Project Management

Use Cycle Time and Value Stream Maps to Visualize Delays and Predict Better

Mass Bay Chapter

Johanna Rothman, known as the "Pragmatic Manager," offers frank advice for your tough problems. She helps leaders and teams learn to see simple and reasonable things that might work. Equipped with that knowledge, they can decide how to adapt their product development. Her recent books are the "Modern Management Made Easy" series and "Create Your Successful Agile Project."

Fiona, an agile project manager, accepted an assignment to “turn around a team that’s not delivering.” She suspects there’s more to the story than a lack of delivery. She meets with the team members as a team, and one on one. She discovers these problems:
  • The current product owner is spread so thin that he can only spend a day every other week with this team.
  • The team hasn’t done a demo in months. It doesn’t know who to demo to and what the outcome of that demo would be.
  • Each person reports to a different manager. Those managers pressure each person to increase their “personal” velocity. 
  • The team stopped doing retrospectives a couple of months ago, too.
  • The company needs this team to deliver finished functionality and wants to know when it can expect that functionality. So far, all the estimates the team offered have been wrong.
What could Fiona do?
She decided to understand the estimation problem first. If the team could deliver finished functionality—even if that delivery was one small bit at a time—she could relieve the pressure on the team.
Understand the Estimation Problems
Up until now, the team used story points to predict how long its work would take. Back when it estimated the team’s story points, that worked okay. However, because the managers pushed…

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"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas."

- George Bernard Shaw