the edges for avatars, notes and other visualisation.

An empty Funnel Board

Funnel Task Board, empty, limiting WIP

The backlog at the top, is the Sprint Backlog. It is populated during Sprint planning and empties out as the Sprint progresses. Hopefully it is empty at the very end of the sprint.

Work flows from top to bottom

Funnel Task Board, flow, limiting WIP, limited WIP, lean, scrum, agile

As one of the three in progress stories is Done, the next story from the Sprint backlog flows down into the available spot.

A simulated sprint in progress

Funnel Task Board, flow, limiting WIP, limited WIP, lean, scrum, agile

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Waterfall Iterations softening resistance for the transition to Scrum

Switching from traditional waterfall development to Scrum is a very big mental change for many people. These people can be resistant to the change and potentially lead to a failed transition. It you have detected resistance to the transition to Scrum, before making the big change, consider an intermediate step to ease everyone into Scrum and lower the resistance to change. Consider changing to ‘Waterfall Iterations’ for a while before moving to Scrum.

waterfall iterations

When faced with transitioning from traditional waterfall development to Scrum, there are many unknowns and misunderstanding to be overcome. In some organisation this breeds significant resistance to the transition. If left unchecked this resistance to change can derail the whole transition. It is a great idea to find out what unknowns and misunderstanding exist and deal with them one by one. However that approach is not scalable and some issues will remain as the switch over looms. 

What I have used and seen to be successful in change resistant organisations is to stage the transition. Teams change from Waterfall to Waterfall Iterations for a couple of months, then the switch over to Scrum. Teams can be switched over a couple at a time, so that they can learn from and support each other. There is a co-ordination cost to having teams operating in different approaches; however it is generally worth it to smooth out the transition.

Waterfall Iterations

This phase introduces everyone to Iterations, co-location, cross functionality, Product Owners and Scrum masters. 

  • Cross functional, co-located teams of 5 to 9 people.
  • Teams use Sprint Retrospectives, Task boards, Burn-downs and Daily Stand-ups just as in Scrum. 
  • Iteration planning occurs every two weeks, where the Product Owner works with the team to pull in work items that have been created by whoever in waterfall created/allocated work items.
  • Iteration Review occurs every two weeks where the team demonstrates their completed work items to the Product Owner.
  • Functional testing carried out by the team with in the Iteration.
  • System testing carried out by separate testing team, outside of the Iteration.


The switch to Scrum from Waterfall Iterations; focuses teams on completing (including System testing, deployment) User Stories, that they themselves have created, split and sized.

A note

In organisations where there is strong support for the transition (or even only light resistance) I would recommend switching straight to Scrum.

Another note

Kanban is an evolutionary process improvement approach that dramatically reduces resistance to change. That is another option to consider.

Photo Credit:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Choosing the correct type of feedback can improve your coaching

Helping people to grow and improve is very satisfying. Hence constructive and re-enforcing feedback seems natural to me and I use it often. However there is a continuum of behaviour that prompts me to give feedback and unfortunately it should not always result in re-enforcing feedback. The feedback approach coaches’ use should change to suit the type of behavior we are providing feedback about. Choosing the correct approach is crucial in effecting the outcome that will help the individual, team and yourself.

observed behaviour continuum feedback type style behavior

Adjusting feedback

Use Adjusting or Corrective feedback when someone is doing something that they must stop, or must change. I.e. Their behaviour is destructive, career limiting, negatively affecting others.

  • Do prepare (gather specific examples of the behaviour, talk to peers, draft what you will say, practice what you will say)
  • Do follow a structure and be directive in your delivery. Here is a template that you can use: it has been observed here, here and here, that you are doing X which is causing Y, this behaviour needs to stop, because it is causing Z. If the situation comes up again please do A instead.
  • Do give this feedback is private.
  • Do not give this feedback immediately after the event. Make sure you wait until everything has calmed down, so that it can be talked about in a rationale and deliberate manner.
  • Do not combine with other types of feedback, as it sends mixed messages.

Constructive feedback

Constructive or developmental feedback should be used when helping some to do better, or to help them see opportunities that they missed. 

This is covered in combination with Re-enforcing in my article Coaching Scrum Masters. The feedback sandwich puts two slices of re-enforcing feedback around a sliver of Constructive feedback. I have found this approach to be highly effective and have received plenty of positive feedback about it.

Re-enforcing / Encouraging feedback

Use it to praise people for effective behaviour and encourage them to do more of it, and perhaps do it even better next time.

  • Can be given in public (as it publicly promoting the behaviour that is appropriate), however be aware of who you are giving it to, some people will be embarrassed through to down-right upset at public acknowledgement. 
  • This type of feedback should be approached as discussion with the recipient. You are not telling them to repeat their behaviour you are merely discussing the benefits that you noticed and that you would like to see more of that behaviour.