Slicing epics

We talk a lot about slicing stories but then when it comes to slicing larger types (epics, features, etc), we tend to wave our hands and say “it’s the same, only bigger”, which while true, is rarely helpful.

Remote work vs in-person: What does the data say?

When the worst effects of COVID had appeared to pass, many companies started implementing return-to-office mandates for their knowledge-workers, which have been controversial at best. The decision to do this was based on gut reactions from managers who, having no actual data, made the best guesses they could with what they knew.

Who should look at what metrics?

When we talk about metrics, there is often an assumption that everyone in the company needs the same data to make decisions and this is dangerously incorrect. Different levels of the organization need different kinds of data to make effective decisions. Yet, all too often we use the wrong data at the wrong point.

Quality vs Testing: Solving the wrong problem

In the agile space, we talk a lot about testing. How will we test things? What should we test? How can we automate our testing? Yet, testing isn’t actually the point. What’s important instead, is quality. If we had amazing quality then it wouldn’t matter if we’d tested or not.

Slicing stories

In an agile environment, we split our work down into what we call “stories”, that are the smallest unit of value passing through a workstream. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to over-complicate story writing, making it unnecessarily hard. Done well, it can be a simple process of taking small steps, repeatedly.

Premature optimization

We have a tendency to think that making any one part of the workflow more efficient will make the overall workflow also more efficient and that’s just not true. Part of that is that not all parts of the workflow are on the critical path and improving something that isn’t currently a bottleneck won’t help the overall flow. But there’s a second reason that’s less obvious - sometimes optimizing for simple cases in the workflow, can make other parts of the workflow much worse.

Improving meetings

When we look for opportunities for improvement, at some point every team will bring up meetings as being an ongoing problem for them. When we dig into what the actual problems are, we find they always fall into one of three categories:

Per-story estimates

Per-story estimates were an interesting experiment that failed and it’s time to move on. Today, we have better ways so it’s time to stop putting individual estimates on stories. This is equally true for Scrum and Kanban teams.

What is a Service Level Expectation?

A service level expectation is a probabilistic forecast of how long it will take a single item to pass through the system. For example: “85% chance of completing in four days or less”.

Kanban: Simple, but not always obvious

We meet a lot of teams who say they’re doing Kanban and yet are only scratching the surface and not getting the benefit from Kanban that they could. They’re moving some cards across a board and think that’s all they have to do. Because it appears so simple, it doesn’t occur to them to reach out for assistance. Why would I need training or coaching to move some tickets around?