Learning Minute Decision Making Backlogs

One of the aspects of a shift to Agile that is more difficult to live is transferring decision making powers to teams.

This is especially so when priorities change and we get unplanned work that disrupts the sprint.

If your Product Owner or Executive say this needs to happen, we tend to say Yes without thinking about the implications.

So how do we say,  “No ” ?

Firstly, say instead, “Not Now” . It helps to have the principle of Honouring No in place. It also helps to have something visual and concrete in place, a sequences backlog.

How many of your visualisations allow anyone to understand what the most critical piece of work is and where it is in the flow ? Within 1 minute ?

How many of your visualisations allow anyone to understand what the value is of the work you are planning to do and the work you are currently doing ?

How many of your visualisations are show exactly what the next most important piece of work is based on a sequenced backlog ?

If you are able to show this:

– Value of work

– Exactly where work is in the flow (so what is left to complete)

– Criticality

Then you are able to show exactly how your FIXED CAPACITY is being used so that when a new piece of unplanned work comes into the system you can have a conversation around how you will do it.

Yes, a conversation. This involves one of two decisions to be made by the Product Owner NOT  the team.

1) Is this so important that you wish to stop doing work on something that you and the team have already committed to delivering and that is in progress right now ?

2) Can you really not wait until the next sprint ?

3) How will you re-squence the backlog so that this new piece of work will be pulled and worked on appropriately by the team.

It is also worth agreeing up front what conditions must be met for a piece of work to jump the queue (and no, not all defects should) and to be strict about applying these conditions.

And when you do take in unplanned work, visualise the impact that has on your throughput, cycle time and ability to deliver so that next time everyone can make a more informed choice.

Challenge Your Self!

Do it! Create a sequenced backlog with your product owner (s). There can be only one number 1 and you will pick from the top down.

Agree a set of guidelines to be used to put something into the sprint in the middle of the sprint and VISUALISE the impact there-of.s

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