Mapping the Flow
In our last training, our client asked us to map the current situation of the agile teams. We found it a powerful and rewarding exercise. Most of the consulting companies arrive to their new clients with a very clear idea of how things will be when they leave. We found out that go through an exhaustive mapping exercise help to get truth and buying from the teams.
Most of the team members of any agile team in this world dislike when an external consultant join to advice changes. The firsts questions are always the same one: "What's wrong with our current process?" or "We have been doing pretty well for the last years, why we should change now?". All these are valid questions, but truth be told, we normally find room for improvements. Focus on the performance of one individual can be improved in ratios of 1:10. It means, one job done by a very high performance individual in one week may take up to 10 weeks for someone whose performance is not that great. When we focus on the performance of one team then the ratios are 1:2000. It means that focus on the team level instead of the individual level will give us much better benefits.
Take some time, and I am not talking here about few hours just asking about the current situation but spend few days really mapping the whole flow of work input, interactions with stakeholders or other agile teams, etc., it will really make a difference.
How the mapping is done?
When our clients ask to map their current flow, we focus on three phases: Planning, Execution and Review. We need to really understand how the team performs in each of these areas before we try to really improve things.
Everything related with the backlog preparation and prioritisation. 'How do quarter objectives are defined?', 'How do quarter objectives are communicated?', 'When does the grooming session happen?', 'Who is involved on it?', etc.
Analysis to answer questions like 'How does the team performs against the sprint backlog?', 'How do the work is done, tested, code reviewed, promoted between the different environments?', 'Is there any kind of interaction with the other teams?', etc. Understand the real context of your client is critical.
Kaizen is the most important aspect of any good agile implementation. Without the right culture of continuos improvement things get hard. We need to understand the current process to improve both product and process.
To conclude, it's all about the mapping the current processes and the elimination of the traditional start-stop-start project initiation to promote continuous flow of the work through the system. Work should become continuous flow across team members, teams and clients. It gets completed and shipped to the clients and then, if you are lucky, come back in some sort of constructive feedback about the product to continuously get better and better. Once, this is mapped correctly it will give the team the opportunity to see by itself the necessary improvements to apply. Remember visualisation and transparency will play always on your side.