What Gets in the Team’s Way?

A simple and powerful technique to identify what gets breaks your stride…

Snakes_on_a_PlaneAny time you are in “Full focus” mode and your progress gets impeded – maybe something that has nothing to do with the work itself like an interruption, or a process or system that causes pain and suffering, anything that breaks your stride and slows you down from adding value to the stream at a pace you want – capture the details (write it on a post-it note attached to the bottom of your monitor, add it to your team physical scrum board, or use a team scatterspoke board just don’t try to remember it… your brain has better things to do.)

Everyone on the team does the same. If you are co-located, pretty soon the trail of post-it notes may wind like a snake all over the team room – across the bottom, up the sides, the top of the scrum board or individual monitors, and even back around on itself. Great! Almost effortlessly the snake has revealed the problems the team is facing related to GSD and maintaining a happy healthy worklife.

Maybe during the time box of a sprint, the team doesn’t pay too much attention to “solving” all of these problems… they stay focused on sprinting. It’s ok to just let the snake be. Or maybe the team’s scrum master looks at it daily looking for patterns… or if it grows suddenly…

But ultimately in the sprint retrospective the full team uses the snake to examine: Are the problems widespread or contained? Big or small? Easy or hard? Internal or external to the team? And then the team makes it a point to come up with candidates for change to address the pain.

Oh, and when an issue is solved (mid-sprint, or at retro), remove the post-it notes, close the tickets. Create a bucket of victory. Or a bonfire of success.

On the other hand, if the snake is growing ever larger, sprint after sprint, it will take over the board or your monitor, and there won’t be room for new stories or task cards or being able to see what you’re working on. Great. Time to stop the suffering and focus on slaying the snake instead.

Making things visible at the system level

See this article from Willem-Jan Ageling for making things visible at a system level:

Whenever a team can’t resolve an impediment themselves, a representative brings a post-it note to a company impediment wall – located in a spot where all can see it.

Shout out to: Schlabach, K. 2008. Snake on the Wall! 

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